You may have blinked and missed it. At any rate, tomorrow will be a bellwether for this November, and 2016:
The race has been cast as yet another skirmish in the ongoing GOP civil war, pitting the establishment-backed Tillis against seven tea party challengers. It's true that Tillis has the support of prominent national Republicans -- including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- and the Chamber of Commerce.
But it would be too easy to frame a Tuesday victory for Tillis, if it happens, as a clean win for the newly emboldened Republican establishment. Tillis hasn't been forced to beat back a tea party challenge, because his opponents haven't put up much of a fight. They've also splintered conservative support.
He has two serious rivals for the nomination: Greg Brannon, a staunch libertarian tea party activist who wants to put U.S. currency back on the gold standard, and Mark Harris, a prominent Baptist pastor from Charlotte who spearheaded the 2012 passage of a constitutional amendment that strengthened the state's same-sex marriage ban. Like other insurgent Republican candidacies around the country this year, neither campaign has managed to stir the kind of grassroots passion that propelled so many tea party victories in 2010.
With memories of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock marked indelibly in the consciousness of the Republican party – along with the “what if?” of two winnable Senate seats thrown away – the GOP establishment must be taking comfort in the fact that they’ve managed to ostracize and minimize the Teabaggers on this go around.
The follow up question, then, is “Quo Vadis?” Where are they going? [ed. Note. I know, technically its “Quo eunt?” but…]
There’s no place in the Democratic party for them, and any third party bid will be doomed to irrelevance, as Duverger’s Law comes into play, even with Koch and Adelson shoveling money into a Tea Party engine, at least at the beginning. They’re businessmen. They’ll stop the minute it becomes unprofitable.
The Koch’s have already made some comments that seem to indicate their frustration with throwing good money after bad. You get the sense they will be ratcheting back, having caused enough damage already.
The real damage the Teabaggers have done is at the local level: co-opting state and local governments, even school boards, to advance an antediluvian political philosophy rooted in Cro-Magnon sentiments, with a hint of white supremacy. That disease, that decay, will take much longer to root out.
We’re starting to see it with issues like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. Those are the issues, I think, that may give the nation as a whole a second look at liberal political philosophies, and perhaps even force a rejection of conservatism, at least for the next generation or so.