Tuesday, October 11, 2011

They just don't get the Tea Party

Bill Keller--of the New York Times--asks the question "Is the Tea Party Over?" He than proceeds to answer it with a critique of Rick Perry, the only viable "Not Romney" candidate in his opinion.

Keller has a fair point on the Not Romney approach by the republican field. As he says:
In a spectacle about as deliberative as speed-dating, candidate after candidate tried out for the role of Not Mitt Romney — including, at times, Mitt Romney. We had the Sarah Palin tease, replaced by the short-lived Michele Bachmann infatuation, after which everyone swooned, briefly, for Rick Perry. Herman Cain is having a little fling now, though even voters who like his style don’t think he can win.
And it's very true that Romney is not a tea party type of candidate, thus driving those that want tea party support to make it clear how much different they are from Mitt.

And it's also true that--as Keller says--"Perry is the most ardent of Tea Party ideologues." Well, almost true. Michele Bachmann is the actual answer to that question. And Bachmann's inability to get a strong foothold in the race is the most compelling evidence for this reality.

Because you see, Mr. Keller--and the rest of you that can't understand the tea party movement--the real tea party is a localized phenomenon, it's not a party at all. It has no leadership and the more people try to assume leadership, the more it will not accept that leadership.

The support of the tea party crowd is something that will only be earned on election day, just as was the case in 2010. Look back at the stories leading up those elections. Pundits assumed Republican victories, but they were unsure. It seemed as if there would be a wave of support, but only the hard right dared to go all in. A few months before the elections, some on the left were still floating the idea that the tea party movement would actually benefit the Democrats, since it would yield loony candidates (to be far, it did yield a few) and turn the moderates against the Republicans en masse.

If you want to understand how to best harness the tea party movement on a large scale, look to Marco Rubio in Florida. Rubio never claimed to be in the tea party, let alone claim to lead it, he merely expressed an honest sympathy for the concerns of the people in the movement. And he was no evangelical, no creationist, yet he enjoyed overwhelming support from the movement. Republican insiders--preferring Crist--were swept away, as was Crist, himself.

But unfortunately for the Republicans, the tea party movement may not be sufficient to propel a Republican candidate past Obama. Why? Well frankly, the current candidates are either too weak, come with too much baggage, or--in the case of Romney--have the wrong bona fides.

However--looking at 2010--there is a pattern. The movement, being localized, was most successful in state and local races (something most pundits missed, completely), then in House races. It was least successful in Senate races. But far from being over, it is now much larger. Don't believe the hype that says otherwise: the message has spread and many people--who would never self-identify with the movement--are saying the same sorts of things. 2012 is a race for the Senate, in my opinion. And the tea party will carry the day, once again.

The White House? That's a tougher nut to crack. It may happen, but if it does it will be because of the admin's missteps and the willingness of the Republican candidate to be themselves and not seek to create a phony tea party versions of that self. But 2016, that's the real end game.

Is the party over? Nope. It's just getting started.

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