In my first week of college, I attended my very first house party. It was pretty crazy. While the party at one point had to be have organized by someone, once things got going it turned into a force of nature itself. There were a couple of people opening every can of food in the kitchen and throwing it into a giant bubbling over pot, there were two people fighting with found rods in the living room, someone had thrown up on the staircase (not to mention every sink and toilet in the house, and god knows where else), and there were at least two people having a very good and loud time in the bathroom. In the middle of my beer and whiskey fueled haze I remember having a moment of clarity asking myself “what kind of person would let animals like us do this in their house”.
Hearing about the Rep Bachman’s formation of a Tea Party caucus within the house of representatives brought me back to that lesson I learned, never lose control of the party. The Tea Party is not a party like the Democratic Party or the GOP, but the political version of that party during orientation. There is no leadership behind it, there are a bunch of people who have a control of small groups only as long as they push it in the direction it is going. Most of the people claiming to lead the Tea Party seem to spend more time trying to stay ahead of where it is going than actually directing it. This leaderless structure has allowed for several powerful rhetorical tools. It has allowed the movement to stand for very obscure principals such as “the constitution” and “the economy”. Without any actual leaders to represent it, the media has no one to actually question about what that means in more definite policy terms.
Another advantage of this unstructured structure is that it allows easy deniability of extremists within their midst. Anytime a (self appointed) “high ranking” Tea Party (unofficial) “representative” says something that confirms the fears of mainstream America about the extreme right wing nature of the tea party, it is easy for the movement to simply eject them and roll on. We saw this happen with Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams after he published a blog post asking Lincoln to re enslave the “coloreds”. Because there is no official leadership of the movement, it is easy to whitewash his acts as non representative of the tea party.
The Teflon nature of the tea party exists because of it’s unofficial status, and will remain as long as it remains a leaderless swarm of right wing anger. However with the GOP who are trying to cash in both fiscally and politically from it by allowing it representation within it’s party will not have the tea party immunities transferred to it. The Republicans are still a traditional party, and any crazed tea partier that speaks the ultra crazy as a GOP surrogate may not be easily cast aside. While it may seem like smart short term politics to try and gain resources from the Tea Party by letting them in, they must be careful. They are not changing into a new movement and gaining the quasi grass roots invulnerability of the Tea Party. They are simply opening up their homes to a bunch of crazy political revelers. It does not matter to the tea party if they make a mess in the GOP, it isn’t their house after all. However the Republicans may have to live with the broken furniture, burn marks, vomit, and love stains in their party for years to come when this party dies down and everyone goes home to sleep off what could be the worst intellectual hangover in modern American history.