The Tea Party has received a lot of attention and criticism in the media these past few weeks, including from Republicans themselves. Approval rates of Republicans in Congress are at an all-time low, and as many as 75% of responders in a CNN poll said that they don’t deserve to be re-elected; even Ted Cruz said that Senate Republicans are the "single-most damaging thing for the GOP in 2014." Tea Party Conservatives are mad at so-called “RINOs” (Republicans in name only) for passing the deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling; they see leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as giving into pressure (with McConnell being referred to as "Tea Party Enemy Number 1" and a "whore" by Ted Cruz). Other Republicans are upset with the Tea Party for giving the rest of Republicans a bad name and potentially destroying the GOP. Amidst all this, is there room to defend the Tea Party? Dick Cheney for one says yes.
“I think [the Tea Party has] raised issues Americans care about,” Cheney said Monday. He also defended Sen. Cruz's actions during the government shutdown. "He represents the thinking of a lot of people in Texas," Cheney said. Is that not Cruz’ job, to represent his people? Cheney isn’t the only one standing up for the Tea Party. Republicans across the country are defending the Tea Party’s actions, from Senate candidates in South Dakota to Republicans in New Jersey. "I think Ted Cruz and Mike Lee did exactly the job that those of us who helped them get elected" wanted them to do, said Drew Ryun of the Madison Project, one of the first conservative organizations to back Cruz last year in his long-shot Senate bid.
Even with his defense, Cheney doesn’t call himself a Tea Partier, but says that he has “respect for what the people are doing. These are Americans. They're loyal, they're patriotic, and taxpayers and fed up with what is happening in Washington. It's a normal, healthy reaction, and the fact that the party is having to adjust to it is positive."
Let’s not forget that as representatives, the Tea Party was well within their rights to fight for the defunding of Obamacare. As elected officials, their job is to do what they think is best for the country and to represent their constituents. Indeed, Cruz’ approval rating shot up among Tea Party voters, while Boehner’s and McConnell’s plummeted. The Tea Party deserves defending too, as there are still Americans who agree with their values and beliefs. The ratings aren’t too terrible — about 41% of Republicans still support the Tea Party. Cruz’ rating has vaulted among Tea Party Republicans from a 47% favorability rating in July to 74% in October, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last Wednesday. Clearly some people are pleased with him. Cruz also received a “hero’s welcome” from GOP women in Texas.
The Tea Party is clearly in the minority, but consider all the historical instances of majority criticism and oppression of the political minority. Whether or not the Tea Party is in the minority, it is still their right to fight for that they believe in, and in this case it was defunding a bill that was passed without a single Republican vote, and with 34 Democrats voting against it. There are those who believe the Obama administration overstepped its bounds with the Affordable Care Act and that it’s a terrible idea; whether or not you agree with this, the fact is that these people deserve representation, which to this point has come from the Tea Party.
Discussion in American means dissent, and repressing dissent kills democracy. The Tea Party is a valuable tool in preserving democracy and minority political views in this country, and even if you or I do not agree with their views, it is their right and indeed their charge to represent their constituents.