Sarah Palin is the original Tea Party matinee idol. Thus, her endorsements of so-called “mama grizzlies” (right wing, female politicians that are very similar to her) have usually held a great deal of sway. However, there are signs that this influence may be coming to an end. Palin supported Karen Handel, the former secretary of state, in the Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary. Handel, who was passed over by the party establishment in favor of U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, was not relevant until she became a grizzly, but then quickly gained popularity, forcing a runoff with Deal, which she ultimately lost by only a few thousand votes. Almost immediately after the results came in, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, who backed Deal, felt that Palin should have stayed out of politics in his state:
“I don’t know why she feels compelled to get into primaries all over the country. But, you know, fortunately Georgia voters are doing their own thinking on things like this.”
Kingston went onto say that Palin should “butt out” and that “what she is doing is dividing the Republican Party at a time when we don’t need to be divided.” Interesting — challenging Palin is a new venture for most Republicans, but the roots of this opposition may not be merely over policy.
While most establishment Republicans have been loathe to speak out against the Tea Party for fear of hurting their electoral chances, they do have a problem with Palin “going rogue” (if recently surfaced video of this confrontation with an Alaska teacher is not enough to make people wake up and recognize her obvious deficiencies, then nothing is). News nerd that I am, I was watching MSNBC the other day and one of the commentators suggested that the reason Kingston and other big wigs are turning against Palin, despite her Tea Party connections, is because they do not actually want too many women to be in positions of power (shocker, I know). Thus, this led to the backing of Deal, even though he was clearly the insider candidate and may have a tougher time in the general election because of it.
The Tea Party itself has not been immune to this double standard as it recently chose prosecutor Ken Buck (arguably the less electable candidate, but with crazies like Sharron Angle, it’s clear that doesn’t bother them) over former lieutenant governor Jane Norton in the Colorado senate primary, regardless of the fact that both candidates were Tea Party sympathizers. However, although sexism in the G.O.P. or the Tea Party is nothing new, it is interesting to watch conservatives hurt their own election chances and betray their own notions of doctrinal purity in order to keep the “old boys club” alive and well.