I am curious about what you wrote about the Tea Party. You described it as a political vehicle for conservative voters. I actually admire the Tea Party, but I am a little dubious about its effectiveness. Just how widespread is the Tea Party’s influence? It seems as if the media doesn’t really report on it anymore (granted, the media is a terrible source of news nowadays, but I’d still think there’d at least be some noise.) The way you write about it, it’s as if it’s going to dramatically alter the 2012 elections.
The emails I keep getting have people assume that the political parties are about ideological boxes. And when people have a certain belief, they go into one of the two available boxes. Let me ask you guys something. Do you REALLY believe that a state becomes a Democrat or Republican enclave because of the BELIEFS of the population in that state or because of the economic, industry, and income environment? Historically, presidents get re-elected in good economies and thrown out in bad economies. All the historians know this. All the campaign managers know this. People don’t change in the next election cycle. Every voter says they are an ‘intelligent and free thinker’, but the political machines know the voters are easily manipulated, corralled, and malleable based on their income and economic environment.
You’re assuming the Tea Party is an ideological box, a smaller one than that of the two big parties, and that it is likely some ‘far right’ box. Both political parties want that to be believed.
The conservatives are the fifth wheel in American politics. They bounce from party to party. Neither the Democrats or Republicans want them. Both of them find them embarrassing.
Reagan is the American sphinx and political puzzle. If you came from Mars, you would assume the Republican Party would want to emulate Reagan since he had such landslide victories like 49 states in 1984. After all, Democrats lionize FDR and his landslide victories. But you don’t see the Republicans do that. In fact, Bush was quite hostile to Reagan. Bizarrely, you see Democrats try to imitate Reagan more than the Republicans from Gore copying Reagan’s make-up in his debate with W. Bush to Obama saying he wants to be like Reagan and be a ‘transformational’ president. Keep in mind that Reagan attracted both Republican and Democrat votes.
So what political vehicle do those conservatives ride? They though George H. Bush would be the third term of Reagan. From ‘Read my lips, no new taxes’ to a tax increase, what do they do? Vote for Perot? Vote for Clinton? Stay home? Why not focus on the House and Senate then? In 1994, Congress swung Republican after 40 years of being Democratic. Many, many of those new Rs in 1994 were Democrats who switched parties. Some were Rs that came from traditional D states. But after a few years, that so called ‘congressional revolution’ sputtered out. Many of those elected in 1994 said, “We can’t get anything done.” The R party were not interested in what the new freshmen wanted to do.
So with W. Bush, the thought was that perhaps they could get stuff done now that Congress and the presidency was R. What happened was things going on they did not like. They didn’t like the subscription pill plan. They didn’t want amnesty. They really, really didn’t like TARPP. They felt like the R party was ignoring them because it was.
Some (keep in mind I am saying some, around 33%) of those conservatives actually voted for Obama. The Democrats the D party got to control Congress in 2006 and 2008 came from conservative districts.
What I’m trying to present to you is a group of political exiles who feel they don’t have any representation. There will be a R or a D politician who says, “I am like you. Vote for me” and the result is much lying. It isn’t the case of a politician being a disappointment as it is the sense that certain politicians are governing against the will of the people. TARP is an example of that. With Obamacare, much of the electorate really let the politicians know they didn’t want it. It was clear that the issue was to pass the legislation over the people’s desire. The reason why the ‘Tea Party’ icons and Gadsen flag were used is because these people’s complaint is not one of policy or ideology but more of one of representation.
Consider Arlen Spector. Conservatives hated the guy. However, the Republican establishment said that if they didn’t have Spector as the nominee and put in Toomey (who the conservatives wanted), then the seat would go to a Democrat. The R party was telling conservatives that it was either Spector or losing the seat. Conservatives thought there wasn’t any difference with Spector or a Democrat in that seat. But in 2004, Arlen Spector won the primary which George W. Bush personally went in and campaigned for. In 2009, Arlen Spector seeing the Tea Party come after him switched parties to Democrat (where he got defeated by Sestak. Democrat voters didn’t want Spector either). And in 2010′s general election, Sestak got defeated by Toomey. This shift of what occurred in 2004 and 2010 for that seat shows how the Tea Party served as a political vehicle for those frustrated that they didn’t have representation.
Dede Scozzafava is another example. New York’s 23rd district is a safe one for Republicans as it has always voted Republican going back to the Civil War. Conservatives not feeling she represented their views threw their support to a challenger in the primary. Right before the election, Scozzafava withdrew from the election and endorsed the Democratic candidate. Later, the Democrat governor (Cuomo) appointed her a position in the state government. This event told conservatives that they were not going to get representation from Republicans or Democrats. This event was what energized the creation of the Tea Party, which first started out as a protest movement, to turn it into a political vehicle.
I never said the Tea Party would have a big influence on the presidential election. What I am saying is that we are seeing a permanent change from conservatives bouncing around the political parties to one where the conservatives have a political home. That home is not in the Republican Party. It is in the Tea Party. Those 33% conservatives who voted for Obama in 2008 will not be doing so in 2012.
What I’m trying to point out is that in future elections, a D candidate or R candidate will not get conservative votes by using conservative rhetoric. All those votes will be going to the Tea Party candidate which may, or may not be the Republican. And winning the general election will not satisfy the Tea Party. I guarantee you Romney, should he win, is going to get a significant primary challenge in 2016 (unless he governs like Reagan). Boehner, the current R speaker, is getting constant primary challenges but his powerful speaker position is currently protecting him… for the time being. Boy, do those guys hate the crying Boehner.