Saturday, July 30, 2011

Local Tea Party and the Federal Debt

The tea party is having an out-sized influence on the debt ceiling crisis in Washington. It's threatening to run challengers in GOP primaries next year for any Congressman who dares defy the tea party's hard line stance against raising the debt limit. The tea party threat appears to have worked (at least temporarily), as Speaker John Boehner was embarrassed by having his GOP caucus refuse to get their "ass[es] in line" behind him and vote for his plan to raise the debt ceiling. He was forced to make it even more conservative, and thus even less likely to become law, in order to get his own caucus to back it.

It's hard to over-emphasize the significance of the tea party victory over John Boehner in Washington. How influential is the tea party here in north Texas? What's it even up to? After the jump, some anecdotal answers.

Most of Richardson is represented in Congress by Pete Sessions, who came out in support of Speaker Boehner's plan to raise the debt ceiling. I haven't seen any crowds of people wearing tri-cornered hats protesting outside his local office. And it's unlikely I will. While the tea party has never been enthusiastic supporters of Pete Sessions, they have never shown any interest in challenging him, either. In the 2010 GOP primary for District 32, Sessions did draw a challenger, David Smith, who hoped to ride tea party anger all the way to Congress. How well did that turn out? After losing the primary to Sessions by a huge margin, Smith wrote:
"While the Tea Partiers came out in impressive numbers, the organizers of the Tea Party movement were less than helpful toward challengers and the results speak for themselves."

What is the North Texas Tea Party up to this week, while the climax of the debt crisis plays out in Washington? Tea partiers have been following Muslims around with microphones trying to crash their events and record what they say to each other. What did they learn? "Nothing completely earth-shattering." But they are watching. They are listening. Maybe the news from this is that the North Texas Tea Party doesn't have any Muslims in their own ranks to whom they can go directly to "help with all our understanding of the Muslim viewpoint." But we could have guessed that.

I'd say Pete Sessions has nothing to worry about from the tea partiers in north Texas. But Americans who value freedom of religion and religious diversity might.

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