Lack of Direction May Set Tea Party Adrift

What’s next for the Tea Party? Tripling, even quadrupling, its membership.

That’s what Billie Tucker, organizer of the First Coast Tea Party said at the Heritage Foundation’s “Where Does the Tea Party Go from Here?” event on Tuesday.

There have been a lot of questions on the Tea Party’s fate following its success in the midterm elections. Would it lose or gain momentum? Would it lose its energy? Would it die?

Other than offering an outline of what fellow Tea Partiers would like to see done in the 112th Congress and a few ideas on organizing, Tucker said the Tea Party doesn’t have any concrete direction.

“What’s next,” Tucker said, “we don’t know. But we’re not going away.”

Recent media reports have referred to a possible civil war in the Republican Party between its more conservative wing, which includes many Tea Party newcomers, and the Establishment Republicans.

Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann is running for the House GOP conference chair against Jeb Hensarling. In the Senate, Jim DeMint is leading the conservatives’ fight for a vote to ban earmarks. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to keep them.

Some even say that the Tea Party cost the GOP certain races in the midterms. But Tucker said it’s the other way around.

“[The GOP] didn’t support a lot of our candidates,” Tucker said. “They didn’t support Marco Rubio at first.” And Republicans picked candidates the Tea Party didn’t support, she said.

But on the issues, Tucker said the Tea Party simply wants to see all the elected Republicans address the areas that they said they would: ObamaCare, national security, the budget, and the decline of the value of the dollar; even if those issues are addressed in the long term.

Another question is how the Tea Party, given its position to cut government spending, wants to see entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security reformed.

Contrary to popular belief, Tucker said the Tea Party doesn’t want either of those programs eliminated, largely because she doesn’t see Social Security, which people pay into, as an entitlement program.

“We’re willing to negotiate and compromise,” she said. But “we’re not willing to give it all up because [the government] screwed it up.”

While the future of the Tea Party and its role with or in the GOP is unclear, Tucker said that its current status is no different than it was before the election.

The Tea Party is made up of many independent groups; it doesn’t have any central planning, and its members weren’t sure what would happen after it started, she said.

“Do we know what we’re going to do? No,” she said. “But we didn’t before, and we won.”