Why 2011 Will Be The High Water Mark For The Tea Party & A Reactionary GOP


There is a wonderful spring-fed swimming pool a short drive from our mountain retreat that even during the dog days of summer is refreshingly cool. The regulars who congregate there include a half dozen folks in their seventies and eighties. Most are widows. The only guy is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran. The gals include two retired school teachers and a librarian. All are moderates, all vote for Democrats and Republicans pretty much in equal measure, and all are on fixed incomes and therefore dependent on the government for their well being and relatively good health.

The Tea Party and reactionary Republicanism would seem to be in ascendancy. This bloc twice nearly shut down the federal government this year, humbling if not humiliating the president and their own party leadership during prolonged debt limit negotiations that often resembled a cage match. But the power of this bloc is fleeting and 2011 will be its high water mark.

There are several reasons for this but one rises above all others: The Tea Party and reactionaries do not represent the interests of the good folks at the swimming pool. In fact, they don’t give a damn about them. They want to strip them of Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other so-called entitlements. Which in the case of these folks entitle them to decent lives and a shot at decent health after decades of faithfully paying taxes and giving back to their country over long, relatively low paying careers.

* * * * *

The rise and eventual fall of the Tea Party is a topic that I have visited often beginning with the 2010 mid-term election.

Republican Party leaders, desperate for short-term votes as opposed to developing and executing a strategy for long-term growth, first handed the keys to the party pickup truck to Christianists who were determined to continue fighting culture wars that had little appeal to mainstream voters, and then to Tea Partiers determined to impose an ideological purity on Republican candidates that resulted in driving away many of the party’s moderates.

To say that the GOP has made a hash of things since it’s mid-term election victories nine months ago is an understatement, and it’s clear that the series of self-inflicted disasters it has suffered since then stem from the mistaken notion that the 2010 victories were a mandate. They were no such thing.

What the victories were was a result of a stew of anger, resentment and uncertainty amidst a recession that wouldn’t quit. While that was to an extent a repudiation of the Democratic Party, it was not an endorsement of the GOP.

It also was inevitable that the Washington meat grinder would wear down some Tea Partiers and that was obvious when only about half of the Tea Party caucus voted against the final deficit compromise bill. Tea Party Darling Representative Allen West was among those capitulating, and as unthinkable as it is, he may face a primary challenge next year for his “sell out.”

* * * * *

Perhaps it is willful naivete, but even after all these years, even after watching hijinks in this country that would turn the warmest heart to ice, I continue to believe in the inherent goodness of the American people. Yes, the folks at the swimming pool and many millions of others who would bleed red, white and blue for their country and for whom no sacrifice would be too large. People who understand that Tea Partiers and reactionaries are the epitome of selfishness and are incapable of playing fair.

This is not to say that the Democrats and few moderate Republicans left standing in this era of conservative purity tests hold the high ground.

They do in principle. But the blocc that twice nearly shut down government did have a point amidst all the bombast. Government spending is out of control, and those Democrats and moderate Republicans have a perhaps once-in-a-generation opportunity to not merely pay lip service to that harsh reality but to act on it.

But in a kinder and gentler yet firm way that will enable them to solidify the high ground as the Tea Party becomes a footnote in the history of American politics.

24 Comments

  1. In your dreams…

    Not unless you have a legal way of killing talk radio, Fox news and the billionaire funders of the Right Wing( Kock, Melon-Scaife, etc…)

  2. Of course the Tea Party types will fade away due to nothing more than demographics. The number of privately employed whites is shrinking. The number of white voters are shrinking. Since conservative voters come from privately employed whites, the Tea Party is guaranteed to fade away.

    The real question is what will the U.S. be like when the entire country has the demographics of California. Will the U.S. even have two partis since California no longer has a functioning Republican Party. Will be the U.S. be able to pay its massive debts and fund a massive entitlement system with so few people working in the private sector. Will the U.S. be able to produce enough productive workers when 100% of school students are spent are the worst students and nothing is spent of the best students?

