Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→
Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.
This post originally appeared on NBCLatino.
It was a fierce battle. One that the Texan underdogs knew they would likely not survive let alone emerge from victorious. But the men who were holed up in the Alamo, led by William Travis, Davy Crocket, and Jim Bowie, took a stand for a cause they believed in regardless of the consequences.
The battle at the Alamo took place 177 years ago this week. And coincidentally, on its anniversary another group of men took their last stand on the floor of the U.S. Senate. A band led by Tea Party Senators battled to filibuster John Brennan’s confirmation to serve as CIA director. There were no muskets or knives involved; instead it was a battle that relied on candy bars and strategic sips of water.
The small but dedicated band of Capital warriors was led by Senator Rand Paul. And similar to William Travis, the military leader from the Alamo, Paul drew a line in the sand. Travis’ line was one that defined who stood for Texas Independence. Paul’s was about opposition to President Obama’s CIA nominee. Both leaders knew they stood on the loosing side of the battle.
Fellow Tea Party Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio played Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie to Paul’s Travis. Both crossed over the line to attempt to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination and take part in a battle against not just the administration but the majority will of the chamber.
The battle of the Alamo culminated after a twelve-day siege. Paul’s filibuster battle ended after thirteen hours. Like the men at the Alamo, the band of Senators lost their battle. But the Texan Independence movement of 1836 went on to win the war a month later at the Battle of San Jacinto.
There will be no battle of San Jacinto for Paul and his fellow Tea Partiers. The Tea Party was indeed a powerful force in 2010 but since its peak of popularity it has been loosing public support. There are not enough foot soldier reinforcements to win the war of American politics.
Sure, supporters of the Tea Party movement are vocal, energetic and even flashy. One fantastic pop of filibuster flash was Senator Ted Cruz reading out William Travis’ letter from the Alamo. There’s a lot of style, but not much substance.
On the national stage Tea Party numbers appear larger than they really are. The House Tea Party Caucus only consists of 49 members. And of the 100 members of the Senate only Paul and Cruz fit the 2010 Tea Party mold. But most importantly American public opinion does not find itself on the extremes.
The staging of filibuster battles, such as the one from earlier this week, are smokescreens. What in reality is happening is that the more moderate wing of the Republican Party is nudging its way back in. On social issues, namely gay marriage and immigration, the GOP is ceding ground. The Republican Party may be holding firm on the sequester fight, but that is a traditional economic conservative line that is not unique to the Tea Party.
The Tea Party cause is a dwindling one. Paul’s filibuster battle was one of the last stands of this political movement. It was cute of the Senators’ to point out the filibuster’s shared date with the battle of the Alamo. But beyond a shared date and colorful personalities the battles are fundamentally different in that the Tea Party movement will not be able to rally for an ultimate win.