Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From Santelli to Santorum, the Rise and Fall of the Tea Party

Three years ago, almost to the day, Rick Santelli, on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, called for a "Chicago Tea Party", in response to continued government bailouts.  His rant captured the mood of the nation, and within weeks, Tea Party protests were occurring nationwide.

In the months that followed, the Tea Party grew in strength, culminating in the 2010 midterm elections.  Tea Party-endorsed candidates defeated dozens of congressional opponents, including democrats as well as establishment republicans who were not friendly to the small-government agenda of the Tea Party.  At the time of those 2010 midterms, conservatives were salivating at the thought of nominating a presidential candidate who would be aligned with the ideals of the Tea Party.

The focus of the movement, at the time, was one of fiscal responsibility, through the promotion of free enterprise, federal deficit reduction, national debt reduction, and a general reduction in the size and scope of the federal government through grounding of the government's role in the U.S. Constitution.

Today, 3 years after Rick Santelli's rant, a poll is released that claims that 42% of Tea Party Republican voters favor Rick Santorum, compared with just 23% who back Romney. 

How did we get here from there?  The Tea Party stands stood for fiscal conservatism.  Social issues are were simply not part of the party platform.   The Tea Party is was opposed to earmarks.  The Tea Party is was for reducing the size of the federal government.

Rick Santorum?  Rick Santorum is exactly the kind of candidate that the Tea Party of 2010 would have fought against.  Hard.  In fact, Santorum said, during the early days of the Tea Party, that he would "vocally and publicly oppose" the Tea Party movement.

Time remains, but if Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee for president in 2012, the Tea Party will have officially died.
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