A Tea Party of quitters


The only thing that was surprising about this morning's "surprise" announcement by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann -- the 2012 presidential candidate and Tea Party heroine -- that she won't be running for a 5th term in 2014 was the timing. Usually lame ducks don't announce their lameness so long before the election. It was always more than a little unfair and more than a tad sexist that Bachmann was seen for a time as a Sarah Palin doppelganger -- lumped together because they are both attractive (in a kind of "Steoford Wife" way for Bachmann) women who occasionally blurted out inane things. Bachmann proved herself smarter than Palin and -- unlike the Alaskan -- had the gumption to run for president.

But in the end, they had something in common with each other and with some of their Tea Party compatriots like Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

They were all quitters.

And that's not surprising. The more noble way of looking at it is that right wingers hate government and love "the free market," so the notion of public service becomes like a straightjacket. Not surprisingly, I view the quitting of Palin, DeMint and Bachmann less charitably. I've argued from Day One that the army of political psychoanalysts who crawled forth in those halcyon days of 2009-10 to explain the Tea Party were missing the most obvious point -- that when you lift up the clamshells the Tea Party is basically a scam -- a scam for the same thing that any other scam is for, which is money.

The epitome of this was a so-called national Tea Party convention in Nashville that I covered that snowy Super Bowl weekend back in 2010, which was largely a Ponzi scheme in which middle-class Tea Party acolytes paid exorbitant prices (when they weren't being sold cufflinks or "Don't Tread on Me" hats in the lobby) that were funneled upwards to the main speaker Palin, who received a whopping $100,000 (and had to write her talking points on her hand) and promised to give the money back to "the cause," although she never explained how that would happen.

Palin had already quit as Alaska's governor after serving less than a full term, because she know that her chances to pull in huge speaking fees for speaking to Hong Kong execs or truck-stop owners or whatever, or to host TV reality shows, would not be around forever. DeMint wondered why bother influence U.S. policy as a senator when he could still have clout running the Heritage Foundation and make a million dollars in the process. And remember Mike Huckabee -- who would have been a presidential frontrunner in 2012 but didn't want to give up his cushy job with Fox?  Bachmann? We don't know yet what she'll do -- but we know that she faced the very real prospect of losing in 2014, and that would have undone everything she worked for...

...Her future earnings potential (you thought I meant changing policy?).

One day, though, this Ponzi scheme will collapse. As America continues to grow more liberal, it's not at all clear what the "marks" are getting for their investment these days, and they're not so dumb that they won't figure this out, if they haven't already..