Skip to comments.Rain clouds linger as Tea Party brews up a storm (Palin & Tea Party as Reagan redux?)
Posted on 09/26/2010 6:21:57 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
THE BIG PICTURE: Right-wing rhetoric is one thing but the real test will be whether Palin and Co can show the ability for systematic thinking needed for government
IN 1975, the recently retired governor of California, Ronald Reagan, flew to Britain to beef up his foreign policy credentials as a presidential aspirant. He could hardly get in to see anyone.
The prime minister, Harold Wilson, refused to meet him. Jim Callaghan, the foreign secretary, preferred to attend Splott Fair in his own constituency. In the end, Reagan was palmed off on the junior foreign office minister, Roy Hattersley, who made it clear that the meeting was a matter of courtesy rather than in order to do any serious business.
While Reagan espoused his economic views, remembered Hattersley, the usually well-mannered young men from the Foreign Office who sat beside me made choking noises. Fast forward to 1981 and those same spluttering mandarins were dealing with Reagan as leader of the worlds number one power.
Politicians on the right, particularly ones the public like, have often found it difficult to be taken seriously by the chattering classes. Even today, despite winning the cold war and delivering three decades of economic prosperity, Reagan is still often presented as a mixture of cowboy and idiot savant. Theres just no convincing some people.
In 1975 it was Reagan and his libertarian conservatives who were dismissed as dangerous cranks by the governmental and media establishment. Today in the United States, it is the Tea Party movement that has upset the political apple cart. To defeat them, opined a New York Times editorial recently, has become imperative to avoid the sense of national embarrassment from each divisive and offensive utterance, each wacky policy proposal.
That line may work when preaching to the liberal choir from the pulpit of the Times (although New York may yet end up with a Tea Party governor in Carl Paladino). But this outrage does little to explain the momentum that is gathering behind a new political phenomenon. For what began as conservative fury in the immediate aftermath of the election of President Obama has developed a clarity that is attracting widespread support, even among independents.
Part of that clarity comes in its appraisal of the Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled congress. Since 2009, say Tea Party advocates, there has been a spending bonanza of unimaginable proportions. This includes a huge stimulus package (that has failed to stimulate), the nationalisation of health care at vast expense, rising taxes and an attack on business at a time when Americans need jobs. These are not short-term problems: Americans will be in hock to the tune of trillions of dollars for decades to come.
Here is the great virtue of the Tea Party, says Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan: They know what time it is. Its getting late. If we dont get the size and the cost of government in line now, we wont be able to. That resonates with the generations that grew up in the decades after the second World War, when Americas share of global GDP was 45 per cent. Many fear a future for their children in which a country saddled with a vast debt and a bloated, sclerotic government is simply unable to rise to the challenge posed by new economic powers such as China, India, Russia and Brazil.
Widespread agreement with that assessment has damaged the Democratic Party, which goes into Novembers mid-term elections in low spirits. Independent voters who will tip the balance at the polls do not seem to have been put off by the involvement of the wacky Tea Party movement in the Republican Party. Far from it. Many Democrats fear voters may desert the presidents party in droves.
Recent numbers show that independent voters, who broke for Barack Obama by 52 per cent to 44 per cent in the 2008 presidential election, are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. Staggeringly, those independents who say they intend to vote in November break better than two-to-one in favour of the Republicans. Forty-eight per cent of all independents surveyed said they were sympathetic to or supporters of the Tea Party. In many states, such as Kentucky and Florida, Tea Party candidates are streets ahead, despite bitter primary races, and even a weak candidate such as Sharron Angle remains level pegging in Nevada.
In the northeast, where the Republicans had been virtually wiped out by 2008, there has been a palpable resurgence of support. In Pennsylvania, the native state of vice-president Joe Biden that has trended Democratic since 2000, the presidents approval rating has slumped. In key battle grounds such as Pennsylvanias eighth Congressional District, where two Irish-American candidates are slogging it out, the presidents popularity has flipped from 55 per cent to 42 per cent positive last year to 53 per cent to 43 per cent negative today.
This is bad news for the incumbent Democrat, Patrick Murphy. Were going to make him defend everything, says Mike Fitzpatrick, his opponent. Fitzpatrick might not be a Tea Party purist, but his message of smaller, more efficient government, less spending, lower taxes resonates with the agenda they have set.
For Fitzpatrick and traditional candidates like him, the Tea Party movement has re-energised conservative supporters and swept the Republican Party along with it. Thats good news for the party heading towards November, but in the longer term it may turn out to be a mixed blessing. For while the Tea Party movement has helped define the debate around this president, its more important contribution may turn out to be the critique of the Republican Party itself.
Certainly the Tea Party has tapped into a very real public anger that the Obama administration has overspent, overtaxed and over-committed. Yet the narrative it has constructed is also a fierce indictment of the Bush presidency.
[They] are the reason we even have the Tea Party movement, wrote Fox News favourite Andrea Tantoros in New York Daily News , after Karl Rove (Bushs brain) admonished Republicans in Delaware for picking Tea Party activist Christine ODonnell as a candidate for the Senate. After all, Tantoros noted, Bush ran up deficits and gave the US open borders, tax cuts that expire, Medicare part D and busted budgets.
As last years gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia demonstrated, Tea Party activists and Republican moderates can work well together when necessary to deliver election victories. But there is already an impending sense of the ideological struggle to come once November is over.
