According to an October 7 article from the Associated Press, the support and enthusiasm that Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown received in 2010 from an emerging group of staunch anti-Obama and pro-small government activists who referred to themselves as being members of the Tea Party, is returning in 2012, albeit more reluctantly and less enthusiastically.
Most people will probably remember that in 2009, then-Senator Edward Kennedy, a popular and progressive Democrat, passed away and a special election was held to fill his vacant Senate seat. When the special election was held in 2010, the conservative fear that President Obama was dramatically changing American society had taken hold of the public imagination. After the support of high-profile conservative ideologues like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and funding from Charles and David Koch, the so-called “tea party” activists became a significant political force.
The tea party was such a new and enthusiastic political force that Kennedy’s seat, a Senate seat in a liberal state that had long been controlled by democrats, was won by Brown, the Republican. This unlikely win solidified the influence of the tea party, dealt a blow to the agenda of President Obama, and was the first step for the Republicans, who went on to take back control of the House of Representatives.
Since Brown’s election, the tea party has continued to be a force in American politics, specifically within the Republican party. Although the group have vehemently opposed what they view as the big government policies of Democrats, they have also become known for efforts to weed out Republicans who they view as being too moderate by supporting the efforts of more staunchly conservative primary opponents.
The desire to shift support away from Republicans with a “moderate” voting record is the reason the support for Scott Brown is surprising. A pro-choice conservative who employs union-friendly rhetoric and opposes a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is not the type of politician tea party sympathizers would ordinarily help. It seems as though even a group like the tea-partiers, who have placed a very high value on ideological purity even when it has proved to be counter-productive in general elections (remember Christine O’Donnell?), can reach a point where winning is a higher priority than ideology.