The Hill invites two established bloggers from either side of the political spectrum to sound off on a designated topic in original commentary each Saturday. This week, bloggers were asked whether the surprise Tea Party candidates -- Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller -- were a fluke, or the future of the GOP.
Time running out for today's Republican Party
by Mondo Frazier
Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller: These Tea Party upset candidates, as well as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Nikki Haley and other Tea Party-backed candidates -- all of whom initially were inordinate underdogs -- are no flukes. They represent the future: where everyday people enter the political arena to do battle with the D.C. status quo. Sometimes these candidates will carry the baggage that ordinary Americans might accumulate when they’re not inbred for a political career.
But more important than the elite schools, friends or parties is their mission: to force government to acknowledge its master, the American people; to force it to spend less, do less, take less; to rid Congress of members dedicated to no higher ideal than “Reelect me to this sweet gig I‘ve got.”
They know if they fail, future generations will not get another chance at a fair fight.
Whether the Tea Party candidates represent the future of the Republican Party is an entirely different question. The GOP Establishment is every bit as hidebound and committed to D.C. power, perks and pork as the Democrats. But there's a difference: the clock is ticking on the Republicans. The Republican Party, pre-2010 form, has perhaps six years left.
If the GOP doesn't adapt, it will be replaced by a party more responsive to voters now demanding responsiveness as a prerequisite to earning their votes. Such a political party will look a lot like the folks who currently make up the Tea Party movement.
In an ideal society, both sides would compete to represent these voters, but the collection of special interests that make up the Democratic Party -- the public unions, the racial grievance industry, the universities professorship to name a few -- are so entrenched as to make change practically impossible.
So the Tea Party will continue its targeted grass-roots takeover of the Republican Party to the benefit of both, aided by disaffected Democrats who feel their party no longer represents them. This mutated political party will not worship incumbency and will regularly purge members whose self-interests come before the people they serve.
At the Tea Party events that I’ve personally covered, the majority of the attendees appear to be in the 40 and older range. A significant portion of them remember an America prior to 1964: an America with significantly less government.
Some remember when their paychecks reflected 95 percent of what they earned -- instead of the 55-67 percent that government allows them to keep today. They remember that 45 years ago, Lyndon Johnson made do with a cabinet of 13. Barack Obama’s contains 20, with an additional 30+ “czars” -- each with their own well-paid staff, differing levels of accountability and well-oiled machinery for manufacturing nothing but job-killing regulations and more control over their personal lives.
Luxuries in times of plenty; extravagances when the economy turns south.
Many have made decisions to do with less while watching state and federal governments hell-bent on more: more tax hikes; more regulations; more control over more aspects of their lives; more spending tomorrow no matter how much is taken today. When government’s current tax haul comes up short, it’s borrowed from their grandkids.
The hard realities of today’s economy have forced many to reexamine whether they can continue to support policies that they could afford when times were good. It’s also forced many of the formerly apolitical to pay attention to what their government is doing to them.
When pondering the theme of this piece, it was tempting to predict that the Tea Party will fade as that 40-and-older cohort gets older and passes away. However, there is real anger among 30-somethings who sacrificed to honor their mortgage obligations -- only to be dunned to buy the votes of those who didn’t.
In addition, most of American culture is now controlled by the same socialist Progressive forces that caused the unsustainable political/economic situation. Inevitably, that means the counter-culture is increasingly conservative.
This Libertarian-Conservatism hybrid is everywhere on the Internet, lampooning, skewering and otherwise exposing an aging Progressive culture that never ceases it tiresome preaching: for its latest pet causes; against smoking, alcohol and tasty food. If you don’t agree, you’re a homophobic, racist, xenophobic h8r.
Sadly for Progressives, it’s impossible to be both the culture and the counter-culture. The Progressive cultural victories of the 1960s and '70s have guaranteed their current role as The Man. That’s not only ironic, it’s karmic hilarity.
Within this counter-culture resides the future Rubios, Pauls, O’Donnells, Angles and Millers of the Tea Party, which will either take control of the Republican Party or supplant it. Their Rage will continue Against the Machine that has become Big Government: dedicated to robbing the future to fund today’s self-serving narrow schemes of its geriatric sponsors, the Democratic Party.
Mondo Frazier founded DBKP - Death By 1000 Papercuts, where he writes and edits. He’s also a regular contributor to Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism. His upcoming book on Barack Obama, scheduled for release in 2011, will be announced shortly by a major publisher.
Tea Party just the old base with a new branding
by Jonathan Singer
The Tea Party is here to stay. But not necessarily because it's a new phenomenon that is changing the face of American politics. No, the movement -- and the candidates it has supported -- will continue to endure because they have always been a part of the GOP: the party's base. Now they just have a new name and a new branding.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the victories of candidates fueled by Tea Party support this cycle: Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware (as well as others in House contests and other down-ballot races). These candidates, and their supporters, have succeeded in challenging the GOP establishment and changing the the political landscape (though not always for the better for the Republicans). No doubt, they are a force.
But the Tea Party supporters are not really a new force. They're the Republican base, those loyal partisans who stuck by President George W. Bush through thick and thin. They were the 22 percent who voiced approval for the 43rd President as he made his exit from the White House in January 2009.
The candidates supported by the Tea Partiers aren't that new of a force within the GOP either. One need only look at the leading Republican senators affiliated with the Tea Party to see this: Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn.
In 2004, Jim DeMint ran what seemed like a long-shot bid for the GOP Senate nomination in South Carolina in a race that featured a former GOP Governor (David Beasley) and a former GOP state Attorney General (Charlie Condon). Despite finishing a distant second in the first round of balloting, trailing Beasley by a double-digit margin, DeMint managed to pull off a sizable victory in the runoff en route to a more comfortable than expected general election victory over the state's Democratic Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum.
That same cycle, Oklahoma's Tom Coburn also waged an uphill battle for his party's Senate election. Fueled by grassroots support from hard-right activists, Coburn managed to upset former Oklahoma City mayor and GOP establishment favorite Kirk Humphreys. The margin in the primary didn't even end up being close, with Coburn pulling in more than 60 percent of the vote, and come November Coburn handily beat Democratic Congressman Brad Carson in the general election.
Proto-Tea Party candidacies didn't always turn out so well for the GOP. In 1994, Virginia Republicans chose as their Senate nominee Oliver North, a man who today might classified as a Tea Party insurgent. During the course of his election, he pulled in a remarkable $16 million in direct mail contributions from the GOP base. But on election day, North lost despite the overall Republican tilt of the electorate that fall.
Whether this year's batch of GOP base-backed candidates (also known as Tea Party candidates) manage to become winners like DeMint and Coburn or losers like North remains to be seen. But they will almost undoubtedly continue to be a major part of the Republican Party in years to come.
Jonathan Singer blogs at Polising.com. He was previously an editor at MyDD.