Will The Tea Party Save The GOP, Or Destroy It?
For the moment, the Tea Party movement is helping pull the GOP out of a slump that seemed like it would continue for a long time. Will it last, or will the movement end up doing for Republicans what the left has done for Democrats ?
Today at The New York Times, Nate Silver notes that the Republican success that the Tea Party movement seems set to help bring about this year comes with a danger for the GOP if they don’t live up to the (potentially unrealistic) expectations of the activists that make up the movement:
There is one fundamental Republican problem that the Tea Party has not resolved: the brand remains extremely unpopular among large segments of the public. In fact, the Tea Party is in some ways a reaction to this: particularly after Delaware, we should probably take the Tea Party at its word that stands in opposition to the Republican and Democratic establishments alike.
How loyal will voters who were inspired by the Tea Party remain to the Republican Party — and how loyal will Republicans remain to the Tea Party? The relationship is to some extent one of convenience. The Tea Party has candidates full of energy and chutzpah and some fresh-seeming ideas, but it lacks, on its own, the infrastructure to get these candidates elected. The Republican Party, meanwhile — while short on popular ideas and popular leaders — has access to money, voter lists, and experienced strategic hands. To some extent, the Tea Party is renting the Republicans’ electoral infrastructure.
But once some Tea Party candidates are in power, what need will they have for the skeleton of the Republican establishment? And how much will the Republican establishment, sensing this, default into self-preservation? Meanwhile, how effectively might the Tea Party differentiate itself from the establishment in the eyes of voters, once it becomes part of the establishment? If the Republican Party is not adroit at navigating these problems, then it is probably in for more punishment from voters — whether in 2012 or in the future.
Given that a large part of the motivation behind the Tea Party, if not its primary motivation, is opposition to Barack Obama, I would suspect that the Tea Party/GOP alliance (or partnership, or whatever you care to call it) will continue through the 2012 campaign. The movement itself is likely to split to some degree over which GOP candidate to support, but, assuming that they maintain their current level of activism and enthusiasm, the Tea Party crowd is likely to have a significant influence on the selection of the 2012 GOP nominee.
Now, if that nominee ends up being Sarah Palin, then all of the Tea Party’s dreams are likely to die on the rocks of Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural on January 20, 2013.
What happens, though, if the GOP runs the table between now and 2012, and ends up controlling both Houses of Congress and the Presidency ?
At that point, Silver suggests, the Republican Party will be on the hook. Either they deliver on the limited government message that will have swept them into office, or they suffer a wave of setbacks that sends them even further into irrelevance than they seemed to be after the 2008 elections. The Tea Party, then, would end up being a modern version of the 1964 Goldwater campaign.
Peter Worthington disagrees:
Today’s split among establishment Republicans and Tea Partiers is different. Key to Tea Partiers is hostility to the Obama policies – and the inept performance of Republicans to counter what is seen as Obama’s disastrous innovations.
Unlike the national mood in 1964, the Tea Party concerns today are reflected throughout the country. Moderate Democrats are uneasy about what Obama Democrats are doing – or not doing. Obama’s plunge in popularity was perhaps inevitable, but it also reveals disillusion. And opportunity.
Personally, I’m not so sure.
For one thing, the “Tea Party” represents, at most 1/3 of the national electorate according to most polls. While their influence inside the GOP is high, they are far from the largest interest group nationally, and one poll indicates that 50% of those polled have no opinion of the movement at all. Thanks to the enthusiasm gap that many have noted this year, the Tea Party GOPers are likely to have a big influence at the polls in November, but that’s not necessarily going to be the case in 2012.
For another, it’s fairly clear that much of the passion that the Tea Party generates is influenced by outside factors. In addition to the antipathy the movement has toward President Obama and his policies, the movement is benefiting from factors that have nothing to do with ideology. It’s long been a fact of American political life that the fortunes of the incumbent party live and die not on the particulars of an ideological battle, but on more concrete issues like the state of the economy. The main reason the GOP stands to gain this year has far more to do with economic uncertainty than it does with a fundamental ideological shift in the minds of a majority of American voters, and the biggest mistake the GOP can make if it wins big in November, or in 2012, is to assume that victory means endorsement of specific policy proposals.
Democrats are in trouble today because they believed that their victories in 2006 and 2008 constituted an endorsement of all of their big government dreams by the electorate when, in reality, they were simply a rejection of the perceived (and actual) failure of the Bush Administration. Thanks to the Tea Party, the GOP may end up making the exactly the same mistake.
I think Democrats are in trouble today because the economy is still struggling. Period. ITs unfair, because there is no way that the mess that Obama inherited could possibly be resolved much quicker than it is being resolved, but thems the breaks. The Dems will take somewhat of a hit because of it.
If there were not recession, and/or no financial crisis, then the Dems would be doing very well this November, despite, or because of the health care bill. Some of the other ‘big government’ issues would not even have arisen were it not for the crisis.
I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways. The Dems won in 2008 because the economy was in crappy condition, although the fact that the GOP somehow managed to nominate the two worst candidates for POTUS and VPOTUS certainly assisted in their victory. Republicans stand to win big in November partly because Democrats overreached and assumed that their victory meant endorsement of their entire agenda. The voters are now telling the Democrats otherwise
“If there were not recession, and/or no financial crisis, then the Dems would be doing very well this November, despite, or because of the health care bill.”
If there wasnt a financial crisis, the GOP would currently hold about 15-20 more house seats and another 3-4 senate then they do now, and there would never have been a healthcare bill (or not like the one that passed. Remember, the dems got a big jump in the polls with the meltdown in the fall of 2008.
But yes, the economy is obviously hurting the dems. But so are their policies. None of the large things they have done in the last two years are actually popular (even the dems realize this, as few are running on thier “accomplishments” and instead are running “vote for us. They suck more”). So at most, they have pissed off a lot of people by defying general will. At the least, many voters think the dems are distracted on their pet projects and dont care about what people are actually worried about right now (jobs/ economy). So don’t act like the dems actions of the past two years have nothing to do with their fate this year. Just as the republicans losing in 2008 was not just because the economy stunk.
That is just not true. Obama was ahead of McCain from the end of the primary season right through the election, by a similar amount. The only exception to that was a short little post-convention bump for the GOP. As happens in most presidential years, this bump quickly faded. It did coincide with the nomination of Palin (upward bump), and the first two Palin interviews (downward bump)
Actually, this is, in my opinion, simply a manifestation of the economic situation. The state of the economy puts everyone in a sour mood toward anything else the government does. With better economic times, the numbers would be higher on all manner of issues. Thats the way it has always seemed to work, as far as I can tell.
Well, with your permission, or without it, I will continue to act like the Dem actions of the past two years have little to do with their fate this year – because I believe it to be the case. I agree with you about the GOP though – I think they were destined to lose even before the financial crisis – they lost because of the the eight years of screwups combined with a less appealing candidate.
I actually think they were destined to lose anyway, because of the previous 8 years. Iraq, Katrina, corruption, and a general sense that whatever ideas they may have had were all played out, and it was time for something new.
Two nails in the coffin, for sure.
Here I really do disagree. If the economy were sound, or strongly rebounding, then Obama and the Dems would be seen as having brought good times, and all of their other policies would have been floated upward in public opinion by that good feeling. As it is, there is a sour mood that turns a small but important majority of people against just about anything the government does – because of some irrational sense that they should be fixing the economy instead (as if it were an either or, or as if the government had exquisite control over the economy such that pushing the right buttons would solve problems immediately).
Just look at what happened to Reagan. He did not receive a mandate for extreme conservatism in 1980 – he won because the American people wanted to fire Carter, and he was the alternative. He “overreached” by trying to implement his radical agenda, and was slapped down in the ’82 midterms. Or was it simply the fact that the economy was bad that caused him to lose so many seats?
Well, in ’83 the economy picked up. Reagan didn’t change his stripes. Suddenly, his policies were not so unpopular (and I am not referring to just the economic policies). He won a near landslide reelection just two years later. Its not because he dumped all the far-right stuff. Its not because the American people suddenly embraced all that stuff. Its just that the economy was good, they felt good about the direction the country was going, and so they were willing to go along with Reagan and pretty much whatever he wanted to do. Most people are like that – they don’t study policy proposals in detail, and they are not ideological. If an administration is bringing good times, or at least not messing up good times, then they are left to lead the country in whatever way they want, within reason, of course. If times are bad, then everything the government does is viewed cynically and angrily.
Thats a pattern I have observed over many years of watching this stuff.
Oh Doug, BTW…
Just want to pass along a hot tip on an interesting story you might want to write up!
Check out this week’s Gallup generic ballot question! What to make of this???
I take it as further evidence that the Gallup Generic Poll is flawed this year, as I discussed two weeks ago:
It has consistently been, well, inconsistent. None of the pundit’s I’ve been reading recently consider it reliable this election cycle
Is that because they have some special insight into what the “truth” of the matter is, or is it because the poll sometimes deviates from the accepted meta-narrative of this election season?
It is apparent here, but even more so in the world of the hoi poloi, that, the American people no longer have an appetite for principle when it requires pain. That’s not just economic pain, but even the pain of informing themselves on the issues.
As a result….”the gods of the copybook headings [will] with terror and slaughter return”.
The corruption we see in both parties today is the direct result of it’s being demanded by the electorate in an effort to avoid personal responsibility. When this attitude reaches critical mass, then it’s the principled new minority who must pay the price.Ultimately, we must return to personal responsibility.
Those who wish to abdicate that responsibility will only succeed in temporarily placing that burden on their neighbors.
The old saying is…
Wish in one hand, “defecate” in the other, and see which one fills up faster.
Surprise: I think Tano nailed it. “Big government dreams”? What does that mean? I’m sure I’ve seen polls where a majority of people are in favor of the individual elements of the health care reform bill. And the bill is a huge compromise, far from the dreams of the far left. Letting tax cuts expire on the highest 2%? That’s big government dreams? Social security and medicare, big government dreams of yesteryear, seem quite popular today. I just don’t see any evidence for “big government dreams” or a public revolt against whatever they may be, aside from a highly vocal minority that have been propagandized by the Right.
No, this election is all about the economy and how it isn’t recovering fast enough for people.
” the accepted meta-narrative of this election season”
Which was the Republican steamrolling the Democrats until the Republicans nominated some lunatics.
Thanks for changing the narrative, wingnuts.
This conservative sees things differently.
Nate Silver is offering nothing but commonsense knowledge packaged up like analysis. Of course there could be issues within the party. He doesn’t think both Tea Party and Republican party people have already thought of that? I suspect he’s just trying to sow discontent and make Democrats feel better. A common enemy unites the Tea Party and Republicans and that common enemy is more than Barak Obama.
The whole global warming nonsense is predicated on the ‘tipping point’ argument. If we don’t do something now we will reach a tipping point from which will have little effectiveness to reverse the warming. Well, in fiscal terms we have either reached that ‘tipping point’ or will soon reach it. You can blame previous administrations for deficit spending but nothing approaches the level of irresponsible spending we have seen in the last 2 years. That has energized enough people who now see the entire Washington culture as corrupt and useless.
Obama is not really the enemy as much as his policies. Clinton became reviled because of boorish personal behavior and was disliked if not hated personally. Obama has not alienated the American people in such a way. Obama is not liked but not hated either.
So the Tea Party is filled with all kinds. Those angry about the economy, those angry about taxes and regulations, and those angry about spending and the debt. Now that they are mingling they are becoming better educated about the issues and the way the issues are connected. That’s bad for the establishment politicians. Educated, angry voters. When your elected representatives have bankrupted the future of the country your children will inherit it becomes an issue with staying power. And those hillbilly yokels will accept the good rather than accept only perfection in most anything except the primaries. They are smart enough to know the primaries are where some ideological battles should be fought.
This is a different day in America. The problems are bigger, the future bleaker, and hope is fading. Radical electoral choices have to be made before we are definitely past the tipping point. The Tea Party isn’t looking to save the GOP and the GOP will not be destroyed by it. The Tea Party subset of the Republican party is looking to save the country from the politics of the last 50 years. Democratic politics sprinkled with Republican compromise.
Shorter Steve Plunk: The White House belongs to Republicans. If a Democrat gets in, we will scream and cry and invent outrages until he’s gone.
Sorry, Steve, I’ve lived through this before. Republicans come into office, run up huge debts shovelling money to their friends, and announce that “deficits don’t matter.” Then a Democrat is elected to fix the mess, and all of a sudden these same Republicans suddenly declare that the debt situation is a terrible crisis and nothing else matters. Yeah, I know, this time is completely different, new paradigm, terrible debt, bailouts black President. (Oops — that part isn’t supposed to be said out loud.)
Except that the same people who are rending their garments over the debt crisis are fighting to extend tax cuts for milliionaires and billionaires that will cost $700 million in the next few years, and they claim that doesn’t count against the deficit.
Oh, but we’ve got to cut social security and unemployment insurance is unconstitutional. Because rich people are precious, and if old people haven’t gotten rich yet, they might as well be dead, right?
I don’t know you Steve. So I don’t know if you’re one of the cynical ones who are lying about caring about the deficit to whip up fear, or one of the marching morons who believes whatever corporate-funded “grass roots” organizations tell you. Evil or stupid, I don’t really care.
But it does bother me that you are so determined not only to destroy this country, but to make so many people suffer in the process, just so the Koch brothers and a bunch of hedge fund managers don’t have to pay 39% taxes on their billions.
Ponce, please go back to the swamps. You are not remotely qualified to to offer anything of substance here.
wr, You got it wrong. That’s the short story.
The difference in deficits between today and any Republican administration is shocking. Look at the numbers and you will see who’s driving us in to a ditch (to borrow a phrase). Deficits do matter but during a war we endure them and look to move away from them during peace. Bush didn’t create the war. In fact when the decision was made to go to war the American people and Congress both approved of the decision. Of course our latest one deficit is more than the entire war costs over the last 8+ years.
You do understand those of us supporting tax RATE cuts are doing so for a number of reasons, not to make the rich richer. Lower rates will benefit the economy. Lower rates will deter further government waste. Lower rates allow the money to stay with those who earned it. Keep taxes high and the government will continue irresponsible spending. If we’re going to go broke I’d rather have the rich keep their money than have the government waste it public employees and worthless public works boondoggles.
Part of your problem, and I hesitated making it personal, is you say I’m either stupid or evil. That seems to be the only way liberals can see conservatives. Wake up, we’re neither and insulting us in such a manner only makes all liberals seem arrogant and small minded. As a conservative I understand liberal motivations and sensitivities even while I disagree with their solutions.
People like me see hedge funds are out of control just as you do but I also understand entities like CalPERS are the bigger investors in those funds. Wall Street needs regulations yet government seems to prefer to regulate the mom and pop operations out of business. They’re the easy targets for government bureaucrats. I have lived it, I have seen those bureaucrats run amok, killing small business while giving the big guys an advantage.
So wr, I’m looking to save the country. I’m looking to shrink a government that wastes money and abuses power. I’m looking to keep money in the hands of those who make the most of it. I vote, I work on local government volunteer committees, and I employ people. I’m no better than you but I’m also no worse. Not stupid and not evil.
That is an interesting frame. Ya know, most historians of our recent times, including liberal ones, tend to refer to this period, just ending, as the Age of Reagan. At least for the last 30 years of the 50 that you are talking about. I think you will need to mount an actual argument, rather than just an assertion, for why any of us should consider the recent past as one dominated by Democratic politics. It seems to most of us that we have lived through a period marked primarily by a radical shift of the economic table such that the fruits of our prosperity have landed ever moreso in the laps of the already wealthy, and the notion that the government can use its taxation powers to redistribute some of that wealth toward fulfilling the goal of the health of the society at large, has been undermined and discredited.
