Last night ended much quicker than I expected. Fox News was the first to call the reelection of President Obama, as they called Ohio. This caused much of a stir in their election coverage because Karl Rove thought it was premature. Either way, Obama won reelection. How? Two words come to mind, Tea Party.
The Tea Party has hampered this race for Republicans since I started The Political Zealot. They hampered the debt ceiling debate, and helped create a situation where the U.S. debt rating was downgraded. They raised hell when Obama suggested a payroll tax cut, when Republicans usually support any and all tax cuts. They defeated long time incumbent Richard Lugar in Missouri and sent Richard Mourdock to the races who caused an uproar when he suggested that pregnancy from a rape was God's will. They were celebrated as the group that sent Todd Akin up against Claire McCaskill, who was likely the most vulnerable senate seat democrats had to defend. McCaskill won easily after Akin suggested that women could shut their body down and never become pregnant in a 'legitimate rape'. The Tea Party handed this election to the Democrats.
By all measures, Republicans should have been able to easily take the senate and the White House this election. The economy is still in shambles, unemployment is just under 8%, underemployment is almost 15%, and more people are hurting in this country than ever since the Great Depression. Yet America decided last night that the current makeup in Washington is fine. It doesn't make sense. Yet, when you dive into the craziness that the Tea Party has become, you start to realize why last night happened the way it did.
Let me be clear, the Tea Party of today is not the Tea Party as it was founded. Instead, the Tea Party of today has been taken over by the religious social conservative zealots of the Republican party. They took over the Tea Party because they saw it as their vehicle to power. After the 2010 elections, where the original fiscal conservative Tea Party swept into office, the taking was too good to resist and the social conservatives moved in and took control. America was not blind though, they realized what was going on.
We don't have to look any further than Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock to see what the new Tea Party of today is like. These members talk a big game about fiscal conservatism, not compromising, and returning to a more moral America. Americans last night said they were not interested in that vision. They want their politicians to compromise with each other. They want fiscal conservatism, but they also want the upper class to pay a little more. They also do not believe that the hardcore social views of the conservative right is the way to go moving forward.
This is what happened last night. The new Tea Party cratered the chances of Republicans from taking the White House and the senate. The bleed over from these key senate races showed up in the presidential returns for Mitt Romney, who lost the women vote by 12 points in key swing states. Republicans now need to regroup. They need to stop putting up these new Tea Party social zealots up for election and instead broaden their base to include more demographics.
Will the GOP learn from it's mistakes from last night or will they redirect by turning even more right next election season? Only time will tell. I suspect there will be a very large push by conservatives to shift even more to the right. That could even mean we see a Rick Santorum as the GOP nominee in 2016. I shudder the thought.