October 27, 2010
No matter how Election 2010 turns out, most of the analyses of the results will center around the role of the Tea Party movement. (Personally, I remain "deeply ambivalent" about the movement, though I'm becoming more disturbed by some of what I have been hearing lately.) On Sunday, in the Washington Post, Amy Gardner exhaustively dissected what she called the "movement without a compass," a vast upsurge of political sentiment lacking in focus or leadership. Here's the gist:
But a new Washington Post canvass of hundreds of local tea party groups reveals a different sort of organization, one that is not so much a movement as a disparate band of vaguely connected gatherings that do surprisingly little to engage in the political process.
Well, that is certainly consistent with the deeply alienated state of mind exhibited by many of those protesters. The activists share a passionate disdain for "the Establishment," or anything remotely connected to "the Establishment." They detest compromise, and at the end of the day, they simply do not possess the social skills necessary to succeed in the realm of politics. In some cases, they are probably so gloomy about the future of the country that they are ready to give up and "head for the hills," becoming hermit survivalists. The article included a national map that supposedly included all the local Tea Party chapters, but I know they omitted at least one or two from Virginia.
That's what NPR writer Frank James calls Tea Partiers: "In other words, they are the opposite of the Republicans In Name Only or the RINOs many Tea Partiers revile." This was a story on the recent interview with D.C. cultural wonk-pundit Jonathan Rauch on NPR, in which he said that Tea Partiers tend to
think of themselves as independents.
That's one reason they're so unafraid to vote for Republican candidates in primaries who might lose to Democrats. They say it's not about party and in their minds it really isn't.
That's a fascinating insight. If these veterans of brutal intra-GOP warfare really are think of themselves as independents, it could be yet another case of "cognitive dissonance," refusing to face up to the obvious contradiction between what they believe and what they perceive. That is one of the hallmarks of pseudo-conservatism.
Along those same lines, Karl Denninger was recently interviewed by Dylan Ratinger on MS-NBC; watch at youtube.com. (Hat tip to Andrew Murphy.) Denninger recounts the early days of the Tea Party movement, protesting the proposed bank bailouts at the Capitol in Washington. He refuses to have anything to do with those folks any more, however. Money quote:
I am not going to be co-opted into an organization that is essentially part of the right wing of the Republican Party.
Why? Growing reliance on "wedge issues," which has become a "time-honored practice" of the two party system. Also see Denninger's blog at market-ticker.org. He mostly deals with financial and investment issues, but he also gets into politics quite a bit.
Many critics of the Tea Party are prone to portray the movement in an unduly harsh, broad-brushed, stereotypical fashion. As the Web sites below indicate, there is a Tea Party for just about every ideological stripe to the right of center. It is clear that some of the organizations are quite authentic and autonomous, whereas others seem to be nothing more than mouthpieces for corporate interests.
teapartypatriots.org -- probably the most important organization in the movement. "Fiscal Responsibility * Limited Government * Free Market"
teapartyexpress.org -- They did the caravan from Nevada (Sen. Harry Reid's home state) to D.C.
thenationalteapartyfederation.com -- "Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, Free Markets" (Lists as sponsors the "usual suspects" of the "Conservative Movement, including Americans For Prosperity, the Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, and the Family Research Council. (WTF!??) I also noticed Richard Viguerie's name there, and the Lynchburg Tea Party.
teapartynation.com -- A HOME FOR CONSERVATIVES!!! (They mention Glenn Beck's rather oddball "912" movement.)
jointheteaparty.us -- "True Conservatives Are Winning Their Primaries!"
teaparty.org, Dale Robertson, USMC (Ret.) -- A distinctive paleo-conservative flavor, run by a lone wolf activist.
teapartyrevolution.com -- An attempt to link grassroots organizing efforts from Northridge, CA across the nation.
teapartymovie.com -- Endorsed by Dick Morris, FWIW.
I heard that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was visiting Lynchburg this week, in conjunction with the local Tea Party. So I did some Web surfing, and came across an unusually bitter and dark essay written last summer, after the Tea Party candidate was defeated in the primary election by (relative) moderate Republican Robert Hurt. From virginiafifthwatchdog.com, here is an excerpt from a diagnosis of recent GOP / conservative setbacks.
But whose fault, I ask. Was it Ross Perot's fault Bill Clinton served two terms, or even one term? Or was it the fault of a compromising, invertebrate GOP so-leadership showing all the ominous signs of detesticulation, that failed to ignite the base because the base was not sure many of the candidates stood for any principle other than their own election? I contend this is the reason for the failure of the GOP to win in 1992, 1996, and 2008.
(NOTE: I couldn't find that piece at all at lynchburgteaparty.com, evidently because there has been a change in leadership recently.) From my point of view, it's hard to imagine a more severely wrong-headed interpretation of what has happened in the past few years. The Democrats won control of Congress in 2006 mainly as a result of the policy failures of the Bush administration, and the takeover of the Republican Party by pseudo-conservative Bush loyalists, rendering the GOP almost incapable of articulating a coherent agenda of governance. The Tea Party movement itself is an embodiment of the populist right wing "base" constituency that Bush and Karl Rove deliberately cultivated in a wrong-headed attempt to nail down a hegemonic supermajority. Whenever you hear an epithet like "spineless" you can be sure that the argument is being aimed at a less-intelligent activist susceptible to such macho garbage. Now many of the ex-Bushies are changing their stripes and blaming the moderate or pragmatic elements in the party for Bush's failures. Anyone with brains can see right through that nonsense.