Exactly what will happen in Georgia on Tuesday is still locked inside someone else’s crystal ball. Not mine.
A governor’s race may or may not be resolved. At least two members of Congress may or may not fall.
But one thing is certain: In a couple of days, in ballroom after ballroom across the country, tea partyists and Republicans will wrap their arms around each other in celebration and declare themselves family.
This is how all the very best feuds start.
For the last 18 months, participants in the tea party movement have insisted that they are something other than an auxiliary of the GOP. And with Republican control of at least half of Congress all but certain, the last few days have produced signs that many tea partyists actually believe that they are indeed something different.
Former U.S. House majority leader Dick Armey of Texas is chairman of FreedomWorks, the Washington-based group that has bankrolled several tea party organizations.
Last week, a conservative Christian magazine published an interview with Armey in which he dissected the failure of the last GOP ascension to congressional power in 1994. Armey spoke of a Republican party besotted with power and backroom dealing.
He declared that President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, then U.S. House speaker, held private meetings to talk about their girlfriends over wine and cigars. “It’s just not true,” said Gingrich, who is inching closer to a ’12 presidential run, after a rally in Gwinnett County.
At the state Capitol, visiting Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — another Republican with the White House on his mind — indicated that he understands the relationship between tea partyists and the GOP remains fragile.
He warned that new GOP leaders of Congress had best stick to their promises. “I think it’s really important that people campaign like they’re going to govern, and govern like they campaign,” Pawlenty said. “Because if you don’t do that, the public understands that’s a form of hypocrisy. And that’s why they don’t like politicians.”
Only after President Barack Obama has vetoed GOP legislation and it is clear that the votes to override it aren’t there will Republicans be permitted to go to the “Plan B” of deal making, Pawlenty said.
But one of the most immediate signs of friction between Republicans and the tea party movement may be in Georgia rather than Washington. Three weekends ago in McDonough, representatives of dozens of tea party groups in Georgia gathered to put the finishing touches on a petition they are demanding that state lawmakers sign.
Republicans will be eager to endorse many of the petition’s points: Property and income tax reform, a constitutional limit on spending, mandatory public school and university courses on the paperwork produced by the Founding Fathers, and more court-based confrontations to block expansion of the federal government.
But those in control of the state Legislature are less enthused about other requirements of the tea party petition. Such as a ban on state contracts for family members of the governor, the lieutenant governor or members of the General Assembly.
Trips funded by lobbyists would be prohibited. Lobbyists would be required to report any money spent on a lawmaker within five working days. The petition demands that immediate family member of lawmakers, governors and lieutenant governors be banned from serving as lobbyists.
We are only a year away from the fall of House Speaker Glenn Richardson, the Hiram legislator done in by an angry ex-wife who kept track of his affair with a female lobbyist. And the state GOP’s new partner doesn’t think enough has been done to rectify the situation.
She may not be the Republican nominee for governor, but many tea partyists think Karen Handel had a point. The focus on ethics is no accident.
“We do feel like that has been a problem in the state of Georgia — whether you’re talking about Democrats or Republicans,” said Julianne Thompson, an Atlanta Tea Party organizer.
And how many state lawmakers have signed the petition? “We’ve had a few,” Thompson said. But many lawmakers have been hesitant about giving up those free trips to the Daytona 500. Or the contract that gives the brother-in-law his start.
“That’s disconcerting,” Thompson said.
But the emphasis on ethics — tea party groups want to form an alliance with other interested parties — should serve as proof they won’t be placed on any leash by the GOP, she said.
Sometime soon, the names of lawmakers who have signed the tea party petition will be released, Thompson said. Along with a list of those who have refused.
There is no feud like a family feud.