Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Is The Tea-Party Thriving?

I started to talk about this on the radio show the other night, but I didn't have the time to develop it fully.  David Brooks' column this morning provided me with the last piece of the puzzle, and that is some sense of empirical data that the "Tea Party" is in fact, not unpopular with independents.  Here goes.

As I've said many times in this blog, elections are won by swaying independents and undecideds (generally, the same people).  Liberal Dems and Conservative Republicans vote for their guys/gals--leaving about a third of the electorate up for grabs -- and each party's job is to win more of that group than the other.

The Tea-Party--emphasis on fiscal discipline, lower taxes, less spending, small government, free markets--is clearly much closer to the down the line Republican Party approach than it is to the Democratic Party--so when independents look for a place to vote, it is increasingly in the Republican column. Where independents generally tend to shy away from Republicans is on social issues--abortion, religion, gay rights, etc.  Don't be confused by Glenn Beck's rally--while there were Tea Partiers there--it wasn't a Tea Party function.  Tea Party rallies are ALL ABOUT POLITICS--and almost never about social issues. Glenn Beck ran a tent meeting.

The Tea Party offers socially libertarian/socially moderate independents a REASON for voting Republican.  Let's face it--social issues are NOT what Republicans are talking about in this cycle--they are talking about fiscal and structural issues, and it is resonating. The Tea Party is changing the character of the Republican Party--like a drop of dye in a glass of water.  I see the Tea Party as CRITICAL in helping the Republicans to build a governing majority, and I hope ultimately that their presence in the party leavens some Republican social issue stands. 


DM said...
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Ben said...

Thanks for the link. David Brooks is one of the conservative thinkers that this independent middle-of-the-roader respects the most. His thesis regarding the fiscal conservatism at the core of the Tea Party and its appeal to independents is correct. However, perhaps you should address the other salient point that Brooks makes in the second half of the article. To quote Brooks:

"This doesn’t mean that the Tea Party influence will be positive for Republicans over the long haul. The movement carries viruses that may infect the G.O.P. in the years ahead. Its members seek traditional, conservative ends, but they use radical means. Along the way, the movement has picked up some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil.

I could easily be a moderate Republican, which I was at one point during the Reagan era, but if one is to be judged by the company one keeps, then I'm running the heck away from this particular crowd. This is the same strident, self-righteous, Down-With-The-Man anti-establishment radicalism of 1968 infecting the conservatism movement. I'm conservative by temperament and had I been an adult in 1968 I would have been a tie-wearing "square," leaning center-right. Today I'm an adult, a tie-wearing square, leaning center-left precisely because of the exact same type of radicalism.

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