No, "Tea Party" Congressmen Aren't Facing a Backlash

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 7 2013 12:25 PM

No, "Tea Party" Congressmen Aren't Facing a Backlash

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., is the closest thing there is to a generic Tea Partier facing a backlash from the GOP establishment.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Phil Rucker is out with a smartly conceived piece that asks whether "Tea Party" congressmen are finally courting a backlash from the old guard. Smart concept, like I said, but the evidence simply isn't to be found here. Let's start with the congressmen Rucker spotlights.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Rep. Walter Jones, elected in 1994, described as "an outspoken iconoclast who has repeatedly antagonized Boehner."


Rep. Scott DesJarlais, elected in 2010, who has never recovered from stories about affairs, one of which ended with an abortion.

Rep. Justin Amash, elected in 2010, against whom moderates "are recruiting a Republican primary challenger who they hope will serve the old-fashioned way."

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, elected in 2012, facing "a well-funded primary campaign" after winning by accident because Rep. Thad McCotter's career imploded.

You can spot the problem, right? Four members in trouble does not equal much of a backlash in a 233-member conference. Of these poor saps, one (DesJarlais) is in trouble because of a sex scandal, not his politics. One (Jones) predates the Tea Party wave, and has actually faced multiple primary challenges ever since he became a hard-core vote against funding America's wars. Taylor Griffin, his latest challenger, specifically says he's going after Jones because he's too "liberal."

That leaves us with two challenged candidates, both in Michigan. Bentivolio, as Rucker reports, was a right-winger who thought he'd be a protest candidate, and ended up winning by default. That's a fluke. Over to Amash—and aha, finally, we have one Republican congressman who actually is courting a backlash! But he's opposed the party on much more than fiscal policy. He nearly got the House to defund the NSA, for example. If it's a struggle to find a generic right-wing Tea Partier who's in real danger now, that's because the map-makers wanted it that way.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.