The congressional vote at the turn of the New Year should tell us something about what to expect in 2013. Although a boiled down half-measure aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff passed, a strong "no" vote from the far right bucked Speaker Boehner's leadership. The fact that a new session in January will bring in new faces, will not likely change the shape of this obstructive bloc. Remember, Tea Party-endorsed candidates won nearly 80% of their House races last house November, a higher rate than in 2010. They will likely oppose every moderate or slightly progressive proposal over the year to come.
It was just over one year ago. March 15, 2009. Liberals and progressives were still crowing about the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic House and Senate. The conservative movement, many told us, was dead. Friends of mine who should have known better were speculating that the demographic shift in voting patterns would soon force Republicans to move in a more centrist direction. Republicans would need more than white votes in the South if they hoped to win any future national elections, some said. The Tea Party movement had not yet been fully born. And the Conservative Political Action Committee, CPAC, was holding one of its annual confabs at the Omni Shoreham hotel in the Washington, D.C. area.
Despite the pouring rain, nearly three hundred Tea Party supporters from across the state gathered on the steps of the Washington State capitol for the “Sovereignty Winter Fest” on January 14. The event featured state legislators, candidates for state and federal seats, Tea Party leaders, and other far-right activists from around the region. It was designed to support a series of state’s rights 10th Amendment “sovereignty” resolutions in the Washington legislature. This turn away from anti-tax and anti-healthcare rhetoric towards state sovereignty language points to a possible radicalization of the movement.