It’s past 2 a.m., the keg has been kicked and the cops have broken it up. The rager is over, except for that small group in the kitchen taking shots of cooking Sherry and wearing Keystone beer box hats.
Yes, you know the type. And their political equivalent is the current Tea Party. The question is whether this die-hard group hanging out in the kitchen can keep the party going. Can Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, and the state-level Tea Partiers keep the party going?
The mid-term election of 2010 was the peak of the Tea Party rager. Their party was the one to be at. They had a wild go of it over the last two years with their anti-immigrant, birther, anti-abortion, and voter-suppression party games.
Regardless of when the Tea Party ends, they have made a lasting impact in legislation. In the area of reproductive rights, women in Virginia and Texas are now obligated to undergo ultrasound — in the case of Texas, transvaginal ultrasounds — before being able to proceed with an abortion. Fiscally, we also saw the Tea Party sprint — with Grover Norquist leading the charge — in refusing to consider any type of new tax.
Like any good party, they thought it would last forever, or at least for a couple of election cycles. And up until this summer it seemed this would be an all-nighter. During the 2012 Republican primary, the spotlight was on the Tea Party. It started off with a slew of Republican presidential debates with each candidate bending over backwards to out-Tea-Party the next guy, or gal in the case of Michelle Bachmann.
Meanwhile, Congressional and state level tea party candidates were partying on. Just ask ex-Senator Dick Lugar from Indiana or Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, each who lost their respective Senate bids to the Tea Party candidate.
For a moment it seemed that 2012 would see a bigger and badder Tea Party. But then, things started falling apart. To begin, the Tea Party dudes ticked off the girls at the party, and you can’t have a party with all dudes. The girls were already weary of the Tea Party types, but then a couple of the really smooth ones started talking about how rape isn’t that big of a deal – not a great way to woo the ladies.
So the ladies left, and with them Latinos and Independents started heading out the door. Not that long ago, a good chunk of Latinos partied with the GOP, but those Latinos who thought there might be a space for them at the Tea Party soon realized that Latinos were not welcome. Even some of the most die-hard Latino Republicans realized that this wasn’t the party for them so they went off and started their own party, coincidentally called the Tequila party.
By around 1 a.m. the Independents also saw that the Tea Party was a dud. Most of the Independents packed it up, went home, and simply stayed home on Election Day. The rest of the Independents realized that the better party was down the street with the Democrats. Sure, this year’s Democratic party was not the wild “Lollapalooza” of 2008, but at least it was better than what was happening with the Tea Party.
To be sure, there is still a group of Tea Party folks that are awake and ready to party on. Tea Party stalwart Ted Cruz from Texas won a resounding Senate victory and will be sure to keep up his party chant about the need for more fiscal conservatism. And fellow Lone Star Republican Rick Perry has doubled down on the Tea Party’s conservative social line, most recently advocating for the mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients.
As in any party, there will be the stragglers who will stay on until they are either kicked out or pass out. The same goes for the Tea Partiers. At the national and state level, Tea Partiers will keep hanging on, but the critical mass has dwindled.
The American public spoke decisively on November 6th. The electorate tired of the Tea Party, and decided to kick start the Democratic Party.
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto is an NBC Latino and MSNBC contributor, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, at Austin.