  3. superdestroyer:

    Ah yes, obsessing about race yet again. As a side note, Hispanics tend toward the conservative side and many voted Republican in the past because of the party’s anti-abortion and family values planks. But in its headlong quest to become all white all the time, the party abandoned Hispanics and many hardcore Repubs, like yourself, would sooner ship the whole bunch back over the border than give them a howdy-do.

    Right?

  4. I love predictions. I love watching how people explain why their last prediction was wrong.

    The tea party is a reaction to the rise of the “progressive”. When it dies, the tea party will suffer.

  5. Shaun, I also believe in the “inherent goodness of people”. Most of these people are relatively quiet though and aren’t out there screeching about the evils of government or the evils of unfettered corporate greed, etc. They live their lives, work, raise families and try to leave the world a little better place when they go. And that is exactly why this comment of yours about the TP is one I agree with:

    “But the power of this bloc is fleeting and 2011 will be its high water mark.” – Shaun

    Sometimes people are slow to get a clue, but once they finally figure out who is advocating for their interests and who is trying to inflict pain, then they begin to stir. I expect that stirring to do nothing but pick up momentum. We have serious problems in this country that need addressing, but many of those problems present opportunities as well.

    “Democrats and moderate Republicans have a perhaps once-in-a-generation opportunity to not merely pay lip service to that harsh reality but to act on it.

    But in a kinder and gentler yet firm way that will enable them to solidify the high ground as the Tea Party becomes a footnote in the history of American politics.” – Shaun

    Yes, opportunity is knocking, it only remains to be seen if we are up to the challenge.

  6. Prof, I have to address this comment of yours:

    “The tea party is a reaction to the rise of the “progressive”.”

    We haven’t seen any significant rise of progressives in this country for a very long time. We’ve seen a rise in moderate democrats, and even an increase in traditional democrats, but very few progressives. They can be vocal though – fortunately.

  7. “The tea party is a reaction to the rise of the “progressive”

    That is insane. You know that, right?

  8. The Tea Party is probably on the decline for an age-old reason – they’ve overplayed their hand and mistook unhappiness with the opposing party as some sort of mandate. People want reasonable control of government spending but not the effed-up cluster we just went through.

    Looking at the right-wing websites they seem to be lack any introspection and are acting like they’ve won a great victory or even that they haven’t been rigid enough, which bodes poorly for the future.

  9. First there has to be reactionary GOP. There is none yet.

  10. The “Tea Party” (the real one, with that name — properly capitalized) peaked in late 2010, no later than the 2010 elections in November. Even before the elections, the social and religious conservatives that weren’t part of it were encouraged by the public’s rejection of Obama’s and the Congressional Dems’ lunge to the left, and it was these other people that began making the news. (It was no surprise that the Left conflated the two, in its attempt to slander or “discredit” [sic] populist strident rejection of the leftward lunge.)

    There’s no continued high-water Tea Party presence. The GOP in the House and in the states is known instead for two things, which are a) the expression of power by social and religious conservatives; b) the seeking to change government to be more business-friendly in a coarse way while reaching for excess in the way of reforming governments (reducing the power of public employee unions; Ryan wanting to end Medicare as it has been designed to date). (The Tea Party didn’t want, as a rule to touch entitlements, the odd feature of a “reformist” movement.)

  11. Superdestroyer, the main demographic change we and Europe face is aging. It’s not limited to the West, either; very notably racially-and-otherwise homogeneous Japan is aging sharply, as any person following the news or studying demographics knows.

    It’s even true in much of the lesser developed world currently (based in no small part on the huge drop in fertility from previous decades; a secondary but essential part of it is improvement in public health and medical care in many lesser-developed countries, too). Global aging (or “ageing”) is a well-known topic that the UN, for example, has studied.

