Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s line, repeated and recycled by other Democrats and through various media outlets is this: The Tea Party is subverting the democratic process by dictating impossible demands to Republican leaders and making consensus impossible. This will result in an irresponsible and disastrous government shutdown.
Today, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, co-founders and national coordinators of the Tea Party Patriots, stopped by the National Review office to talk back.
Jenny Martin tried to reduce the talking points ad absurdum: “Senator Reid is giving two different lines. First we [the Tea Party] are so small that we don’t matter. But we’re also so powerful that we can shut the government down for our extreme agenda. So which is it?”
Mark chortled, “Their consultants are clearly struggling with their messaging strategy. We’re just enjoying watching them spin in circles.”
It takes chutzpah, they argued, for Senate Democrats to place blame on them. “They’re the ones abdicating their constitutional responsibility,” Martin claimed.
“They have two constitutionally obligated duties,” Meckler added. “One of them is to pass a budget, which they could have done in October, when the Democrats had the House. And they didn’t do that, and now they’re blaming us.”
Asked about whether they would accept or support a government shutdown, they hesitated. Tea Party Patriots consider itself the most democratic and organic of the big three Tea Party groups (Tea Party Express and Tea Party Nation being the others). The Patriots leaders say they try to directly reflect the views of their membership, ascertained via online polls, rather than assert their own opinions, or those of their ten full-time employees. They had not yet completed their poll on a government shutdown.
So Meckler spoke carefully, and referred to broader public opinion instead. “We’re not asking for a shutdown,” he insisted. “But we agree with the 57% of Americans who say a shutdown would be worth it to get deeper cuts.”