Tea Party anaconda swallows the Republican Party

You've seen it, too: A giant snake swallowing an even bigger animal, perhaps a wandering cow or feral pig. The image makes for great nature TV. And as a political metaphor, the efficiency of the giant snake best describes how the Tea Party, now in the midst of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) crisis, is swallowing the Republican elephant.

As Republican factions continue to struggle with getting out of the DHS funding trap they themselves set, seemingly incapable of advancing with a clean bill in the House in spite of the Senate's overwhelming 98-2 vote in favor of funding America's premier anti-terrorism agencies, the country looks on with a sinking feeling.

Sure, Republicans, at least since President Reagan, have identified "the" problem as the government itself. That, of course, did not keep Reagan from working with Democrats on a slew of reforms, including extending the lives of Social Security and Medicare. For a man who grew up in the Depression, the idea of old people falling into poverty after retirement was an all-too-clear possibility for Reagan — and Social Security had forever changed that grim reality of American society.


But as a few snowballs rolling off a mountain tend to do, the anti-government sentiments unleashed by the Gipper have now become an avalanche, threatening the very fabric of the American social compact.

Witness the awesomeness of Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world MORE's (R-Wis.) budget. While its attack on arithmetic is monumental, the incapacity to learn from 35 years of failed trickle-down policies that it displays is stunning. Cut taxes for the rich and the U.S. Treasury will overflow with new tax revenue — except that has never happened. Under-invest in public education and people will be more educated, somehow. America has now gone from the No. 1 global ranking in public education outcomes to an objective disaster. Cut the safety net for the poor and people will make it, anyway — yet the United States now only beats wealth-challenged Romania for highest per capita number of poor children of the top 35 developed nations in the world.

And while these empirically challenged Tea Party policies would, in a free market, already be discredited and hounded out of the public debate for their sheer lack of efficacy, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), recently leading in the Iowa polls, will have to delay Wisconsin's debt payments in order to balance his trickle-down budget.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a potential dark horse for the GOP nomination, has not only slashed more dollars from public education; he had to also raise taxes to fill the budget holes he created with the implementation of a full-frontal trickle-down Tea Party dream budget.

Of course, it's anathema to Republicans to even utter, "George W. Bush," but during Bush II's administration, we first saw the full display of proto-Tea Party policies that led the country to double its national debt while simultaneously tipping the national and global economies into a broad-scale financial collapse. Aside from that, Bush's tax cuts and erasing of regulations worked marvelously.

So why is the free market failing so badly in consigning trickle-down and the broader Tea Party agenda into the dustbin of history? Short answer: There is no free market of ideas in the United States. You have to pay to play in our democracy now.

The outsized influence of unregulated corporate and wealthy donor money that now lubricates American politics and policy-making has taken away the possibility to really debate and challenge Republican Party orthodoxy. In an unintentionally revelatory disclosure, anti-immigration hardliner Rep. Tim HuelskampTimothy (Tim) Alan HuelskampCure for cancer would become more likely if FDA streamlined the drug approval process Emails show climate change skeptics tout ‘winning’ under Trump Trump administration's reforms could make welfare work again MORE (R-Kan.), trying to justify the blocking of the DHS funding bill, told The Hill, "If I was a donor to some of these senators that just won election and was told things would be different in a new Senate, I'd be pretty pissed. We put [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] back in charge of the Senate again?"

The "we" in Huelskamp's declaration refers to GOP donors. Without even blushing, the congressman betrays his true priorities: the opinion of hefty wallets driving their private agendas through big donations to people like Huelskamp and the rest of the GOP.

Conspicuously absent is any concern from the congressman about the voters — or even the citizenry at large — who could be put at risk should DHS lose its funding due to a Tea Party maneuver to destroy President Obama's immigration executive order, a stunt that has failed spectacularly.

This progression makes perfect sense. The Tea Party is a manufactured platform, created by Koch brothers money, executed by former GOP operatives, as well as Koch affiliates like Americans for Prosperity, and focused on electing a Congress that would reflect the will and priorities of special economic interests and their beneficiaries. The initial $12 million investment by the Koch machine into Freedomworks to get the ball rolling was a masterful exercise in Machiavellian pure power politics.

With the anaconda's awesome strength, the Tea Party has devoured the much larger, supposedly more powerful Republican Party. Americans are paying close attention to the gruesome, yet fascinating spectacle. And that should worry the few remaining real Republicans.

Espuelas, a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, is a political analyst on television, radio and in print. He is the host and managing editor of “The Fernando Espuelas Show,” a daily political talk show syndicated nationally by the Univision America Network. Contact him at contact@espuelas.com and via Twitter @EspuelasVox.