The Tea Party isn't backing down

Is the GOP ready to end the shutdown? Not if Sarah Palin can help it.

Sarah Palin
(Image credit: (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts))

On Sunday, Sarah Palin helped Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Ohio) lead the "Million Vet March," a protest against the closure of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was shuttered as part of the larger government shutdown.

"We are here to honor our vets," she said to protesters who had moved metal barriers outside of the memorial. "You look around, though, and you see these barricades and you have to ask yourself: Is this any way that a commander in chief would show his respect, his gratitude to our military?"

Palin, as she has mentioned several times on Fox News, wants the Republicans to stand firm on the shutdown. This protest wasn't so much about reopening memorials, argues Slate's David Weigel, but rather pushing the narrative that the "shutdown was Obama's fault — why wouldn't he compromise? — and the most visible pain of the shutdown, the closure of parks and memorials, was engineered spitefully by the president."

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The anger didn't stop at the memorial. The protest then moved on to the White House, where the Tea Party rallied like it was 2009. Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch called for President Barack Obama to "put the Koran down" and "figuratively come out with his hands up." Signs calling for Obama's impeachment mixed with more controversial symbols.

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This comes at a time when only 24 percent of the American public has a favorable view of the GOP, and even less, 21 percent, look favorably on the Tea Party. Most people blame the Republicans for the first government shutdown in 17 years, and will likely do the same if the United States hits the debt ceiling later this week.

Looking at those poll numbers, it seems reasonable that Tea Party Republicans would feel defeated and maybe, just maybe, take some pressure off of House Speaker John Bohner (R-Ohio) so that he could bring a continuing resolution and debt ceiling raise up for a vote on the House floor, where they would have a decent chance of passing.

But the Tea Party isn't feeling defeated. In fact, the Million Vet March — which, according to most counts, only included a few hundred people — is giving them hope that the public is behind them. That is the news coming from the National Review's Robert Costa, who has displayed an uncanny ability to keep his fingers on the pulse of the GOP during this shutdown.

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As Costa points out, the conservative media embraced the story wholeheartedly. The Blaze led with the triumphant headline, "We are marching to the White House: Million Vet March descends on Washington, barricades torn down." The Daily Caller took a similar approach:

All of them condemned the mainstream media for focusing on things like the Confederate flag. For example, Dana Loesch at Red State took on CNN specifically, saying the network's write-up of the protest aimed to "disenfranchise veterans (once again) by omitting their participation in the event and cast it as a hateful Tea Party rally."

Liberals disagree with conservatives' charges of media bias. Salon columnist Brian Beutler argues that a conservative echo chamber is simply trying to make a mountain out of a molehill:

Conservatives see Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz and imagine a national groundswell — not the two widely loathed politicians who bespeak the House GOP’s total isolation so exquisitely. They believe the latest small crowd of white conservatives protesting the closure of war monuments (which would be open had they not shut down the government) will upend the whole debate and reverse the tide of public opinion against them. [Salon]

As long as Boehner cares what Tea Party Republicans think, the battle over the budget and the debt ceiling is going nowhere. And if this latest rally is any indication, the Tea Party is doubling down, debt ceiling be damned.

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