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The day the Tea Party died

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Smart v. Stupid

The day the Tea Party died

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Once or twice a year too many political bombshells happen to pick just one. This was one of those weeks. But unlike other news-filled weeks, this one weaves a single narrative, the decline of the Tea Party. Let’s dig in…

You’d have to be an RNC official to call this election anything but a rout of Republicans. Ohio is a state long known for moderation but now beset by a governor, John Kasich, who is an anti-union zealot. Voters handed his union-busting initiative a crushing defeat, killing—by a two-to-one margin—Kasich’s attempt to destroy collective bargaining for public employees. In the modern era, we seldom see that kind of margin in any ballot contest.

Unions have been losing ground for the last 40 years. But the victory in Ohio might just be the moment things turned around. The win is directly attributable to labor efforts—hitting the streets, making the calls, making the case—though Occupy Wall Street did provide an ideological assist.

Kasich’s crushing defeat is also a clear warning to a neighbor-governor, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Walker will face a recall for his own anti-union crusade. Around the nation, union spirits are high and enthusiasm is strong. Expect unions to focus on issues more strongly than on candidates over the next election cycle. But one thing is clear, unions are back in fighting trim.

In Tucson's city elections, the Tea Party's candidate for an East Side council seat lost out to the 16-year Democratic incumbent. While city councilmembers are elected citywide, the GOP-heavy eastsiders didn't turn out in droves large enough to elect Tyler Vogt. Instead, Shirley Scott won a fifth term on the Democratic-dominated council, Tucson elected a Democratic mayor for the first time in a dozen years, and two other party incumbents were returned to office in an electoral sweep.

Another big win for sanity came in west Mesa. This rabidly conservative community—think far right and farther right—found their limit. For the first time in Arizona’s 100-year history voters recalled a state official, Senate President  Russell Pearce. Pearce was the author of Arizona’s anti-Latino SB 1070, the “papers please law.” Even Mesa’s brand of conservatism—which might well shock most Americans—doesn’t include blatant racial profiling.

Of all the wins on election night, that was my personal favorite. Pearce is an acolyte and former deputy of America’s Biggest Ass™, Sherriff Joe Arpaio, who ought to be next. As icing on the cake, Democrats enjoyed a clean sweep in Tucson, where most everyone is proud of their Latino influences. (For more about SB1070, read In Tucson, Arizona’s SB1070 not so popular or SB1070—The Joe Arpaio racial profiling protection act.)

Then there was Mississippi, a state I generally rely on to be wrong on every topic. They are among the least educated, most overweight, and least healthy of Americans. If not the buckle of the Bible belt, Mississippi is surely its suspenders.

Yet when confronted with the chance to outlaw birth control, treatment for ectopic pregnancy, the morning after pill, and abortion, even Mississippians said “Shucks, no honey” rejecting the measure by 58 to 42 percent. Supporters of the initiative blamed the language of the referendum, but this was just face-saving. The widely pushed measure won only sixteen of 82 counties. The average Mississippian wants wives and daughters to have access to family planning, I’m guessing.

I may have to rethink my assumptions about the Magnolia State. They done us proud.

The Cain sex harassment scandal offered up a second name and face after she was outed—against her will—by NewsCorp’s iPad app. She’s a personable attorney who appears to be able to hold her own. Anyway, his saga continues and Cain is right, he is looking more and more like Clarence Thomas—only worse.

Then came the ninth Republican debate, this one ably hosted by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo and John Harwood. The Twitterverse mostly died of boredom until the crowd booed Bartiromo for asking Cain about his alleged serial sexual harassment. It wouldn’t be a Republican debate without a sour, surly crowd, now would it? Then later came the moment when Rick Perry ceased to be a candidate.

Cain performed well enough; most pundits thought he had a good debate. But he’s now on the campaign trail apologizing for condescending remarks he made about Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. And the harassed women are talking about a joint press conference. So Democrats won’t get their wish. Cain won’t be the nominee. That still looks like Romney.

But what was most notable about the CNBC debate was what was not said. There was absolutely no demonization of unions. Unions simply were not mentioned. But they all tried to—in their own way—respond to election night results and the growing ideological influence of Occupy Wall Street. Several candidates decried banks as “too big to fail” coming just short of calling for an outright breakup of the big financial houses. Are Republicans now against monopolies?

It was a glaring departure from prior debates. Only Newt mentioned OWS, and then only condescendingly—to blame the media for the protestor’s “misunderstanding” of economics. Combined with the reticence of everyone else on the podium, it only served to reveal his misunderstanding of the political winds.

Right now, those winds are clearly blowing against the Tea Party.

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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