Michael Gerson: Tea party desires are the same as Obama's — discredit GOP leaders
Under normal circumstances, this faction — comprising less than 20 percent of the House Republican Caucus — might exercise a marginal influence. But we have the peculiar situation of a divided Congress and a weak president. The tea party faction holds the margin of victory in a slim Republican House majority. Boehner has kept some semblance of order by appeasing it — an approach of diminishing utility. And now, in a series of budget showdowns, the interests of tea party activists have suddenly aligned with those of President Obama (who needs a dramatic reshuffling of the political deck). Both sides prefer a powerless, discredited Republican leadership.
The problem for Republicans (as Democrats found in the 1970s and '80s) is that factions are seldom deterred by defeat. Every loss is taken as proof of insufficient purity. Conservatives now face the ideological temptation: inviting an unpleasant political reality by refusing to inhabit political reality.
Michael Gerson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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