Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Tea party, GOP need a divorce

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
December 18, 2013 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
John Boehner has been the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011, making him second in line for the presidency, behind the vice president. Look back at his career in politics so far. John Boehner has been the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011, making him second in line for the presidency, behind the vice president. Look back at his career in politics so far.
HIDE CAPTION
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
John Boehner's political career
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Should tea party split now that budget deal seems headed for approval?
  • He says John Boehner's rant, new rules for 2016 primaries show GOP reining in tea party
  • He says Americans want third party and tea partiers say GOP isn't conservative enough
  • Granderson: Given its beliefs and far-right funding, does tea party need to stay with GOP?

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor who writes a weekly column for CNN.com. The former Hechinger Institute fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer for ESPN as well as a lecturer at Northwestern University. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- Despite objections from popular Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, it seem the much-criticized budget deal will get final congressional approval this week, sidestepping the cooked-up dramas that have come to define the 113th Congress.

Good news for those of us who like it when politicians actually do their jobs.

Bad news for those who thought the Republican establishment and the tea party were going to live happily ever after.

Last week House Speaker John Boehner let some of his frustrations with the far-right cohort spill out on television. He called them "ridiculous." He said, "They've lost all credibility," and accused them of "pushing our members in places where they don't want to be." He even tossed in a bit of theatrics with his "Are you kidding me?" remark, all of which made for great sound bites.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Intentionally or not, the outburst also provided a good distraction from the overhaul the Republican National Committee is planning for the 2016 primary process, which was also was reported last week.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus had talked about limiting the number of debates soon after President Barack Obama was re-elected. Now it seems the RNC is prepared to punish candidates who participate in unofficial GOP debates and forums severely by stripping them of one third of their delegates. Remember the quotes from Republican candidates all trying to out-ultra-conservative each other in 2012? Don't expect to hear as many come 2016. This, more than entertaining sound bites from Boehner, is a far more tangible sign that the establishment is serious about reining in the radical right.

And by radical right, I mean the tea party.

So now what?

Well, 60% of Americans want a third party, and it seems Republicans want their party back. Perhaps it's time that tea party standard bearer Cruz and company file the divorce papers and see if the group has the strength to stand on its own two feet.

GOP divided over budget deal
Boehner, tea party and GOP
Senator: Budget deal unfair to vets

It is, after all, unlikely that he or any of the other tea party-leaning politicians are going to forgo the group's influence and get in line with moderates just because Boehner said some harsh words on TV. And with deep-pocket groups such as Americans for Prosperity behind the tea party, why should they?

Indeed, many tea partiers believe the reason Republicans lost in 2012 -- despite an economy that lagged under the first Obama administration -- was because Mitt Romney wasn't conservative enough.

This thinking was echoed in November after tea partiers cited a lack of conservatism as a main reason why the anti-gay, anti-abortion Ken Cuccinelli lost in the governor's race in Virginia.

Cornel West: I would vote for budget deal

Couple that with The New York Times reporting that presumptive front-runner -- and establishment darling -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is as unpopular with ultra-conservatives as he is popular with moderates, and there is no reason to believe the tea party is just going to roll over after Obama signs the budget deal into law.

"(Christie's) no more conservative than Harry Reid," said Scott Hofstra, a tea partier from Vine Grove, Kentucky, told the Times. With statements such as that, it's clear it's time for the GOP and the tea party to call it quits. The two had a good run retaking the House in 2010, but if a guy such as Cuccinelli doesn't pass the conservative smell test and Christie's a RINO, or Republican in Name Only, then it seems this marriage is unsalvageable.

Debates within a party are healthy for Washington. But civil wars are not good for anyone, as evidenced by the country's downgraded credit rating, Congress' historically low approval numbers, the unprecedented number of appointment delays for Obama's nominees and Congress' dubious distinction of being the least productive in U.S. history.

The tea party supposedly started to express the views of voters frustrated with big government. But it has quickly morphed into a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment -- prodding 2012 candidates into making outlandish statements and strong-arming leadership into a series of questionable moves.

It seems it now has a critical decision to make: be reined in or break out. The scenario reminds me of the day Ronald Reagan became a Republican.

It was the summer of 1962. And though he still called himself a Democrat, at this point, Reagan was so in name only. His political leanings had begun shifting in the 1940s, and he had been publicly campaigning for Republicans since the 1950s. One day, while campaigning for Richard Nixon, someone in the crowd interrupted his speech with a question.

Have you registered as a Republican yet?

He replied no.

And then a woman identifying herself as a registrar appeared. She walked down the center aisle, placed a registration card in front of Reagan, and he signed it. He then returned to his speech, later saying, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the party left me."

Last week Boehner came down the center aisle and placed a registration card in front of the tea party. But given its beliefs, funding and recent events, is there still a good reason why the group and its followers should sign it?

Follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT