Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Tea party, GOP need a divorce

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 2:15 PM EST, Wed December 18, 2013
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
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT