November 4, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Tea Party vs. the Republican Party
It doesn't matter whether the Republicans win or lose, there is bound to be another round of intra-party sniping after every election. (For some examples, see my blog posts of Dec. 2006, Nov. 2007, Nov. 2008, and Dec 2009.) What makes this year unique is the role being played by the Tea Party movement, which got started as a protest against Obama's big government agenda, but which has now morphed into a faction that is seeking to take over the Republican Party from within. Having witnessed first-hand such "grassroots insurgencies," and being quite familiar with their ugly tactics and phony pretenses, I am inclined to be more skeptical of the Tea Partiers, the more they focus on party politics.
Nevertheless, I remain generally sympathetic with the goals of the movement, so I try to keep an open mind about them. Sometimes I wonder whether I am the only person on the face of the Earth who is capable of discerning positive as well as negative aspects of the Tea Party movement. Since the election on Tuesday, there has been a lot of arguing about the Tea Partiers, and for the record, here is a quick roundup of Facebook comments I've made in the past couple days:
Many of the above characterizations of the Tea Party are apt, with respect to at least some of the movement's members: assimilation-prone, reactionary, noise-making, P.O.'d at the status quo, finicky, genuine populist, bankrolled, and gullible. The point it is that is a complex, amorphous phenomenon that represents a groundswell of deep sentiment, as yet not well articulated, and to which various sinister establishment factions and professional agitators will attach themselves and attempt to subvert and control, if they can. No simple narrative, folks.
Andrew Murphy thinks Republicans must be rueing the nominations of Tea Party candidates Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, both of whom lost eminently winnable races against (respectively) Mike Castle and Harry Reid. Or maybe not, I responded:
For pseudo-conservatives, losing an election is often even better than winning, if it validates their bizarre standards of purity and/or paranoid fears of betrayal. Just watch, the usual suspects in the right wing will spin this in such a way to blame the "RINOs" once again.
The perfect example of this line of thinking, of course, is Richard Viguerie, who just proclaimed:
The next stage of the Tea Party movement -- Tea Party 2.0 -- means taking over the GOP at every level from precinct captain to state chairman, and nominating one of our own for president.
"[T]aking over the GOP" -- well, isn't that special? Been there, done that...
Finally, I joined a Facebook argument over Senator-elect Rand Paul's chilly relationship with "establishment Republicans." He told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough "You think they're going to listen to me, Joe?" See dailycaller.com. In response to the widespread (faulty) notion that the basic problem in the GOP is that the head honchos have sabotaged the cause of conservatism by ignoring their members, I wrote:
Well, Boehner is certainly listening. It seems to me the party leaders have been bending over backwards to keep the Tea Partiers happy. I was pleased that Paul won, but I'm not encouraged that he immediately expressed doubts about the leadership before they even had a chance to sit down and talk.
In sum, we're in for a bumpy ride over the next few months, as the Tea Partiers flex their muscles in the GOP. I will try to keep closer track of what they are doing, including at the local level: shenvalleyteaparty.com. In particular, I will be scrutinizing the Tea Party movement to see whether its members exhibit the pathological traits of pseudo-conservatism. Stay tuned, sports fans...