    “Replacement migration” is politically impossible (as you no doubt know or believe) in order to reduce the great changes in dependency ratio and future taxpayer burden and labor shortage. To keep dependency ratios as they are now, Germany would end up with a huge fraction of its future population, 80 per cent, as immigrants if it sought to stabilize dependency ratios. Europe will have much worse demographic problems that the United States will; this has been known for decades now. (The USA is in better shape than Europe — our future will be less bad.)

    The demographic facts alone force changes in future entitlements, something the Tea Party has neglected to do and for which the Ryan approach to Medicare is impractical given how many will need Medicare and Social Security in the future.

    Germany and replacement migration:

    http://www.un.org/esa/populati.....ermany.pdf

    The USA and replacement migration:

    http://www.un.org/esa/populati.....ED/USA.pdf

    Note also that in addition to so many lesser-developed countries, too, experiencing aging, that’s what would happen eventually with any large number of immigrants, after first presenting a child dependency challenge.

    More here, for those who haven’t read it when I’ve linked to it before. Link to report and its parts at the bottom of the posting.

    * In the next 50 years, the populations of most developed countries are projected to become smaller and older as a result of low fertility and increased longevity. In contrast, the population of the United States is projected to increase by almost a quarter. Among the countries studied in the report, Italy is projected to register the largest population decline in relative terms, losing 28 per cent of its population between 1995 and 2050 according to the United Nations medium variant projections. The population of the European Union, which in 1995 was larger than that of the United States by 105 million, in 2050 will become smaller by 18 million.

    * Population decline is inevitable in the absence of replacement migration. Fertility may rebound in the coming decades, but few believe that it will recover sufficiently in most countries to reach replacement level in the foreseeable future.

    * Some immigration is needed to prevent population decline in all countries and regions examined in the report. However, the level of immigration in relation to past experience varies greatly. For the European Union, a continuation of the immigration levels observed in the 1990s would roughly suffice to prevent total population from declining, while for Europe as a whole immigration would need to double. The Republic of Korea would need a relatively modest net inflow of migrants – a major change, however, for a country which has been a net sender until now. Italy and Japan would need to register notable increases in net immigration. In contrast, France, the United Kingdom and the United States would be able to maintain their total population with fewer immigrants than observed in recent years.

    * The numbers of immigrants needed to prevent the decline of the total population are considerably larger than those envisioned by the United Nations projections. The only exception is the United States.

    * The numbers of immigrants needed to prevent declines in the working-age population are larger than those needed to prevent declines in total population. In some cases, such as the Republic of Korea, France, the United Kingdom or the United States, they are several times larger. If such flows were to occur, post-1995 immigrants and their descendants would represent a strikingly large share of the total population in 2050 – between 30 and 39 per cent in the case of Japan, Germany and Italy.

    * Relative to their population size, Italy and Germany would need the largest number of migrants to maintain the size of their working-age populations. Italy would require 6,500 migrants per million inhabitants annually and Germany 6,000. The United States would require the smallest number – 1,300 migrants per million inhabitants per year.

    * The levels of migration needed to prevent population ageing are many times larger than the migration streams needed to prevent population decline. Maintaining potential support ratios would in all cases entail volumes of immigration entirely out of line with both past experience and reasonable expectations.

    * In the absence of immigration, the potential support ratios could be maintained at current levels by increasing the upper limit of the working-age population to roughly 75 years of age.

    * The new challenges of declining and ageing populations will require a comprehensive reassessment of many established policies and programmes, with a long-term perspective. Critical issues that need to be addressed include: (a) the appropriate ages for retirement; (b) the levels, types and nature of retirement and health care benefits for the elderly; (c) labour force participation; (d) the assessed amounts of contributions from workers and employers to support retirement and health care benefits for the elderly population; and (e) policies and programmes relating to international migration, in particular replacement migration and the integration of large numbers of recent migrants and their descendants.

    http://www.un.org/esa/populati.....ration.htm

  12. The Tea Party’s politics matched the public’s in rejecting the lunge to the left of the Democrats, but the 2010 elections weren’t pro-Tea Party or pro-Republican; they were anti-Democrat (anti-left-policy).

