Sunday, May 25, 2014

Evaluating the Tea Party

Has the Tea Party achieved want it wanted to achieve at this point? Is its success and future dependent on election results in 2014? Or 2016? And, how relevant will the Tea Party be after 2016?
by Charlie Leck
Ross Douthat, a relatively conservative columnist that I have continued to read for the last 15 to 20 years, recently wrote about the current state of the Tea Party. Douthat is bright and he writes extremely well. He’s often helped me patch up some glitches in my political thinking and he has almost single-handedly kept me from falling off the far-left edge. I enjoy his columns.
Most recently he has written this of the Republican establishment and the Tea Party…
“No, the Tea Party has won: There simply isn’t that much difference between an establishment Republican and a Tea Party Republican anymore, and if grass-roots challengers are losing more races it’s because they’ve succeeded in yanking the party far enough to the right that there isn’t any space for them to fill.”
Of course, many observers have been sensing this over the last few years – that is, that the Republican Party has been moving more and more over toward the right ledge (or cliff) of American politics. My most recent thesis, expressed here in several recent blogs, is that the grand old party is being pushed that way by extreme, enormously wealthy advocates of the Tea Party.
So, Douthat builds a case for saying that the Tea Party has lost and they have won in doing that! His May 24th column is well worth reading by both lefties and righties and even switch-hitters.
“This is a useful way to think about Tea Party activism as well. The movement was always essentially right-wing, which is why it was embraced (and, at times, exploited) by the right’s pre-existing network of professionals and pressure groups. But it changed Republican politics precisely because it mobilized Americans who were new to political activism and agitation, and who behaved like people awakened from a slumber to a situation they no longer recognized. Wait, we bailed out Wall Street ... ? Our deficits are ... how big? And this Barack Hussein Obama, where did he come from?
Is the tea-party movement a correction of a move too close to the center by the Republican Party? It’s an idea worth thinking about.
Douthat says some things, which are difficult for me to accept and stomach, about the far too-leftward leanings of the current President and that the whole episode in American politics that produced him was also a correction of a drift by Democrats toward a cozy centrist relationship with Republicans. He may, I think, be on to something!
The difference, he says, between these leftward Dems and the Tea Party is that the liberals managed to elect a President who would represent them and express both their anger and their message to America. The Tea Party has not yet had that success and now it is just a question about whether they can also elect a president who will represent their angst and dreams – Ted Cruz, Rand Paul or Marco Rubio. Such an achievement would mark the Tea Party as a success even though it will not be able to initiate the far too extreme platform that it supports (but neither could the Democrats on the other extreme). Each of these three potential White House residents would give a slight different interpretation to the success and achievement of the Tea Party movement.
I personally think, and I’ll inject it here as an aside, that the Tea Party by 2016 will have shot the last of its wad and it will diminish to little more than a footnote in the political story of the last decade. At least, I certainly hope so. It would be so good to get back to a slightly right of center political fight against those who are slightly left of center.
Douthat’s closing remarks about a possible Jeb Bush victory intrigue me; for this would be a President with whom I could live without pain, fear and trembling. I don’t want it, but I could live with it.
Whatever happens in 2016, I find myself agreeing with University of Connecticut professor Jelani Cobb who says the Tea Party’s reason to exist will disappear after that presidential election (and a good deal of that lack of a reason to exist will be because Barack Obama, a black man, will no longer be president). Some of this reasoning both angers and frightens me, but I must say that it is likely true.


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