Fortune Magazine Columnist: 'Hard Right' Tea Party Full of 'Obstinate Brats' Who'll Doom GOP

September 10th, 2013 6:46 PM

In 2004, Boston Globe reporter Nina Easton praised George W. Bush’s performance in the third presidential debate: “For a long time, they've ridden that tired horse of calling Kerry a liberal from Massachusetts and out of the mainstream, which doesn't, I don't think, play that well to swing voters.”

But in 2013, Nina Easton of Fortune magazine deeply adores calling conservatives out of the mainstream. In fact, they're so extreme they're childish. She thinks the Tea Party Republicans sound a lot like an obstinate brat in a children’s story by Maurice Sendak that pours syrup in his hair and gets eaten by a lion:

Here's a story about a little boy named Pierre, who stars in Maurice Sendak's classic children's tale. Pierre is an obstinate brat who sits backward in his chair, pours syrup on his hair, and screams, "I don't care!" at every kindhearted word from his parents. When a lion shows up and asks him if he'd like to die, Pierre ignores the obvious danger and blurts, "I don't care!"

The lion eats him.

With midterm elections on the horizon, the Republican Party should be hyper-attuned to its weak standing among nonwhites, women, and young people. Instead, its Pierre wing – hard-right purists – insists that the GOP’s problem is a shortage of obstinacy. Block immigration reform and risk alienating Hispanics? “I don’t care!” Be seen as intolerant of gays and perform badly among young votres? “I don’t care!” Demand that moderates be purged from the party and continue to lose elections in swing states? “I don’t care!”

The most visible case is the Tea Party-backed campaign – supported by 17 senators and 77 members of Congress – to shut down the government rather than vote for a budget that funds Obamacare. With Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House, it’s an empty threat. But experience shows that talk of government shutdowns hurts Republicans, whose standing with the public could hardly sink further. The latest Quinnipiac poll gives congressional Republicans a pathetic 19% approval rating.

The article is titled "What the Tea Party Refuseniks Can Learn From Maurice Sendak." The common-sense hero of Easton’s kiddie-book metaphor is Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who asked “Why pick a fight you can’t win?” Cole also called it a "temper tantrum," so it's odd Easton left that out, since she's channeling the same theme. She added "Other sane GOP voices, like John McCain and Bob Corker, have called the campaign 'dumb' and 'silly.'" She concluded:

Cole attributes the Pierre behavior to political immaturity: Most Tea Party-backed members of Congress haven’t been around long enough to appreciate the strength of the Democrats. “They assume we’re smarter and more courageous that our opponents,” Cole tells me. “Well, the Democrats are smart, too, and they control the Senate and the bully pulpit of the White House. The idea that they are going to collapse is foolish.”

By the way, Pierre survives in the end – but only because grownups come to his rescue.