Arant by journalist Rick Santelli on CNBC five years ago, blaming homeowners with deceptive loans for creating the mortgage crisis, is considered to have given birth to the Tea Party.
This origin, based on a simplistic, populist fallacy, has characterized the track record of a movement that has been as unpredictable in politics as detrimental in the civic debate, because of its intransigence. Congress has come to a standstill as a result of the least productive legislative session in recent memory. This came about because the House of Representatives has a divided Republican majority, split between those who believe in the traditional dynamics of negotiation to pass laws and Tea Party followers, who consider negotiating as a betrayal of conservative principles.
This internal split is a symptom of a nightmare that the Republican Party is experiencing. At first, it fueled populist discontent with President Obama, tolerating even underhanded racism that claimed that a black president had to be African instead of being American.
Today, the extremism of this political base has already cost Republicans several legislative seats, since it supported candidates with indefensible positions, even for their most moderate sympathizers.
Tea Party supporters are the ones who are now rejecting any immigration reform, citing the absurd excuse of not trusting President Obama to implement it. Because of those concerns, faced with the possibility of having to compromise, they have decided not to negotiate with the Senate. For them, it is all or nothingsomething unthinkable in a divided government like the one we have today.
The biggest myth surrounding the Tea Party is that it is purely a populist movement, when in reality its money comes from the Koch brothers. These ultra-conservative millionaire activists are funding activities and candidates through a network of organizations such as Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. Their agenda is to relentlessly reduce the federal government, taxes and regulation.
The Tea Party threatens the idea of a Republican Party that makes room for diverse ideas. It also endangers the concept that in a democracy, negotiation is the path to resolving conflicting political positions.