Thursday, October 25, 2012

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: as dead as the Occupy movement

In a piece today, Dionne argues that the Tea Party movement is dead. Not on life support, not declining, but dead. Permanently and forever more. His evidence? Why, Mitt Romney:
The right wing has lost the election of 2012. 
The evidence for this is overwhelming, yet it is the year's best-kept secret. Mitt Romney would not be throwing virtually all of his past positions overboard if he thought the nation were ready to endorse the full-throated conservatism he embraced to win the Republican nomination.
Let's begin by dispensing with the obvious silliness. Romney is not "throwing his past positions overboard." One has to wonder if Dionne even bothered to look at Romney's platform before putting his name to this silly article. The headline of Romney's platform: Smaller, Smarter, Simpler Government. Yeah, that sounds a lot more like a platform from the Left (insert eye-rolling emoticon here). The issues--and solutions--listed on the Romney platform:
Heathcare: repeal and replace Obamacare 
Medicare: preserve it, strengthen  
Regulation: cutting the red tape 
Social Security: preserve it, strengthen it 
Spending: smaller, simpler, smarter government 
Tax: fairer, flater, and simpler
Aside from Social Security and Medicare--which are complicated issues, to be sure--the platform looks like it came straight from a Tea Party rally. Then there's Romney's small business-oriented jobs plan. And his Reaganesque "peace through strength" foreign policy:
The unifying thread of his national security strategy is American strength. When America is strong, the world is safer. It is only American power—conceived in the broadest terms—that can provide the foundation for an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies.
Lower taxes, lower spending. less regulation, and a stronger military, all anchored in a belief in American Exceptionalism. Right or wrong, if this isn't a conservative agenda I don't know what is. And none of it is indicative of Romney dumping past positions.

As to the Tea Party proper, perhaps Mr. Dionne needs to be reminded who Romney selected as his running mate and the current state of the race. If the Tea Party was dead, if it was such a drag on the Campaign, why then has Romney been able to gain an advantage on Obama after the selection of Paul Ryan? This is not to say Ryan is driving the shift, but he certainly hasn't been any sort of a roadblock. Indeed, the Ryan selection--at the very least--coalesced conservative and Tea Party support behind Romney.

So what the hell is Dionne babbling on and on about here? Why does he want to pronounce the Tea Party movement as being over? Simple: he's been trying to make such a call for over a year, both to pimp his own book (title redacted) and to assuage his tattered and torn ego. For we need to remember that Dionne was one of the pundits most enamored with the Occupy Wall Street movement. He believed it represented a sea change in the overall political discussion in this nation:
We may be reaching an inflection point, the moment when the terms of the political argument change decisively. Three indicators: An important speech by Rep. Paul Ryan, the increasingly sharp tone of President Obama’s rhetoric, and the success of Occupy Wall Street in resisting attempts to marginalize the movement.
That piece was from almost exactly one year ago. Dionne--like other progressives--was convinced that the Occupy movement was a big deal, that it would have a profound effect, not only on the nature of political discussion but on elections, as well. Many specifically believed it would effectively eliminate the Tea Party as a political force. And it's instructive to see Dionne set Ryan up as the quintessential point man for the conservative side of this discussion, the side that was supposedly being effectively challenged by the Occupy movement.

The test for both movements--being that both are political--is actual results. We already know what the Tea Party did in 2010. What will the Occupy movement do in 2012? Nothing. Because it really is dead, a truth that sticks in the craw of people like Dionne, something they just can't bring themselves to admit. For all of the media hoopla surrounding the birth of the Occupy movement--contrasted with the lack of hoopla surrounding the birth of the Tea Party movement--the former turned out to be little more than a prolonged camping trip for anarchists, progressives, and other ne'er-do-wells, ultimately brought to an end by the release of a new iPhone model.

But the real problem with Dionne's piece is his failure to understand why Romney is on the rise in the polls. Largely a product of the last debate, Dionne's argument is that Romney is trying to sneak in to office on the coattails of Obama's positions:
If conservatism were winning, does anyone doubt that Romney would be running as a conservative? Yet unlike Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, Romney is offering an echo, not a choice. His strategy at the end is to try to sneak into the White House on a chorus of me-too's.
With that, Dionne demonstrates a near-infantile grasp of what actually occurred in the final debate, wherein Romney went in with one goal: to look like a President, nothing more. Moreover, the moments where he agreed with the President were hardly a laundry list of leftist positions. Drone attacks? Yes, Romney agreed with Obama here. But that's an issue where Obama has actually distanced himself from his far-left base: he's the one rushing to the Right. Romney was already there. Ditto taking out bin Laden. And for supporting Israel. With regard to the last, it should be noted that Obama's debate rhetoric about Israel doesn't match his actual conduct as President in the least. But Obama knows he must at least give lip service to the idea of fully supporting Israel. Romney actually believes in the proposition. So again, Romney is already there, he hasn't moved an inch.

As to the Tea Party movement as a whole, it is clearly not what it was in 2010. But it's still here. And compared to what is left of the Occupy movement, it's still quite strong. The House looks to remain under Republican control. And the Senate could still swing that way. At the very least, the Republicans are likely to pick up a few more seats there.

But the Tea Party movement remains localized and grassroots; its strength is in local and State races, not national ones. In that regard, it continues to exert a great deal of influence. Reports of its death are being grossly exaggerated, particularly reports coming from the dimmer bulbs in the liberal media.

Cheers, all.

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