Dueling Analogies For 2010
Many pundits have suggested that the 2010 elections may see a repeat of the pattern of the 1994 midterms: a first-term Democratic president, wounded by intraparty squabbling over a controversial health care proposal, loses big in Congress in what is seen as a “referendum” on liberal overreach. Mike Munger, on the other hand, suggests that we may want to look back 30 years further and consider a very different scenario:
Looking back from 2014, it will be clear that the anger and the Tea Parties were the first sign of something bigger, something much deeper. But of what? My crystal ball reveals that one of two things will happen. First, the anger and celebration of conservative values may well be focused and directed by the Republican Party, reprising the Republican electoral success of the 1994 midterms. Alternatively, the Republican Party will be torn apart trying to deal with its own internal contradictions, as in the disastrous but portentous 1964 election.
All we know at this point is that the villagers have taken up their pitchforks and torches, and are marching up the hill. But it’s not clear whether the 2010 elections will burn the castle of the Al Franken monster in Congress, or if Palin and the Tea Party will simply go RINO hunting. …
In 1964, the right wing seized control of the Republican National Convention in the “Cow Palace” in San Francisco. They nominated Barry Goldwater, a “true” conservative who represented fundamental values of the right, and had no prospect whatsoever of winning the Presidency. Well, it might just be happening again. Remember, Ron Paul and the “Liberty Republicans” of 2007 and 2008 were not primarily running against Democrats. They were trying to take over the Republican Party, from the inside.
I’m not sure I would go as far as Munger. The lack of a presidential nomination contest will make it hard for the “RINO hunters” to organize behind a single leader who’s not a beltway insider already, and there really isn’t as much internal consensus among Tea Party supporters as their wannabe ringleaders like Palin would like to think: some are Ron Paul-esque paleolibertarians, some are centrist deficit hawks, many are social conservatives, a bunch have no well-defined ideology beyond a broad-based rage against liberals, self-styled “progressives,” and Washington, and a few are downright crazy. But nonetheless the potential is real.
The real question is whether the Tea Partiers and their allies will decide again, as they did in upstate New York last month, that they’d rather send Democrats to Congress who will support Barack Obama’s agenda 90% of the time instead of “RINOs” who support it less than 20% of the time. And they probably should remember that Republicans were able to force a Democratic president’s agenda much closer to the center with a more ideologically-diverse party that had a lot more “RINOs” from the northeast in the 1990s.