10 Oct 2013

US shutdown: no compromise from Tea Party

As the US government shutdown continues Sarah Smith looks at the reaction from the people who want to shut the federal government altogether – the Tea Party movement.

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee the Tea Party comes with fries and deep-fried hush puppies, fried corn dogs and anything else you can fit into a deep fat fryer.

Its 8pm in the back of the Three Brothers restaurant on North Church St and some of the people who planned and orchestrated the US government shutdown have gathered to discuss what happens next.

These are the local Tea Party activists who have been plotting how to obstruct President Obama’s healthcare reforms since before they became law.

These are the people who are sending messages to their elected representatives in Washington telling them not to compromise on the budget negotiations and not to give an inch when it comes to raising the debt ceiling. These are the people who shut down the American federal government.

People like Katherine Hudgins of the 9.12 Project, James Gann from the Campaign for Liberty and Ruth Fennell of the Sumner County Tea Party, who told me they don’t much care that the US government has been shut down for 10 days.

Calling the shots

They’ve always wanted a smaller government anyway and they don’t believe the dire warnings coming from the president about the economic armageddon that could follow if America hits the debt ceiling next week and can’t pay its bills.

If that means deep cuts in government spending then they will be happy. That is exactly what they have wanted all along.

Local Tea Party celebrity Kevin Kookogey is on the stage telling his enraptured audience that he will probably get killed for the things for he is saying but that he is prepared to die for the cause.

The audience are shouting that he should run for President. He’s not quite ready for that, yet, but he is thinking about running for congress, or even the US senate.

He isn’t looking to beat a Democrat – he is considering standing against an incumbent Republican. Activists like him all over the country are keeping a close eye on all their GOP representatives to make sure they vote in the most conservative way possible.

Keeping check

Tea Party organisations like the Heritage Foundation produce scorecards to make it easy to see who are the most conservative Republicans and who are most liberal.

Anyone who is seen to be working with Democrats, who doesn’t vote the Tea Party line most of the time makes themselves vulnerable to a Tea Party challenge in the next round of primary elections.

That’s how a small number of deeply committed activists can make sure their elected representatives toe the line and daren’t even think about voting to re-open the federal government or raise the debt ceiling. Any concessions could cost them their seat.

Read: 'Victims' of the US shutdown: from goats to the KKK

President Obama says he will not even discuss any kind of deal that affects his healthcare reforms – he won’t back down on the only significant thing he has achieved after five years in office.

And the Tennessee Tea Partiers are in no mood to compromise either. If that means no budget is passed before Christmas that’s just fine with them. If the debt ceiling is never raised again they will be celebrating. Right now they have got almost everything they want.