Teatime on the Hill

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Haidar is a junior majoring in journalism.

Has the ship been emptied or do the Tea Partiers have more cargo to unload into the bay?

Coming up on the 2014 midterm elections, this remains the main question for GOP faithfuls in contested districts. For the Democrats, it’s a little less clear, but one thing is certain: the Republican base has a unity problem.

Sitting Republicans are facing Tea Party challengers. Tea Party candidates have done well in the past – barring mention of those who embarrassed the GOP and probably all of Washington D.C. such as Christine O’ Donnell and Todd Akin.

And now with the Tea Party’s darling Ted Cruz in a position of fame and newfound power, contesting candidates may have a distinct advantage in the fractured party. Senator Cruz is essentially bankrolling candidates to oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as well as Senators Pat Roberts and Thad Cochran. Cochran himself claims to know little about the Tea Party.

Is ignorance bliss or will it be the old guard’s downfall in the midterms?

Through the Madison Project (a PAC propping up grassroots conservatives for the midterms), Cruz delivered a fundraising letter urging voters to bring flesh blood to the party – specifically “conservatives who won’t run from a fight!” In the eyes of the Tea Party, this means anybody who isn’t in their ranks.

The Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take back the Senate – a goal within reach but complicated by infighting and a values crisis. Democrats need 17 more seats in the House to establish a majority, but even with a fractured GOP this type of victory is unlikely with a country frustrated over Obamacare.

By the same token, Republicans have taken flak for the shutdown – which took place in October when Sen. Cruz and like-minded members of Congress refused to approve the budget as a result of their opposition to Obamacare. Public sentiment turned on the Republicans and their favorability sunk by 10 percentage points while the shutdown took place, according to Gallup.

But this goes beyond politics and comes right onto our doorsteps. If Republicans take the Senate and Democrats fail to take the house – a likely possibility – President Obama will be a lame duck for over a year. We’ve gotten used to the trite jokes about “change you can Xerox,” but nobody in the White House will be laughing if the president gets pushed into a congressional corner.

It may be inevitable that the Tea Party flourishes while the GOP old guard scrambles
for control. Then we’ll be asking ourselves if the tea is bitter or sweet.

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