    The Republicans are being taken on a test drive, and we’re getting mixed results from what we observe so far. (not just in the House of Representatives but also in a number of states)

  13. “lunge to the left of the Democrats” – DLS

    A lunge to appease the GOP is not a lunge to the left.

  14. Not being a TPer, I can only guess that their rise was a culmination of frustration with a grid locked partisan political system that only wanted to get reelected and whose mantra seems to be the government can fix everything by increased spending and/or a new shiny department.
    Sometimes even a blind pig can bump into a barrel of apples.

  15. Obama’s not lunging to appease the GOP, but playing at conceding to reality (with the usual amaturism and ineptitude, as well as lousy game-playing, still wanting tax gimmicks and such).

    Obama and the Dems lunged to the left in 2009-2010–the equivalent of saying the earth is round, so don’t claim it’s flat.

    * * *

    The Tea Party (the real people, not everyone else included now or preferred by the Left) was typical US center-right (“conservative” or “far right” in lefty incorrect language) populism, which wasn’t that much removed from the rest of the mainstream, just more strident and vigorous.

    They may have been clumsy, but the truth was basically on their side, while only the delusional believe the federal Leviathan can continue to grow, or to be sustained, once the money runs out (and the public keeps tiring of excessive size and scope, of its overreach).

  16. D. Duck wrote:

    whose mantra seems to be the government can fix everything by increased spending and/or a new shiny department

    Which never was true, of course, and which is long obsolescent –

    and is exemplified by “acceptable” (to liberals; he’s their GOP “model”) Rockefeller in New York: his “Brasilia on the Hudson”:

    (all that’s missing are the statues of Lenin and Stalin, or more likely, of FDR LBJ [snicker])

    http://www.pps.org/great_publi.....ace_id=760

    http://www.lofaber.com/albany/essaymaking.html

    Analogy to liberal dinosaurs and each year’s new young suckers’ view of Washington — center of the nation and the world

    http://www.macalester.edu/cour.....asdist.gif

    What will those people do when the money runs out and all governments must have their functions rationalized (meaning many are reduced or abolished)?

  17. No one but a progressive could think that the onset (close call, whatever you want to call it) of a depression, with all of its deficit implications, is a good time to start a new entitlement. After the debt ceiling debate, I have a much better understanding as to why they don’t get it, but it appears that few people have a handle on that basic conflict.

    Because progressives still don’t know what the real conflict is, I’m thinking the tea party movement will be in good shape for some time.

  18. Care to lay any bets on that last remark Prof? I think you’re whistling in the dark – and offkey at that. ;-)

  19. Certainly if “progressives” [sic] continue to be regressive as well as offputting and at ties alien to the meanstream, typical political American center-right rejection of them and their acts will continue. (It never has been limited to the Tea Party of 2008-2010.)

  20. I even gave the “Progs” a little detail previously with which to run — they do, after all, label their (many, mainstream) adversaries wrongly with “hate” while being the ones truly hateful, often. I don’t see why they wouldn’t characterize popular demand for and support of future austerity and overdue reform measures as the “meanstream.” Awww.

  21. “hateful” . . . “offputting” ~ DLS

    So what is it, did you get dropped on your head by a progressive in your formative years or did you just read too many of Logan’s posts? ;-)

  22. The Tea Baggers are Dead-

    The thing is, they won’t lay down. May have to be put down now that they have made their move and showed their hand for what it is; destroy our government.

    Their is more to the tea bagger than politics. There is an underlying evil in there. A hatred for man. A violent wish. A murmuring of threats. A mulling of evil deeds. From them a threat came, action taken. They feed on fear. They are cowards hiding behind a theme to obscure their wicked souls.

  23. Thanks Allen!
    @JSpencer: any more questions?

  24. Tell you what Prof, I won’t hold you responsible for DLS if you don’t hold me responsible for Allen. ;-)

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