Then all eyes will turn to the real prize: the presidential election of 2012. Tea Party activists may not like Barack Obama, but they admire the way he won the last election, not least the netroots of political activists who helped him defeat an establishment machine candidate. Already they are planning a similar campaign to make sure that one of their own secures the Republican nomination.
The unknown element in that battle is the quality of Tea Party ideas. Thus far they have skilfully cultivated a simple message and deployed charismatic leaders such as Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio to articulate it with authentic conviction. Yet to emerge is a serious sense of the systematic thinking about government that would put those aspirations into practice. In the end this will be the real test of whether the Tea Party movement represents a seismic event in conservatism or is just a noisy distraction.
For a movement that puts plain speaking, values and common sense at a premium, this may seem unnecessarily cerebral. But Tea Party activists need only look to the example of two iconic figures of the right to recognise how significant this is.
Reagan too had the charisma and ability to articulate his beliefs with moral conviction and a popular touch. But underpinning the Reagan era was a neo-liberal intellectual ferment that tipped the social democratic consensus upside down, shifting public debate and preparing the way for a Republican victory in 1980. Characteristic of this activity was the work of the Heritage Foundation, which produced the 3,000-page Mandate for Leadership that became the comprehensive blueprint for the administration.
The second example is Margaret Thatcher, who is revered by, among others, Palin. Thatcher may not have been an intellectual or an original political thinker in the purest sense.
Yet she was a consumer of ideas, devouring the books and papers put in front of her by Alfred Sherman at the Centre for Policy Studies. Her great ability was to give those ideas clarity. If Palin is following the Thatcher model, she will currently be reading everything she can lay her hands on.
Thatcher came to power in a peasants revolt against the leadership of her own party. She was often patronised and derided by conservative grandees and liberal journalists alike. Yet few if any of them won an argument head-to-head with her, as she took them on in a war of attrition, idea by idea, backed up with her uniquely individual style of moral conviction.
That ability to articulate a new way of thinking made her a star in the United States. On her first visit to Washington as prime minister in 1979, she electrified Congress not just with her conviction but with her incisiveness and intellectual rigour. Afterwards Republican politicians flocked around her. Later one sent her note: Will you accept the nomination of the Republican party for president? it asked.
The Republicans could not have Thatcher, but they did get Reagan instead. The Tea Party can only hope they have a leader of similar stature waiting in the wings.
For that reason perhaps the most pertinent question of the day has become, Which books are you reading at the moment, Sarah?
Go support your milquetoast RINO and see how far they'll go in 2012.
Neither was Reagan in 1978.
There is a reason the Ron Paul has been stuck in that little congressional district for all his political life, he can’t lead.
Paul has tried for statewide office, and his ego maniacal presidential runs, but he just cannot get elected outside of that little district, that is common for loony congressmen like Charles Rangel, Ron Dellums, and Ron Paul, they can’t break out of their minor roles.
I’m sure a great many foreigners are puzzled by things such as the Tea Party and general right-wing thoughts. They probably wonder why most Americans don’t love Obama and the takeover of everything by Big Government. “Don’t Americans realize what wonderful things government will do for them?”they say to themselves. We’re speaking about people who are conditioned to being controlled and to be obedient to their respective Big Governments. Big Government knows best is an axiom I’d guess many foreigners feel comfortable with. Why do something when the government will do it for you? Which conservative Americans know is a recipe for an eventual total loss of freedom.
So Palin's a "quitter" for only serving 2.5 years; yet conservatives want to endorse someone who would have only served less than 1.5 years for the presidency?
Do you see the hypocrisy and double standards when you want Christie to run for President?
“systematic thinking needed for government”
This is a huge red flag.
For starters, why does the writer fail to define what the phrase means?
Until proven otherwise, this is just another call for big government thinking.
Exactly. I’m so sick of conservatives blabbing about Christie for President in 2012. Number one, the guy would have been Governor even less time than Palin has, but he gets a pass while Palin does not. Pure hypocrisy here on the part of FReepers. Number two, he’s a Giuliani-type of Republican. He’s good for the Northeast but he’ll get clobbered running nationwide.
“In Pennsylvania, the native state of vice-president Joe Biden that has trended Democratic since 2000...”
Am I missing something here?
The war wing hates Paul.
He is irresponsible in that area. The US has been going around the world sticking our fingers in the eyes of the world and it is ture that self defence can not be ignored now. Paul would ignore it. He’s my congresscritter.
What the Nation sorely missed was Reagan being around to reign in the CEO’s of corrupt/fascist fame and the issue of all manufacturing and creativity being outscoured as is currently the casce. The huge cultural and social disrespect and treason of the Left has been taken up by America’s ceo’s. Reagan would have kicked their butts. Libertairans - that is your elitist asses.
Sarah takes on Big Oil: The compelling story of Governor Sarah Palin’s battle with Alaska's ‘Big 3’ oil companies, as told by the state's top oil and gas editors, Kay Cashman and Kristen Nelson by Kay Cashman, Kristen Nelson, Tim Kikta, and Mariajose Echeverria-Stewart (Hardcover - Oct 17, 2008)
If you’re a peacecreep and won’t defend American interests, no matter how “correct” you are in every other area, we can’t use you.
Than what, you didn't finish the thought, his previous ridiculous tries to get someone to vote for him? Ron Paul couldn't even win statewide office in Texas when he tried, he couldn't even win the primary, the guy lacks leadership.
Ron Paul makes sense when discussing economics. Other than that ....
PERFECT, Al B.!