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Tea Party needs to grow up, quickly, before it's too late for Republicans

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Congress,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Republican Party,Tea Party,Ted Cruz,Chris Christie,Analysis,Mike Lee,Government Shutdown

Do not be fooled by the wars within the Republican Party, which may not be quite what you think. They are not between the right and the center, between the right and the far right, or between the Tea Party and the establishment.

This split is on temperament, not ideology, as all of the parties claim to want the same thing. This is the Tea Party vs. the Tea Party, Tea Party governors vs. some Tea Party members in Congress.

Or the Governing Party (what Pete Wehner calls the Reality Caucus), which deals with the real world, vs. the Grandstanding or Tooth Fairy Caucus, which deals with the world it wants and thinks that if it wants something to happen badly enough, then it will.

What matters to members of the Tooth Fairy Caucus aren't the facts on the ground but the intensity of the will that they bring to bear on them. Like people trying to bend spoons with their minds, Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah said they could bend the Democrats in the Senate to turn against Obamacare, which didn't happen, while they shattered their party and distracted the country from the other, more welcome, diversion, which is that the Affordable Health Care Act is falling apart.

The Tea Party, which began in 2009 with Rick Santelli’s call to toss unfunded derivatives into Lake Michigan, revealed itself first in a huge wave of rallies, then in concerted resistance to Obamacare, and then between 2009 and 2012 in the campaigns of people opposed to Obama’s agenda who ranged from the sublime – Gov. Susan Martinez in New Mexico, Sen. Tim Scott in South Carolina, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the stars of the future — to the ridiculous — Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock, and Christine O’Donnell — who threw away seats in the Senate.

It has New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie and Walker, who win in blue states and have cross-party appeal while reining in unions; and it has former Sen. Jim DeMint, who thinks you prevail by shrinking your party and prefers dive-bombing suspected conservative heretics to strafing the liberal foe.

This is genuine Tooth Fairy thinking, so DeMint supported Cruz and Lee in their defunding ambition, calling those who demurred a “surrender caucus” and bombarding them with negative ads back home.

“Cruz stood on the side and confused people about the fact that every Republican agrees [on Obamacare],” said Grover Norquist. “He said if the House would simply pass the bill with defunding he would force the Senate to act. ... Cruz said he would deliver the votes and he didn’t deliver.”

Cruz took a battering ram to his own coalition and whined at the end that people disliked him. Exactly what everyone wants in a president. A man among men, this is not.

This does leave an opening, however, for the likes of Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who can live in the real world while being a rebel; and one as big as a truck for a Tea Party governor who could triangulate brilliantly between Cruz and Obama and present a conservative model that wins.

Coincidentally, the Republican Governors’ Association is out with an ad buy touting the success of its members, who enact conservative measures in purple-blue states.

“The Bobby Jindals and Chris Christies ... are having a field day,” said the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “Need evidence that all of Washington is broken and that a problem-solver from outside ... is the only answer? The shutdown ... says it all.”

Heal thyself, Tea Party. And please do it soon.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."
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