It’s a matter of evolution:
The new Congress hasn’t been seated yet but signs of a rift are already beginning to emerge between Republican leaders and Tea Party groups who were a driving force propelling many unknown candidates to victory last month.
There are many ways to characterize this. I prefer to think of it as the chickens come home to roost.
The Republicans have had a forty year “Southern Strategy” which has yielded some pretty impressive political victories and some pretty shameful defeats. On the one hand, this strategy was most directly responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, as well as the takeover of Congress in 1994, and the House in 2010.
On the other hand, it was directly responsible for the corrupt Congresses that ensued, the rape of the American budget, the tax hikes needed to compensate for the spending by Republicans on credit, as well as war without end and a terror attack that will go down in history as one of America’s weakest moments, bought and paid for by the GOP.
This strategy divided the nation into three groups: economic royalists, socially conservative Christians, and the rest of us. Power within the GOP rested firmly in the economic royalty camp, with the occasional intruder like Pat Robertson allowed a seat at the table primarily because he could speak both lingoes fluently. The Christian Coalition was allowed to rant and rave and was allowed loose in the neighborhood every two years (especially during presidential elections) to foam at the mouth about “teh gehys” or dead pre-babies or “war on Christmas” or what have you.
The Tea Party is a curious admixture of both camps. There’s a strain of “I got mine Jack, now you get yours” that economic royalists have attuned to like a 50,000 watt radio station next door, but there’s also a deep strain of social conservatism that infests the movement, too.
It’s basically the rank-and-file saying “Help us, finally, dammit!” to the powers that be that dictate policy that helps the wealthy without assisting the middle class and poor from losing ground.
Sadly, they still see the “free” market as the solution to the problem, when as I’ve pointed out consistently, the government is better poised to help them.
Worse for the GOP, there’s really no way to placate all forms of the movement:
In a sense, identifying with the Tea Party movement was like catching Beatlemania in the 1960s. People were drawn in for different reasons ”” the beat, the haircuts, the lyrics ”” and great gulfs of taste divided the John fans from the Paul fans, the George fans from the Ringo fans.
Smashing success broke the Beatles apart. As 2010 closes, there is no bigger question in U.S. politics than whether the Tea Party will go the same way. The pressures on this already divided movement will be enormous. As long as the far-flung elements of the Tea Party were shoulder to shoulder against Obama, it was easy to keep them together. But now, the party that argued so effectively for smaller government is headed to Washington, where so many other waves have broken and receded. Having remade Congress and with a GOP presidential nomination up for grabs, the Tea Party is about to learn that rallying against its enemies is easier than choosing among its allies.
Effectively, the Tea Party is a movement without a leader and many people vying for that leadership. But it may be too late: success happened so quickly for the chaotic movement that even early adopters like Dick Armey have had trouble herding the kittens.