Opinion
8:26 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Tea Party follies

Lessenberry commentary for 9/20/13

If you’ve been following politics, you know the Tea Party, or various people who say they represent the Tea Party, have had their sights on throwing Lt. Gov. Brian Calley off the Republican ticket next year.

Three years ago, Calley, now still only in his mid-30s, was seen as one of the more conservative members of the legislature. Conservatives were in fact happy when Rick Snyder chose him as lieutenant governor. Now, however, they want him off the ticket. Why? Because he’s supported Governor Rick Snyder’s policies.

Well, supporting the governor is what lieutenant governors are supposed to do, just as it is what vice-presidents do. Like presidents and vice-presidents, governors and lieutenant governors are elected on the same ticket. Governors, like presidents, traditionally get to pick their lieutenant governors. But there‘s been a move to force next year‘s GOP state convention to dump Calley.

What the more extreme elements in the Tea Party actually want to do is find some way to drive Snyder further to the right. Now, the idea that the governor is too liberal would come as news to the unions, who are bitter that the governor suddenly changed his position and helped ram through Right to Work legislation last year.

Others are angry with Snyder for slashing education funding to give business a huge tax break, signing a bill repealing the motorcycle helmet law, and trying to severely limit insurance coverage for victims of catastrophic car accidents. John Engler, usually seen as our most conservative modern governor, never even tried to do these things.

But the more extreme elements still hate the governor for what can only be described as common sense. Tea Partiers mostly refuse to learn what the Common Core education standards really are, but hate Snyder for approving them.

They hate that he found a way to build a new bridge to Canada, even though virtually every business interest in the state wants and needs it. They hate that he knows that Obamacare is here to stay, and wants Michigan to get the best deal possible. They really want to remove HIM, but aren’t willing to risk taking Snyder on in a primary.

So they decided to go after Calley, and even had a candidate, Wes Nakagiri, whose website says he works in engineering for an unnamed automotive company.

But now the self-anointed leader of the Tea Party, Todd Courser, is refusing to endorse Wes, “because of his past ties to the establishment.” What’s that mean? It means that when Courser tried to get the GOP state convention to fire Party Chair Bobby Schostak and elect him last February, Nakagiri didn’t support him. Nakagiri says that he then didn’t know Courser, but evidently that’s no excuse. Courser, an accountant and tax lawyer from Lapeer, now seems to be hinting he may run for governor or lieutenant governor.

What all this means is that what we have lumped together as the “Tea Party” is, in reality, about as cohesive as a herd of cats. 

Remember when millions believed H. Ross Perot’s Reform Party was the ticket to political salvation? I’d bet that in ten years, the Tea Party will be just as forgotten as Perot is today.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.