Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Tea Parties of No

So far, the "Tea Party" movement's forays into electoral politics have ranged in outcome from "ineffectual" to "so bad it's stupid."


In the special election in New York's 23rd US House District last fall, Tea Party opposition to a moderate Republican candidate (Dede Scozzafava) was effective in driving that candidate out of the race, but didn't manage to put Conservative Party candidate Doug Thompson over the top.

It Tuesday's Texas GOP primaries, "Tea Party candidates" turned in what the Houston Chronicle called a "lackluster performance." The Tea Parties may have the gas to bring some politicians down, but they're probably not going to be very successful in directly designating who goes up in their targets' places.

So Bad It's Stupid

In Massachusetts's January special election to fill the US Senate vacancy created by Ted Kennedy's death, the Republican establishment managed to get a significant portion of the Tea Party movement to back Dede Scozzafava on steroids -- US Senate candidate Scott Brown. He won, which was good for the GOP establishment, but very, very bad for the Tea Party movement. It made the movement look gullible and silly (especially when usually astute observers like The Other McCain not only let themselves be taken in by it but actively participated in the freak show).

The national trend toward "Tea Party" groups seeking to promote their agenda by supporting Republican candidates, and Republican establishment fronts like the "Tea Party Express" using the movement as a stalking horse, is a destroying the movement

If the Tea Parties want to succeed -- scratch that, if they want their frail coalition to hold together over at all over the long term -- they'll stick to being what the Democrats accuse the Republicans of being: "The Party of No."

It's inherently easier to put together (and hold together) a coalition against something, than it is to put together (and hold together) a coalition for something (or someone).

For example, bazillions of Americans oppose ObamaCare. A significant portion of them oppose it vehemently enough that they're willing to call their congresscritters to bitch about it, and maybe even enough to make a sign and go out to a "Tea Party" rally to demonstrate against it.

But those same bazillions of Americans disagree on what they support. Some of them oppose "socialized medicine" altogether and want a freed market in health care. Others oppose "universal single-payer" health care, but don't want Medicare (or VA care, or whatever) on the chopping block and are even looking for ways to strengthen them. And so on, and so forth. As soon as opposition to ObamaCare begins to morph into support for some particular alternative, the crowds start to melt away.

Some Tea Partiers are disgruntled Republicans. Some would vote for a yellow dog before they'd vote Republican.

Some Tea Partiers are jingoists, some are non-interventionists.

Some Tea Partiers are Know-Nothings, some favor freedom of immigration.

Some Tea Partiers bug out over TEH HOMOSEKSHUAL AGENDER!!!, some don't really care who you're sleeping with, married to, or list as your next of kin when you enlist in the Marine Corps.

The Tea Parties can only be successful to the extent that they stick to one or at most a few issues at a time (the three that come to mind are ObamaCare, the bailout/stimulus scams, and cap-and-trade), and to the extent that they're blocking Washington from action on those issues rather than proposing different actions on those issues.

As soon as the Tea Parties start supporting candidates, they're in the position of addressing big bundles of issues (candidates run on platforms covering many issues), and of supporting, rather than opposing, particular actions. Both of those changes tend to cause the coalition to fracture.

It's probably too late for the Tea Parties to save themselves and become a long-haul movement. GOP operatives saw what was coming down the pike early on, managed to successfully worm their people into position from which to hijack the movement, and have already turned it into a shadow of its former self, well on its way to being a bad joke, in less than a year. But for those who still think the movement is worth fighting for, remember: "No" is the most powerful word in a movement's vocabulary.

No comments: