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Tea Partiers: U.S. 'can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship'

Associated Press

A few incumbent Republican senators have primary opponents to worry about -- most notably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- but Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) doesn't appear to be one of them. The two-term senator and former governor remains fairly popular in the Volunteer State and is generally expected to win re-election easily.

But yesterday, a group of Tea Party organizations wrote Alexander a letter, urging him to quit and make room for a more right-wing candidate. Their letter included a classic line, that speaks volumes about Tea Partiers' ideology.

"During your tenure in the Senate we have no doubt that you voted in a way which you felt was appropriate. Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous."

Got that? After more than a decade on Capitol Hill, Alexander has developed a reputation as a senator capable of working with people he disagrees with -- and the Tea Party groups consider this outrageous. "Compromise and bipartisanship" have been repackaged as insulting words senators would be wise to avoid.

Indeed, the letter added, "Quite honestly, your voting record shows that you do not represent the conservative values that we hold dear and the votes you have cast as Senator are intolerable to us."

Reading the letter, one might get the impression that Alexander has a voting record slightly to the left of Olympia Snowe, infuriating the GOP's far-right base. But reality belies the caricature.

The Tennessee Republican has voted against every major priority pushed by President Obama; he has a 77% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union; he recently argued the minimum wage shouldn't exist at all; and in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Alexander told a national television audience, "I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people."

Lamar Alexander, in other words, is a conservative Republican. To say he's too moderate to represent the right's interest is like saying Dick Lugar should be defeated in a primary. Oh wait.

For what it's worth, Alexander has no announced primary opponent, though it now appears likely that Tea Partiers are looking for one.