I've thought for some time now that the whole tea party phenomenon was just a fear-based reaction to the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. Once things recovered, I figured, the tea party would fade away and its officeholders would drift back to the sensible center.
A front page story in the Times this morning, "Anger and Kudos as Florida Governor Tacks Left" describes just that. As the unemployment rate has fallen in the Sunshine State (all emphasis mine):
Mr. Scott, 60, a former health care executive who won the governorship by calling for deep budget cuts and fiercely criticizing President Obama’s health care bill, has, in his third year in office, marched toward the political center, a necessity in this diverse swing state.
Facing stubbornly low approval ratings, Mr. Scott has crisscrossed the state advertising his enthusiasm for education, state workers, highways, commuter rails, early voting, the disabled, environmental protection and jobs. With Florida’s economy slowly burbling to life and a tiny budget surplus, the governor’s proposed budget of $74.2 billion is one of the largest in Florida history and includes a $2,500 across-the-board pay increase for teachers.
He still disagrees with the health care law, but recognizes that “the Supreme Court upheld the law and the president got re-elected. Because of that you have to say, what’s in the best interest of my citizens?” said Mr. Scott, who also was lobbied heavily by the health care industry. “I represent 19.2 million Floridians. I have to make the best decisions I can for them.”
So will the tea party "primary" this apostate?
“There is not going to be a primary challenge to the governor,” said State Senator John Thrasher. “He is strong. He is well-funded.”
Maybe the angriest tea partiers have gone back to work.
“This governor is doing what a good business leader does, which is lash his policies to the new realities,” said Don Gaetz, the Republican president of the State Senate.
Reality. As one comedian used to say, What a concept!
“If he is going to get re-elected, he needs to rebrand, reboot and repackage,” said Ana Navarro, a Republican political strategist in Florida.
Translation: Move to the center.
Here, for me, was the kicker:
Florida has a high number of uninsured residents, a situation that Mr. Scott said he understood. His family was poor enough that his mother, Esther, considered putting him up for adoption.
His family, living in Missouri, had no health insurance, and his mother struggled to pay medical bills for his father’s heart ailment and his brother’s hip disease. “I know what my mom went through,” Mr. Scott said. “She was scared to death.”
Her sudden death last year badly shook the governor, and he said she played a role in his Medicaid decision.
Tea party "principles" are one thing; the Real World is quite another.
I, for one, welcome Mr. Scott's epiphanies. (Reminds me of a certain blogger.) The Dow made a new all-time high yesterday and housing is slowly recovering. New jobs should follow. And as the economy improves, look for more examples like Mr. Scott's. In a few years or so, we'll all be asking each other, "Remember that whole tea party movement? Whatever happened to all those people?"