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How tea party and its unlikely allies nixed Atlanta's transit tax

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The transit-tax defeat came on the same day that Texas tea party favorite Ted Cruz handily beat Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in that state’s GOP Senate primary, suggesting to some observers that reports of the tea party’s demise have been not only hasty, but also overamplified.

The defeat of the so-called antigridlock tax “means they're players,” Bob Grafstein, a University of Georgia political science professor, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). “It reminds everybody they're around and they can defeat your grand plans.”

More specifically, the transit-tax vote hints at a newfound sense of pragmatism and subtlety that, critics have long suggested, tea party Americans have failed to exhibit on issues like the debt ceiling.

Well before the vote, tea party activists, Sierra Club officials, and the NAACP agreed to not just say no to the transit tax, but start building a “Plan B.” They even held joint press conferences ahead of Tuesday. The proponents of the plan reportedly were caught flat-footed when urban blacks and environmentalists, which should have been their natural partners, coalesced against the project.

One Plan B option the new coalition came up with would push the legislature to remove restrictions on how the city can spend current sales-tax revenues on MARTA, the existing bus and rail system in Atlanta, before building new light rail in gentrifying, in-town neighborhoods. That, the coalition argues, would make more money available for improvement and expansion, would benefit both whites and blacks in the city, and wouldn’t raise taxes – accomplishing key goals of all three groups.

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