They've won back some of their old supporters. It's simply a fact that the GOP is poised to do well in this year's elections. But the vision of a resurgent GOP just seems incorrect to me. What I see is a petrified and frightened Republican Party, one where most members are terrified of losing their jobs not from an opposition onslaught but rather from friendly fire, and one where that notion is plausible for pretty much everyone except for maybe Jim DeMint. I think dumping Bob Bennett has had a pretty significant impact already--Lindsay Graham is off the energy bill, no elected Republicans are stepping up on immigration, and the GOP even made a show of staving off financial regulation until it became clear that the tea parties just didn't care about that particular issue. Absolutely no Republicans are sticking their necks out for anything right now, because they know if someone as unobjectionable as Bob Bennett goes, they could easily be next. That was the point that FreedomWorks and Club for Growth were trying to make by beating him. They could care less about Bennett. They were claiming a scalp, sending a message and showing their strength. And it appears to have worked.
Frankly, while Democratic politics are often utterly baffling even to a loyal Democrat like me, Republican politics at the moment are much stranger. So far as I can tell, the GOP is basically undergoing a civil war. It's been declared many times, tacitly and formally. The tea parties are out to take over the party from the mainstream/establishment conservatives and remake it in their image. One would figure the battle lines would be drawn. After all, the mainstream/establishment wing of the Republican Party knows very well how to win votes in this country, as up until 2006 they were winning them quite often! And promising to cut public spending to the bone is all well and good unless you try to do it, and you usually wind up getting a Newt Gingrich government shutdown sort of situation. One would think that a tea party-led Republican Party would have a very hard time winning the public debate on this issue. And yet the GOP elites seem to mostly be interested in trying to exploit the tea party people for their own gain instead of realizing the dire threat the TPs pose to them. Perhaps they're in denial, obsessively focused on winning in 2010 that they don't particularly care how they do it. But if the tea parties do take over the GOP, I don't hesitate to say it could be catastrophic.
This all hearkens back to the early 1980s in Britain. Margaret Thatcher's win was to the left like Barack Obama's win as interpreted to the right, in many ways. The racial elements aren't there, but much of the Labour left simply didn't believe that Thatcher could win, that she was too right wing. Her win basically caused a complete nervous collapse on the part of the left, with the Militants as the tea partyish group of the left, a bunch of antiestablishment types who thought that Labour--then a party formally committed to Democratic Socialism--was far too right-wing. It was a movement that had some success in local politics, capturing some city councils (Sheffield being sort of the epicenter), and it could well have spread to the whole party were it not for the fact that Labour's leaders at the time, Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, actively worked to keep that from happening. The tea parties are still sort of a peripheral phenomenon at this point, and I suspect that most people don't know much about them. But I really wonder whether the GOP's leadership is up to the task here. There is a very real danger that the radicals seize control of this party. Everyone in the GOP is petrified of someone else getting to their right. It's a recipe for disaster, I think.
The Man, The Myth, The Bio
- East Bay, California, United States
- Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.