The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The GOP’s ‘tea party’ Class of 2010 is heading for the exits — fast

Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), left, and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) speak together before Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew arrives to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 17, 2015, before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

After the 2010 midterm election, a whopping 84 Republican freshmen joined the House, eager to shake up the institution after the tea party wave put many of them in office.

A little more than five years later, a remarkable number of them are heading for the exits.

Rep. Stephen Fincher became the latest on Monday. The farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn., who was perhaps the buzziest member of the entire class back then, given his background as a gospel singer, will step aside after the 2016 election.

"I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of West Tennessee, but I never intended to become a career politician," he said in a statement. "The last six years have been the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am honored to have been given the chance to serve."

Joining Fincher in not seeking reelection are seven other members of the GOP Class of 2010. In fact, that class has now accounted for eight of the 22 announced retirements so far this year — 36 percent — according to the Roll Call Casualty List.

In addition, about one in 10 members of that class are retiring this year. And if you add in the class's 2014 retirees and those who have sought higher office, we've already seen 18 of the 84 head for the exits in one way or another within their first five years.

Although Fincher's district should be a pretty easy hold, others come from districts that won't be so easy to keep under GOP control, including Reps. Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Dan Benishek (Mich.) and Reid Ribble (Wis.). All took seats from Democrats that will now be at risk of switching back.

What's perhaps most remarkable about this wave of GOP retirements as that the party is in the majority — and probably will continue to be for at least the next several years. You generally see more retirements from the minority party, especially when a return to the majority appears as distant as it does for Democrats these days.

But if there's one thing we've found in recent years, it's that serving in Congress can be a frustrating enterprise for just about anybody. Combine that with a wave year in which many were elected on an anti-Washington platform, and perhaps it's not so surprising to see so many of them headed out the door far earlier than we may have expected.