Hayworth the Hatter?
Think “Alice in Wonderland” and Chapter Seven” (“A Mad Tea Party”) and you might conjure up images of the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, the Dormouse, or even the Hatter himself.
Now, think of America’s upstart Tea Party and up pops an image of . . . J.D. Hayworth?
According to The Hill newspaper, the former Arizona congressman and also-ran in this year’s Senate primary is soon to be announced as the national spokesman for the nation’s hottest political movement.
If indeed Hayworth gets the nod, I think it’s not a smart move as far as choosing a national standard-bearer.
1) You want a winning face to go with a winning movement. Hayworth’s not that. He received less than one-third of the vote in his battle against John McCain. Nor did he receive Sarah Palin’s endorsement, which instead went to a longtime incumbent who’s hardly a Tea Party darling. Sure, you can argue, Palin was paying back McCain for elevating her to the national stage. But there’s another way to look at it: she didn’t think enough of Hayworth to make a signature Tea Party statement: throwing the maverick under the Straight Talk Express.
2) If the Tea Party is about denouncing the excesses of the Democratic Congress and the sins of the late Republican Congress, why turn to someone who was part of said past GOP failure? Indeed, this came up during the primary, with McCain running an ad featuring fellow Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake and slamming Hayworth on his earmark record.
3) Hayworth may be good at voicing anger, which is fine if you’re a talk-radio host (something Hayworth was, before becoming a full-time candidate) and are looking to fill three hours of drive-time five days a week. But a national movement needs someone who embodies optimism and finer virtues. Think, for a moment, about Ronald Reagan. Was he solely about fiery anti-tax Prop 13 and welfare-queen rhetoric, or was his movement centered around a more optimistic vision of America? I’m not suggesting that the Tea Party surrender its microphone to some grinning fool. But I do believe we already have enough angry talkers saturating the airwaves.
4) Once the election is over, will Hayworth cede or share the microphone, settling for a less political role like his own show on the Fox News Channel, or will the Tea Party get caught up in the same kind of internal bickering that killed the Reform Party movement a decade ago? Back then, America didn’t lack for opportunists who wanted to run for president as the lead voice of the protest vote: H. Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura all come to mind. For 2012 and beyond, the challenge for the Tea Party, if it wants to take root and keep a permanent role in American politics, is to avoid the same cancer from within — i.e, grown-ups acting like juveniles.