The tea party did something the Republican establishment was incapable of doing: It got the party out from under George W. Bush. The tea party rejected his administration's spending, overreach and immigration proposals, among other items, and has become only too willing to say so. In doing this, the tea party allowed the Republican establishment itself to get out from under Mr. Bush: "We had to, boss, it was a political necessity!" They released the GOP establishment from its shame cringe.
Sounds nice -- the Tea Party has helped the GOP see the error of its ways! -- but who will the Tea Party actually push to power in Congress next month? In all likelihood, um, John Boehner. He voted, of course, for the Bush Administration's unfunded Medicare drug plan -- probably the best example of the GOP's shamelessness about deficit spending -- and he shows every sign of being a servant of big business and other special interests that Tea Partiers supposedly disdain. And he's using that power to co-opt the supposedly pure Tea Party candidates before they even face election:
One tea-party-backed candidate to get Boehner's help is Steve Stivers, a former state legislator and lobbyist for Ohio's Bank One who has accused his Democratic opponent of supporting "taxpayer-funded bonuses given to failed Wall Street executives." Stivers's spokesman, John Damschroder, said he thinks the $14,000 was given - mostly before the state primary election - because "speaker-to-be Boehner knows how critical Ohio is to control of the House."
Boehner also has given $14,000 to Ohio candidate James Renacci, a former mayor, car dealer and nursing home operator who has attacked his Democratic opponent for having "lobbyist friends" and for attracting support from "special interests." Renacci spokesman James Slepian called the money "a vote of confidence" and a reflection of the importance that Boehner attaches to the race as a step toward Republican control of the House.
So it's difficult to buy the Tea Party of a vanguard of ideologically-cleansing purity within the GOP. It's returning to power the exact same people who ran Congress during the 1990s and most of the last decade. This revolution feels awfully stale.