These are the policies which have caused the middle class, and the lower middle class to stagnate and the wealthy to become fabulously wealthy. This is the Reaganite dream world coming to fruition.
I think you better be careful of what you wish for Steve. Ya know, in the end, the Tea Party people might really turn out to be interested in saving the country from the policies of the recent past. The policies that left them in the difficult – for some, desparate, straights that they find themselves in. What would happen if the wiser ones amongst them began to come to grips with the fact that it is not the events of the last 20 months, or things like Obamacare, which have put them in the situation in which they find themselves, but something else….
I don’t want to go through the whole war thing, but our war was with the Taliban with Afghanistan, and Bush used that “war against terror” to go to Iraq. And it was suggested by his administration that the war would only cost 50 billion dollars.
The problem with this war and the problem with social conservatives, and the problems with the ideology of just tax cuts is that it ignores our problems. The republicans think that by giving tax cuts, that they don’t have to do anymore, except cut spending. We have an infrastructure (which needs 2 trillion dollars) that is crumbling, we have urban sprawl which is destroying our city centers, we have globalization, and we have not invested in our future.
You praise the lowering of taxes in which we have had and are still living with, and yet the low tax rates did not create the jobs, did not prevent a recession, and did not create prosperity. But this is the chant we hear all the time. We have a multitude of problems in which I have talked about above. And tax cuts alone, does not solve these problems. For you and other republicans, you think you can just have tax cuts and think the economy will run on automatic. (laissez-faire). But in reality the economy has to be managed. Now, I know saying managed is some sort of Marxist idea, but doing nothing makes no sense.
You say that “lower rates will benefit the economy.” Technically true, but if you ignore everything else then the lower rates does not solve problems. And if you look to today, after having years of tax cuts we just went through a deep recession, the tax cuts did not prevent people from losing jobs, ignored globalization and the loss of jobs, and did nothing for our future, as the tax cuts is spent money.
While I understand why we need tax cuts, it does no good to ignore our problems and the middle class. And again, tax cuts does little good if we are sending jobs overseas. Every time the social conservatives talk about the constitution, religious issues, and God and country, we know that we will be ignored. And this is what we see time and time again.
I wrote a piece (below) on the other forum for a better use of “tax cuts” since our infrastructure needs mending. And I realize there are white elephants, but again ignoring problems or wishing bad things to go away will not work.
> Bush didn’t create the war. In fact when the decision was made to go to war the American people and Congress both approved of the decision.
Ummm. Yes, he did. He led, and the sheep, including Democrats in DC followed. It was an elective war to battle a phantom threat. You need to work a little harder on the “getting educated” thing. It is worth noting that Dick Cheney’s response when confronted with polling data that showed the majority of Americans thought the war was a mistake was “so”?
> I’m looking to shrink a government that wastes money and abuses power.
Can you show us some example of your concern over these issue when Bush was President?
It’s worth noting that 3 major tea party events have crashed & burned recently. If these guys want to “save the country”, maybe they should learn how to run an event or two first…
“they were simply a rejection of the perceived (and actual) failure of the Bush Administration. Thanks to the Tea Party, the GOP may end up making the exactly the same mistake.”
What happens if the Republicans capitalize on it like the Democrats have? Is there a Tea Party version of Obamacare lurking out there that we don’t know about?
“A common enemy unites the Tea Party and Republicans and that common enemy is more than Barak Obama.”
Well, we shall see. Andrew’s more on point, I think:
“This might be a plausible argument [that the Tea Party, though not libertarian, has libertarianish tendencies] if the Tea Party had offered any serious proposals to slash spending. But they haven’t. Until they do, my skepticism that there is no fiscal there there – just partisan and cultural hatred of Obama and multicultural America – will remain. And even if they do help rein in spending, which I agree … would be a good thing, at what cost in other areas? Especially if they help bring the neocons back to power? Or intensify the drug war? Or keep persecuting gay servicemembers? Or ratchet up the national security state still further? Or make Arizona’s war on Hispanic illegal immigrants nationwide?” [http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/09/in-defense-of-the-tea-parties.html]
One more point about that Gallup poll — for some bizarre reason, Gallup is still polling Registered, rather than Likely, Voters. Six weeks before an election this is pretty much useless as far as determining the pulse of the people who will actually vote November 2nd.
All the other Generic Ballot polls are polling Likely Voters.
Hey Skippy anjin-san, still taking swipes at the Tea Party? Wrong as usual. I believe the following satire clearly describes your ailment:
Iran will always be on the table. And I was on another web site and this gal who calls herself a “mama grizzly” a Palin follower, thought that the Bush tax cuts was not good enough and that we should have one trillion dollars of tax cuts. Which means more ignorance and arrogance.
Thats just not true. Go to RealClear Politics and look at their list of generic ballot polls. You will find that PPP (Dems +1) and FoxNews (Reps +6) have “registered voter” polls out. And, fwiw, the Politico/GWU/Battleground poll is a likely voter poll that has the race tied.
So there is actually quite a range, using likely voter screens or not.
And btw, six weeks out from an election it is not ridiculous to poll registered voters. It is well known that 1) many many people do not focus on deciding who to vote for until the last few weeks or last few days. And 2) people are notorious liars when it comes to telling pollsters about their willingness to vote or their history of voting. Its probably something about feeling embarrassed about not voting or something. Havent you seen polls where they ask people if they voted in the last election? You always get 80-90% saying yes, even though turnout is usually between 30-60%, depending on the type of election.
Obama was elected because of an economic crash. The economy has not recovered. Those are the headline issues.
That said, I think Obama made a strategic error pushing through “some, any” health care bill. It was true that a majority of Americans favored universal coverage. In other times there might have been room to work with that. Unfortunately the Republicans were effective spoilers, not caring what the majority desired. At that point, Obama probably should have backed off and taken the political hit. But who knows.
(I’m sure some Republicans can pop up now and remind me that they didn’t want universal care, or that such a thing is un-American, but I think the idea still polls … in this democracy.)
“Most Americans Favor Universal Health Care, Give Democrats Edge On Improving System”
(as a reminder)
Pete – are you denying that the scheduled tea party unity convention has been cancelled? I do like to keep my facts straight. If you can show me evidence to the contrary, I will retract my above statement…
John – I am inclined to agree. An incremental approach to healthcare reform probably would have been more successful and smarter politically. Why the Obama folks refuse to listen to Howard Dean is beyond me.
Why on earth would a group of people who just succeeded in winning the presidency take the advice of someone who tried to do the same, but flamed out after losing his first primary?
An incremental approach to healthcare reform probably would have been more successful and smarter politically
I doubt it. The core reform – eliminating existing conditions exclusions, and the ability of insurance companies to drop you when you get sick, in exchange for mandating coverage is a package deal. You cannot implement one part without the other. And the window for getting the package was very small. How irresponsible would it have been to push the core reforms out to the second half of his term? The usual pattern, even for relatively easy-times presidencies, is to lose seats in the midterms. However difficult passage of healthcare, in whole or in part, during the first two years, it was always going to be that much harder in the second two years. They would have been suicidal not to run with it when they did.
> Why on earth would a group of people who just succeeded in winning the presidency take the advice of someone who tried to do the same, but flamed out after losing his first primary
When Dean took the helm at the DNC, Republicans controlled the White house, Congress and the Senate. When he left, the situation was exactly reversed. Democrats started to surrender their gains almost immediately when he left.
Your timeline is correct. But you seem to imply that there is some strict causation to go with that correlation. Is it primarily because of Dean that the Dems did well? Is it primarily because of the absence of Dean that they started to decline? I don’t think so.
I like Howard Dean a fair amount, and I do wish he had some position of responsibility in the administration. I think he did an outstanding job at the DNC – I was a big supporter of his approach and I do think it played a significant role in the success. I wouldn’t exaggerate it though.
I think a more gradual approach on health care would have been a failure for the reasons I outlined earlier. My response to your question about why the administration ignored Dean was meant as a descriptive explanation. I don’t think they should have completely ignored him, but I do agree with their conclusion, and not Dean’s.