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Wise up GOP: Ditch the tea party

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: GOP is not doing itself any favors by pandering to the tea partiers
  • Boehner should work to censure them and deny them GOP resources, he writes
  • Granderson: Independents won't trust a splintered party with a lunatic fringe
  • The country needs a third party, he writes: Tea partiers could split off and create their own

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, has been named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- I guess if John Boehner enjoyed his party's in-fighting and hints of mutiny during the debt ceiling talks, then the 15 months leading to the general election will be pure ecstasy because it's likely going to be more of the same.

But if Boehner doesn't like being taken hostage by elements of his own party, then I suggest he adheres to the same criticism he hurls President Barack Obama's way -- stop leading from behind.

Man up and do what he, Sen. John McCain and many other top-tier Republicans know needs to be done for the sake of the party: Kick those freeloading tea partiers out.

Vote to censure, campaign against them and deny them GOP resources. Do whatever needs to be done to force them to get in line or stand on their own two feet.

At this point you might be wondering if I want Obama to lose, but that question is irrelevant. The more important question is how the political system got so broken that the country can have a 9.2 unemployment rate and the few legitimate challengers to the incumbent are overshadowed by carnival barkers.

So if the tea partiers are so powerful that Boehner has to answer to their every whim, why do they rely on Republican resources for survival? The answer to that is simple -- they're not that powerful. They only bark like they are.

And they might soon find out that what little bite they do have is not very intimidating.

At this rate Snooki might as well throw her name in. Why not?
--LZ Granderson

This week the Tea Party Express -- in a bit of a risky move -- is bringing all of its heavy hitters to Wisconsin to support six Republican state senators who face recall elections. If Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, Michele Bachmann and Ann Coulter can't save the GOP from angry voters in a crucial swing state such as Wisconsin, what motivation would traditional Republicans have to continue to listen to their demands? Everyone knows the GOP can win Alabama without the tea party's help. What Boehner and company are trying to figure out is what they will lose without them. The recall election may provide some answers.

But I don't think Boehner needs to wait that long.

Not if the tea partiers are going to continue to refuse to compromise and threaten to go their own way. Perhaps instead of bending over backward to appease them, Boehner should just call their bluff. Let's see whether Bachmann's crew really has the political capital necessary to be a party in more than name only. After all, the country needs a third party: Let's see if voters think the tea party is it.

Perhaps instead of bending over backward to appease them, Boehner should just call their bluff.
--LZ Granderson
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As it stands, the GOP's internal strife is making it difficult for either group to capitalize on Obama's vulnerability. While a recent Pew poll found independents are split on whether Obama should be re-elected, they are not going to hand the country over to someone who is going to try to legislate their rights away in the name of Jesus. And many of the Tea Party's heroes -- Bachmann, Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- are not shy about their theocratic intentions. Nor are the majority of independents going to trust a squabbling Republican Party that has to pacify radicals each time an important piece of legislation has to be negotiated.

As we saw during budget talks in the spring.

As we heard from the name-calling during the debt ceiling talks this summer.

Earlier this year, Donald Trump, who is essentially a reality TV star, was the Republican Party's potential leading candidate because he rang the birther movement's cowbell for a few weeks. Now it's the often fact-challenged Bachmann leading some polls. At this rate, Snooki might as well throw her name in. Why not?

If the GOP insists on claiming any one of their candidates would be a better president than Obama -- when most everyone can plainly see some of these folks are crazy -- then how can any rational independent voter continue to take the party seriously?

Boehner needs to step up and do some purging. Continuing to claim that the birthers, marriage pledge signers and all of the other radical elements of the tea party movement are among the best of the Republican Party is not a good look for him.

And you would think someone who apparently hits the tanning salon as often as he does would care a lot more about how he, and his party, looks.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.