Virginia's Tea Party needs to grow up
Is that yellow rattlesnake slithering back into its hole?
It could be, since the Virginia Tea Party movement seems to be sputtering now that it has worked its way into the mainstream of state political activity -- namely the tough business of shaping and passing laws and dealing with reality.
The well-organized party movement was riding a wave in the run-up to the midterm elections in November. It was taking on politicians of both stripes for what participants saw as overspending and overreaching by the federal government. On their scopes were health-care reform, the TARP bank bailout, changes in various amendments to give "the people" more power and a range of other things from the right to pack heat in bars and to defy conventional teaching in public schools.
Virginia's emerging Tea Party leader is Jamie Radtke, a former political aide and William & Mary graduate who spent a number of years as a housewife. So smashing was her political initiation that she's running for U.S. Senate.
But the hard facts are that the General Assembly session is half over, and the Virginia Tea Partiers haven't made much of a difference.
The reason: It's no longer October but February. Nationally, Obama's post-midterm swing to the center on taxes and other issues has taken some steam from a Republican movement that had painted him as a socialist. The president is even trying to make nice with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on business regulation.
The newfound calm has trickled down to Richmond, where the General Assembly has pretty much moved on to new stuff, such as Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's $4 billion plan to build new roads and bridges in the state, paying for them with bonds. The Tea Party people are crying foul, as are environmentalists and smart-growthers. Fact is, the average shad- and Brunswick-stew-eating Virginia politician likes the road-spending package. It will create some jobs and give commuters stuck in traffic something better to imagine.
Otherwise, the Tea Party people are showing they have a lot to learn. They didn't have much to do with McDonnell's plan to privatize ABC stores, which has gone down in flames. They don't like a plan to have business pay insurance for families with autistic children.
And, at times, the Tea Party people have displayed themselves at being a little out of their league. Radtke gave a speech blaming the Federal Reserve for hikes in global commodity prices, such as corn, wheat, sugar and gasoline. Once again, she was playing up the notion of those bogeymen in Washington gleefully causing all of our problems.
As other have pointed out, however, there are a lot of reasons for the global price hikes and not many of them have to do with Fed machinations. These are things far from the control of D.C.-based evildoers, such as weather patterns in Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan, not to mention booming demand for petroleum in growth-mad spots such as China.
This isn't to say that the Tea Party movement is dead. It just needs time to grow up.
| February 9, 2011; 11:19 AM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, education, energy, environment, guns, health care, immigration, traffic, transportation, weather
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