Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tea Party Vindicated?

By this I don’t mean that the Tea Partiers have been proven right on the great issues of the day, necessarily. Rather, I mean that their own self-understanding — as a movement aimed at pushing the Republican Party toward real fiscal austerity and greater skepticism of government power — has been at least partially vindicated in the votes that a Tea Partified G.O.P. has taken and the positions that its members have staked out.


Again, it’s early. But these promises and votes and public stands suggest that many of the Tea Party’s doubters missed something essential about the way small-r republican politics often works. Yes, the typical Tea Party sympathizer probably voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 without thinking twice about the deficit or civil liberties, and (like most Americans) probably harbors entirely wrongheaded and naive ideas about how and where a would-be deficit hawk would need to cut. But while the essential character of the average Republican voter might have been unchanged from the Bush era to the Tea Party era, America isn’t governed by the essential character of the winning faction’s voters. It’s governed by politicians, and the kind of politicians that the average Republican supported in 2010 differed markedly from the kind of politicians he had voted for in, say, 2002. This was why the Tea Party mattered: Not because each and every Tea Partier held coherent views on entitlement reform or defense spending or civil liberties, but because the movement’s general emphasis on limited government purism led to a change in the particular kind of lawmaker who earned support from right-of-center voters — and, by extension, a change in the kind of pressure brought to bear on incumbent Republicans and G.O.P. leaders alike.-The (Partial) Vindication of the Tea Party

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