The AAS has an interesting article on the state of the tea party in Texas, Tea party evolves from protests to partisan politics.
These days, Texans associated with the tea party movement are spending a lot less time protesting and waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.
Tea partyers haven’t given up on rallies altogether — one is scheduled in Austin at 2 p.m. Sunday, when the national Tea Party Express bus rolls into town for a gathering at the Capitol. But the groups have evolved quite a bit since the 2009 protests against the bank bailout and economic stimulus packages.
Now the groups are emphasizing state and local elections and recruiting candidates to take on politicians who are not conservative enough for their liking.
Several tea party candidates in congressional and legislative races — including small-business owner Matt Beebe, who is challenging Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and software engineer Richard Morgan, who is seeking to oust U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith in San Antonio — face uphill challenges against entrenched politicians.
But even if they and other tea party candidates fail to get elected, the movement has already had a grand effect on the Republican Party in Texas by making it more conservative and driving much of the political discussion to core tea party topics, such as small government, lower taxes and limited government spending, said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, a national tea party organization co-chaired by former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey of Texas.
The absorption of the tea party by the GOP is going to effect the political calculus in Texas. By making it harder for so-called “tea party” candidates to challenge incumbent Republicans, while it pulls the entire GOP further to the right. But there’s also a realization that things are going to be different in 2013, then they were in 2011, in the Texas Legislature. The right wing got darn near everything they’ve ever wanted in 2011. Gutting of public education, attacks on health care and the social safety net, anti-abortion legislation, to name few. While continuing their effort to demean government in general, it’s ability to help our neediest citizens, put off needed investments, all the while protecting the wealthy.
Now that the tea party candidates elected in 2012 are incumbents, they must defend what they’ve done, instead of just being able to attack, attack, attack. It’s a much different political calculus. It also makes it harder for “tea party” challengers ability to attack the government, since many in the tea party are now part of the government. They realize they’re unlikely to have as much success next session, and need to change their tactics.
This change in tactic is likely some of what this is about, Straus gets backing of anti-abortion group. While they didn’t endorse his for reelection to Speaker, they likely will when the time comes or at least stay neutral. If the right wing was unable to oust Straus with 100 plus GOP House members, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do it with fewer GOP House members. This is unlikely to have any effect on Straus’ most vocal opponents on the far right. Those that still believe Texas is spending way too much on public education, health care, and the neediest among us.
With much of their wish list accomplished the GOP in Texas is now going to have to defend what they’ve done. And that’s a much different political calculus.