When The Honeymoon Ends: Grimm Divorces Himself From “The Extreme Right of the Tea Party”
It seems the honeymoon is over.
Michael Grimm, considered by some to be a “conservative warrior” during his successful campaign to oust Democrat Michael McMahon from the 13th Congressional district, has divorced himself from what he called “the extreme right wing of the Tea Party” this week.
The statement doing so was both poorly worded and poorly received from those ordinarily considered Grimm’s base–conservatives and Tea Partiers–who have expressed anger over the remarks. The move also suggests (to some) Mr. Grimm’s attempts to moderate himself politically in advance of a presidential election year in a district that was just as willing to vote Republican as it was Democrat in the past four years.
In an article entitled “Feeling Heat From the Right, The Wall Street Journal discussed the plight of Grimm and Rep. Nan Hayworth from New York and their recent clash with the Tea Party:
New York Reps. Michael Grimm and Nan Hayworth—who both won office with tea party support—have recently angered some conservatives by voting for a budget compromise with Democrats, a sign of how difficult it may be for the two Republicans to manage the competing demands of their electoral expectations and their more moderate home districts.
Ms. Hayworth, who represents suburbs north of New York City, and Mr. Grimm, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, insist they are staying true to their long-stated ideals, and that the budget vote this week is just an early skirmish in a larger battle over government spending.
Both voted Tuesday for a temporary three-week spending measure that cuts $6 billion in spending, a compromise between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate…
Yet 54 Republicans in the House disagreed, voting against the deal because it did not cut more. All six of the newly elected House Republicans from across New York state voted for the compromise.
Among them, Mr. Grimm stood out by openly criticizing the tea party and “extreme right” of his party for opposing the deal. That, he said, was a big mistake.
“We’re starting to fight about the tactics and that’s a little frustrating,” Mr. Grimm said Thursday. “I would hope they would have a little more faith and give me the room I need to make the tactical decisions that I think are right for this country.”
Mr. Grimm also suffered an odd kind of political curse for conservatives: praise from Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. In a Senate speech, Mr. Schumer singled out Mr. Grimm as a “commonsense conservative” for supporting the spending bill. While Mr. Schumer is generally popular in his home state, he inspires scorn from tea party members.
Mr. Grimm argued that it is smart strategy to pass the bill in order to make the Democrats concede the need for cuts first. He also argued that forcing a quick government shutdown by not passing a bill could hurt the GOP’s chances to retake the Senate and White House in 2012.
Some tea party activists have criticized his decision, but Mr. Grimm said he feels most tea party members in his district still support him.
After winning office, [Grimm and Hayworth] joined the moderate Republican group called Main Street Partnership, which has long clashed with a more conservative group, the Club for Growth, over the direction of the GOP.
Here is the excerpt of Rep. Grimm’s statement that caused an uproar amongst Tea Partiers:
The extreme wing of the Republican Party is making a big mistake with their flat-out opposition to a short-term continuing resolution. They’re not looking at the big picture, and the last thing we want to do is become like Nancy Pelosi in the last Congress, where it was ‘my way or the highway.’ Last week’s passing of the CR cut $ 4 billion and this week we will cut $6 billion. Cutting spending is going to take small steps, and each successful step must be viewed as a victory.
I know that there is some opposition to working with Senate Democrats from the extreme right of the Tea Party who would rather see a government shut-down than pass a short-term solution; however, as long as we continue to cut spending each time, we are keeping our promise to the American people to reduce the deficit and fix the economy. If we’re going to do what we set out to do, we have to set realistic expectations, and cannot bow to the extreme right or left. Those views don’t represent what’s best for our country and they certainly do not represent the views of the majority of my district.
It should be said that all parties and ideologies have “extreme wings.”
Mr. Grimm uses the expression “extreme wing of the Republican Party” in the first paragraph and then follows it up with “the extreme right wing of the Tea Party,” which suggests that the two are one in the same.
They are not.
It could every well be that Mr. Grimm did not intend his words to be an attack on the entire Tea Party but just its most “extreme” sympathizers. If Mr. Grimm is wise, he will try and sell this version of his statements to the press and his supporters to clarify.
Mr. Grimm has to be careful. He knows that the district could just as quickly throw him out of office as it did former Rep. McMahon, the Democrat. Especially if President Obama somehow picks up steam in the next year and a half against the upcoming GOP contenders. He must understand that the district has changed and that he received no more votes than the previous Republican for that race received–Robert “Hot Dog” Straniere”–in 2008. If Democratic turnout is high next year, he will have to prove to the independent voters and conservative-leaning Democrats that he deserves to keep his job.
That could very well be what he was attempting to do with this statement.
Then again, you never sacrifice your base at the expense of those who may or may not vote for you. There was clearly a more eloquent way to say what was said, and one hopes the staffer who wrote up that troubling statement has either been reprimanded or fired.
Mr. Grimm is walking a very fine line. He is being watched, and there are those in his own party in the establishments of the Brooklyn GOP and Staten Island GOP, who would love nothing more than to see him fail.
He needs to get on the right side of this issue.
Reject extremism. Don’t reject the Tea Party.
Be responsible. But do not reject the principles you espoused.
And don’t be afraid to apologize for mistakes and move on.
Right now, the only thing that should be on Mr. Grimm’s mind is serving the needs of his district as well as possible and in the best interests of the nation at large.
Having to explain for upsetting press releases will not accomplish that goal.
Mr. Grimm has shown he is able to stay in the public eye and get media attention.
If he wants to win again, he needs to get ahead of this debacle without sacrificing his base or losing the support of moderates who will both put him into office come the following November. There is a lot of time between now and then.
We shall see if he succeeds at this great task…