I’m not saying that everything is about appearances for the tea party and that they don’t have policy goals, because they do. But they understand that electing committed tea partiers is only one way to achieve those goals. Keeping ordinary Republicans terrified is another way, and almost as effective.You can read Waldman’s full piece here.
Before you accuse me of giving them too much credit, I also understand that the tea party’s policy goals almost never get accomplished, and failure doesn’t necessarily harm them. Each failure--a lost election, a government shutdown that ends, a budget that gets passed--can be cast as a betrayal, maintaining the urgency of the crusade. But part of the movement’s power comes from the fact that it isn’t dependent on any one leader or even a group of leaders. A politician whom tea partiers love today can easily be cast aside if he shows glimmers of reasonableness tomorrow, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was after he began working on immigration reform. (It may be hard to remember now, but when Rubio got elected in 2010, he was a tea party darling). There will always be more people to challenge the establishment, and more quisling Republicans who need to be taught a lesson.
So the tea party has a cycle it runs through: Get angry, find a Republican target of the anger, mount some sort of campaign against him and if you win, great, but if you don’t, just find the next traitor to go after.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
A few days ago, I posted some extended quotes from political analyst Christopher Parker, talking about the misconceptions many Americans harbor as to what goals the Republican Party’s increasingly dominant wing, the Tea Party, has for its activism. Tying in with that is today’s Paul Waldman piece in The Washington Post, looking at why it’s not as important for every Tea Party candidate to win as it for that right-wing faction to keep up the election pressure on more traditional, less radicalized Republicans. Here’s part of his argument: