The Tea Party Under Fire

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from TIME Magazine,

Big Business felt burned by the government shutdown. It’s fighting to retake the Republican Party in one of the south’s most conservative bastions. Inside a pine-walled restaurant near Mobile, Ala., the South Baldwin Republican Women’s club is watching the party tear itself in two. Between bites of fried chicken and sips of sweet tea, a few dozen ladies and a handful of men clap and hiss as two GOP candidates for Congress savage each other. Bradley Byrne, a mild-mannered former state legislator, has accused Dean Young, a local Tea Party darling, of misusing campaign contributions from “good Christian people.” In reply, Young labels Byrne a liar, a coward, a lawyer and, perhaps worst of all, a former Democrat. “You need to learn to tell the truth,” Young says. “You don’t deserve to go to Congress.”

This slice of the South is an unusual setting for Republican combat. Alabama’s First Congressional District is God-and-guns country, with three dry counties and modest churches dotting the back roads. Democrat is practically a slur. “We’re a very Christian conservative culture,” says Becky Vasko, the South Baldwin group’s president, of a county where Mitt Romney won 77% of the vote in 2012.

In the wake of October’s government shutdown, the uneasy peace between the GOP’s hard-right ideologues and business-friendly moderates has given way to open warfare. And the first battle is in lower Alabama, where the party establishment has poured cash into an off-season congressional primary for the seat vacated by Representative Jo Bonner, a center-right Republican who retired in August.

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