Michele Bachmann—the House’s Tea Party Caucus founder—has pulled her name from the race for Republican Conference Chairperson, and, thereby cleared the path for establishment favorite Jeb Hensarling (TX). The implications, or so it would seem, are at once both particular and, potentially, rather general.
With regards to the particular issue at hand, the newly reclaimed Republican House majority has dodged a would-be Tea Party bullet. Had Bachmann not endorsed Hensarling, a run-off between the two would have been politically catastrophic. At the very least, Representatives both new and old would have found themselves somewhat uncomfortable in their recently claimed seats. Under slightly more dire circumstances, a Bachmann-Hensarling battle could have set the theater for a full fledged anti-establishment war. Both of these scenarios have, however, now been avoided.
More generally, those Republicans interested in the semantics of their party’s political salability have to hope that tides are shifting. Ideally, Bachmann’s endorsement of the man against whom she would have run will serve as a footstep along the path towards Tea Party deference to the GOP proper.
Perhaps, the lesson of 2010 midterm elections has indeed been learned. Candidates matter. And, as last Tuesday made abundantly obvious, the GOP is a more effective mechanism for selecting politicians than is the Tea Party. That the Tea Party has a fair deal to offer the Republicans is pretty clear. One would be remiss, however, to lose sight of its obviously divisive potential. Bachmann looks to have taken this into consideration. Hopefully, others will follow suit.