Tea Party: Shifts focus from fiscal austerity to opposing Obama’s immigration …

By Jeremy W. Peters

WASHINGTON: In all its fury and unanimity, the response from the right over President Barack Obama’s decision to change immigration policy without the consent of Congress was the manifestation of a major transformation inside the Tea Party.

What started five years ago as a groundswell of conservatives committed to curtailing the reach of the federal government, cutting the deficit and countering the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party has become largely an anti-immigration overhaul movement. The politicians, intellectual leaders and activists who consider themselves part of the Tea Party have redirected their energy from fiscal austerity and small government to stopping any changes that would legitimize people who are here illegally, either through granting them citizenship or legal status.

“Amnesty for Millions, Tyranny for All,” declared The Tea Party Tribune, summing up the indignation among conservatives over Obama’s executive action to shield up to 5 million people from deportation.

A group of sheriffs is organizing a demonstration next month at the Capitol. Activists are sending fat envelopes stuffed with articles on illegal immigration to members of Congress.

And in their most audacious plans, Tea Party groups are preparing to recruit challengers to run against high-profile Republicans they accuse of betraying them – as they did when they toppled Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader. At the top of their list of potential targets are politicians like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a proponent of immigration overhaul. Their fantasy candidate: Sarah Palin, McCain’s former running mate who now spends much of the year at her home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Two prominent conservative activists, who spoke anonymously to divulge private discussions, said leading Tea Party figures planned to reach out to Palin to see if she was interested in running against McCain.

The way they are organizing around the issue of immigration bears striking parallels to how the federal bailouts of financial institutions and the Affordable Care Act galvanized many of the same people in 2009 and 2010. The issues have shifted, but the common enemy has not: Obama.

“This is going to become the Obamacare for the 2016 cycle,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group. “You’re going to see a constant drumbeat, a constant march.

“It will be no one thing,” he added. “When you call down the thunder, sometimes it’s not pretty.”

Conservatives say emotions over immigration run so high that the issue could be even more politically potent than the Affordable Care Act. Like many of the economic concerns that animated Tea Party supporters, immigration plays to people’s anxieties about their financial well-being and the future.

Many conservatives who have long mistrusted Obama because they think his policies will fundamentally alter America believe his new immigration order will do just that, with millions of potential new foreign-born citizens even though the president’s action does not call for a path to citizenship.

The conundrum for the Republican Party is how to channel that energy. Turned against liberalism, as it was in the 2010 elections that ousted Democrats from power in the House of Representatives, it can deliver serious political advantage. But turned inward, as it so often has been over the last four years, it threatens to tear the party apart.

In Virginia, Cantor’s defeat so emboldened activists that they have started using “to Cantor” as a euphemism for defeating establishment Republicans.

Conservatives see a moment of truth for the Tea Party as well. If they think Republican leaders in Congress are not doing enough to fight Obama on immigration, what is their recourse?

“What the Tea Party has struggled with doing is translating their ideological appeal into political clout,” said Laura Ingraham, a conservative author and radio host. “They don’t have a lot of political clout. They can get out the vote out, yes. But I’m talking about getting individual committee chairmen and senators who can mount a real challenge to the establishment forces when required. And can you do that from within the Republican Party?”

Article source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/45297121.cms