HONEA PATH, S.C.: Four years after the summer of rage that fueled the tea party movement, the political circuit is much quieter — even in Republican bastions like this. It’s not clear whether conservatives who rallied against President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul during raucous town hall-style meetings are tired, wary, complacent or simply saving their strength for a big push in next year’s elections.
Whatever the reason, the more muted tone was palpable as conservative lawmakers in South Carolina fanned out across their state to meet with constituents this week during the first congressional break since the disclosure that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
Lawmakers generally found small crowds at town hall meetings and tepid angst about the IRS scandal. They got just a few complaints about “amnesty” for immigrants even though a bipartisan group on Capitol Hill is making progress toward comprehensive immigration revisions and the issue long has riled the political right.
Local officials and residents in western communities near Spartanburg, Greenville and Anderson speculated on possible reasons.
The temperature among conservatives “is not as high as it has been,” said Starr town council member Ed Sokol, 65, who supported Newt Gingrich for president.
Sokol and others discussed possible reasons for what they see as a lull in political intensity. Sokol said it’s probably a mistake to think the IRS scandal and the furor over a fatal attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, are bugle calls to rile up conservatives against Democrats. Instead, he said, the scandals that excite cable news talkers may simply remind many Americans that both parties repeatedly disappoint them.
Al Gundry, 72, who labels himself a conservative, said of the Washington controversies: “People have heard so much about it, they’ve become numb.”
Rick Adkins, Rep. Jeff Duncan’s Anderson-based district director, said the political calm might not last. “My suspicion is the tea party’s not dead,” Adkins said. “I think it may be resurrected.”