Jim Lee: Business may crush tea party

While much of the post-election focus this past week has been on contrasting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's win with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II's loss in Virginia, more telling was the result of a race in Alabama, where business groups backed a more moderate Republican over a tea party favorite in a U.S. House race.
Cuccinelli by all rights should have defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Establishment Republicans say the loss reflects the growing public displeasure, even among Republicans, with the scorched earth policies of the tea party. Tea partiers, meanwhile, say the establishment abandoned Cuccinelli and, with more support, he could have won.
And pundits of all stripes are pointing to Christie, who overwhelmingly won re-election in what has traditionally been a Democratic-leaning state, as an example of how people will vote for candidates who are committed to putting their job before their party allegiances.
But putting aside the Christie-Cuccinelli campaign comparisons, the results of a special election for a House seat in Alabama are far more telling, and should be more concerning to those who affiliate with the tea party.
In that state, tea partybacked Dean Young lost in a big way to Bradley Byrne, an establishment Republican, in a primary race. Businesses lined up behind Byrne, and their support proved effective. Elsewhere, from Michigan to Utah to Idaho, business interests are putting their money behind establishment Republican candidates in an effort to defeat tea party candidates in the 2014 elections.
Businesses might not like the laws and regulations that emanate from Washington, but they have apparently grown weary (as has most of the public) with the antics of tea partiers. Throwing the economy into turmoil every few months, staging outlandish standoffs and intentionally damaging our recovery are not the best ways to get your way. Businesses want a measure of predictability in government. And they want representatives who, when a bad law or something that hurts them comes along, are capable of working with the other side to eliminate the problem or, at worst, minimize any negative impact.
Time after time in recent years we've seen Republicans and Democrats come up with workable solutions to problems, only to have them blown up by tea partiers who refuse to negotiate anything and, like spoiled children, demand to have everything their way.
While many Americans embrace a good portion of the basic ideals held by tea party followers - smaller government, more fiscally prudent use of tax dollars - they don't believe that destroying the country in the name of saving it is the right path.
Tea party candidates have a serious branding issue that they are going to have to overcome before next year's primaries. They are increasingly seen as a group focused on negativity, who stand against everything and for nothing, and who have no solutions for how to move our country forward.
Worse, their very actions continue to cripple our recovery.
Tea party candidates hoping to win election next year will have to tone down the negativity and demonstrate a willingness to work, not only with the opposing party, but with others within their own party in an effort to advance their agenda.
It may already be too late. Core groups of traditional Republican supporters have turned away from the tea party. Losing the business community would be painful enough, but having that group actively work against you is likely to be the straw that breaks the back of the tea party.
Already pro-business groups are creating political action committees, raising money, identifying more moderate candidates to support and launching attacks on the tea partiers in office.
Moderate Republicans should jump on board to help out.
Some of the more bizarre tea party candidates lost in 2012 because their views were so far out of the mainstream.
Now, with more people holding negative views of the tea party, it will be even tougher for some of them to get elected, or re-elected in the general elections, even in districts that lean heavily Republican.
With more moderate candidates, not only does the GOP have a chance to pick up seats in the 2014 election - probably quite a few - but with people in office who are committed to governing, we might just get our country moving forward again.

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