After failing in dramatic fashion at the ballot box last year, Democrats have clung to the hope that the vague anti-Trump “resistance” may be their saving grace — a supposed organic political movement that would do for them what the Tea Party did for the Republicans. However, after four straight special-election defeats — capped off this week in Georgia when Democrats directed tens of millions of dollars only to lose — it’s clear the resistance is just another political paper tiger, not the party’s salvation.
Since the Women’s March following President Trump’s inauguration, the mainstream media has attempted to draw parallels between the resistance and the Tea Party. Unsurprisingly, the comparison revolved around tactics. The Tea Party and the resistance both protested their respective Administrations, they both brought energy, and they both raised concerns at town halls.
However, what the media, Democrats and even some of the GOP’s old guard fail to appreciate is that it wasn’t tactics that created the Tea Party’s historic and lasting success. There were no novel campaign strategies, patented micro-targeting, or complex data analytics. Instead, the Tea Party’s rise was defined by its powerfully simple message of limited government and less spending. It was a message and pursuit that, at the time, was largely abandoned by both political parties, yet resonated with many American voters.
From Trump to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, from Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina to Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, the most prominent faces of today’s Republican Party found electoral success with campaign messages that aligned with Tea Party values.
It was never about the label “Tea Party,” but instead the ideas that inspired a truly organic and peaceful political revolution. And though the Tea Party was often disparaged by the media, it flourishes in the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and in state houses across the country.
Republicans now have control of 33 governors’ mansions, while Democrats have lost over 900 state legislative seats, putting the GOP in control either partially or entirely of 45 states.
This has been true from the beginning. Statistician Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight and a Special Correspondent for ABC News, published an in-depth analysis of the anti-Trump “Women’s March” in January. In his report, Silver found that “80 percent of march attendance came in states that Clinton won.” By comparison, more than half of the Tea Party protests were in states that President Obama won in 2008.
That reality hasn’t changed. Jon Ossoff, the Democrat in the Georgia special election this week, had nine times more donations come from California than from the state where he ran. And even though he was the anointed candidate out of the gate, he didn’t even live in the district. It’s hard to win when neither the money nor the candidate came from the district.
Now that the dust has settled, here’s what we know: The Democratic resistance poured a record-breaking $31 million into Georgia to oppose Tea Party-backed Karen Handel, only to lose. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ossoff lost by more than double Clinton’s losing margin in the district last fall.
This race, coupled with other special-election losses in Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina, have become expensive reminders of 2016, when Democrats wasted hundreds of millions of dollars propping up candidates handpicked by the party leaders, only to be rejected at the ballot box by the voters. More consequentially though, it proves the Democrats’ hopes for their own Tea Party revolution are dead.
The difference between the two movements is simple: the Tea Party’s message captured voters the Republican Party failed to reach. The resistance merely re-organized those Clinton voters who have yet the accept Trump’s victory and cling to the “Not My President” hashtag. That’s not the formula for a political revolution, it’s just sour grapes.
Going forward, the Democratic Party has two paths. It can continue under the failed, top-down leadership of Nancy Pelosi and an out-of-touch agenda, ensuring a continuing journey towards irrelevance. Or it can finally recognize that it has a message problem, compounded by priorities that favor big cities and ignore the rest of America.
an agenda that prioritizes the interests of big cities, while ignoring the rest of America.
Taylor Budowich is executive director of Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee. Follow him on Twitter: @TaylorBudowich
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