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April 25th, 2011

The GOP Is Now in the Tea Party’s Crosshairs

It was bound to happen.  The advantage that Republicans had in the last election, the support of the Tea Party, now may be one of their biggest obstacles.

Having been totally out of power since the 2006 elections, Republicans were able to find success in 2010 when the electorate rejected Democrat polices at the state and national levels.  The frustration of the electorate was synonymous with a new political movement called the Tea Party. Republicans and the Tea Party were able to live in harmony during the 2010 cycle, and as a result, both groups experienced victories all over the county and locally across the state of Iowa.

With Republicans now controlling two-thirds of the state government, and one-third on the national level, members of the Tea Party now expect them to deliver.  In many ways, Republicans in the Iowa House have done just that.  They have approved spending cuts, passed massive tax cuts, while also forwarding pro-life and traditional marriage legislation.

Still, some of the most vocal components of the Tea Party movement in Iowa are not satisfied.  It’s not that these people are upset with what Speaker Kraig Paulsen has done with his 60-seat Republican majority, it’s what he hasn’t done that has some of them calling for Paulsen’s removal.

What has some members of the Tea Party movement at their boiling points are three pieces of legislation that have been unable to go anywhere in the Iowa House – a personhood bill, a constitutional carry bill, and finally, the impeachment of four Iowa Supreme Court Justices.

Even though Paulsen has a huge majority that allows him to pass his agenda with ease, it also means that he has some difficult members of the Republican caucus to deal with.  The common thread in each the Tea Party’s disappointments is three freshmen legislators, Rep. Tom Shaw, Rep. Kim Pearson, and Rep. Glen Massie.

If the Tea Party is good at one thing, it’s being angry.  Likewise, if there is one person who’s easy to be upset with, it’s Speaker Paulsen since he calls the shots.  But is Paulsen deserving of all the blame, or does some of the fault lie with the group of Tea Party legislators?

It’s easy to see why some in the Tea Party are upset that these three pieces of legislation have stalled.  The Tea Party in Iowa is much more dominated by social conservatives than in other parts of the county, and two of these issues deal with abortion and gay marriage.  However, the reason why these Tea Party legislators bare some responsibility is because of how they conducted themselves with their colleagues, not the issues that they were attempting to advance.

Take Rep. Pearson’s personhood bill as an example.  It’s not that Pearson was simply advocating for a life at conception bill and House leadership thwarted any chance of it passing.  For months Pearson and Shaw tried to advance the personhood bill by attacking another piece of legislation that would essentially prevent a well-known late-term abortionist from locating in Iowa.

Was anyone really surprised that the votes were not there to advance her bill out of committee since she tied up the late-term abortion bill in the House for months because she didn’t even consider it to be a pro-life bill.  Instead of building support for her bill, she created opponents because she was so tone-deaf to the needs of people in Western Iowa.

In regards to the constitutional carry provision, Rep. Shaw attempted to attach it as an amendment to a bill that dealt with restoring gun rights for people who have overcome mental deficiencies.  Shaw threw a Hail Mary pass instead of building support for his issue and providing opportunity for public discussion and debate .  It’s hard to blame the Speaker for the failure of an amendment when 54 members of your own caucus vote against you.

The main problem that Shaw had on his issue was timing.  While the Iowa Gun Owners have long strived to pass a constitutional carry bill, most Iowans are thrilled with the legislation that was passed last year that changed Iowa law from stating that County Sheriffs “may issue” concealed carry permits, to stating that sheriffs must issue permits to those who meet the requirements.  In fact, some in the public think the new law it too lax since all one needs to do is pass a written exam, not show that they are proficient with a firearm.

As for the impeachment resolution, it seems that none of the five legislators who brought the charges took the time to figure out what to do with the issue after they filed their resolution.  Since they obviously didn’t think the process out, the only conclusion that a person can come to is that they did it as some sort of publicity stunt.

In each instance, it’s not these legislators’ convictions that deserve to be questioned, it’s their willingness to do the hard work of building a consensus so they can accomplish their goals.  Real leaders will work day and night to make sure the issues that they are passionate about come to fruition.  It seems these freshmen legislators think it’s good enough to just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

If the Tea Party wants to be upset with anyone, it should be with their own legislators.  If the goal is just to have plenty of stuff to complain about, then legislators like Pearson and Shaw will help them accomplish your goal.  However, if they actually want to see the day when their agenda is advanced, then the Tea Party should encourage them build relationships and educate their colleagues on issues, not just be upset when they vote the wrong way.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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