After electoral wins, Tea Party movement now getting some respect from establishment 

The Tea Party movement demonstrated its forcefulness on the national stage in November and now it's starting to get the kind of respect from the political establishment that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable for a grassroots movement that wasn't liberal.

Last week, U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia confirmed that he will be speaking to the Tea Party Caucus, a group within Congress for members who have or want to have affinities for the Tea Party movement.

Today, CNN announced that it is teaming up with the Tea Party Express to host a presidential debate next year for Republican candidates:

CNN is teaming up with the Tea Party Express for a first-of-its-kind presidential primary debate, both organizations announced Friday. The Tea Party debate, featuring 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is scheduled for Labor Day week 2011. It will take place in Tampa, Florida – the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Since the spring of 2009, the Tea Party movement has been increasingly vocal in advocating for less government spending, lower taxes and shrinking the deficit. The Tea Party debate will place specific emphasis on those issues.

Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer talked to CNN about what activists hope to hear from Republican presidential candidates. "We want to hear what their ideas are – what their thoughts are – on turning this economy back around and getting us on a sound economic footing, paying down some of our deficit, getting a balanced budget, and reining in the spending," Kremer said.

Of course, not everyone is happy about such news. In a very huffy editorial this morning, the New York Times tells Scalia that he should refuse to have any association with the "extreme" Tea Party movement:

When the Tea Party holds its first Conservative Constitutional Seminar next month, Justice Antonin Scalia is set to be the speaker. It was a bad idea for him to accept this invitation. He should send his regrets.

The Tea Party epitomizes the kind of organization no justice should speak to — left, right or center — in the kind of seminar that has been described in the press. It has a well-known and extreme point of view about the Constitution and about cases and issues that will be decided by the Supreme Court.

By meeting behind closed doors, as is planned, and by presiding over a seminar, implying give and take, the justice would give the impression that he was joining the throng — confirming his new moniker as the “Justice from the Tea Party.” The ideological nature of the group and the seminar would eclipse the justice’s independence and leave him looking rash and biased.

There is nothing like the Tea Party on the left, but if there were and one of the more liberal justices accepted a similar invitation from it, that would be just as bad. This is not about who appointed the justice or which way the justice votes. Independence and the perception of being independent are essential for every justice.

That may or may not be true but speaking of SCOTUS, one would think that the Times might have gotten a bit upset at President Barack Obama for calling it out during last year's State of the Union Address—you know, judicial independence and all that jazz.

Alas, the Times editorialists didn't seem very upset by it at all, even after the paper's news side noted that Chief Justice John Roberts had taken exception to Obama's "very troubling" and unusual attack. There hasn't been a mention of the controversy in the Times' editorial pages at all.

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Matthew Sheffield

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