How The Tea Party Blew Up The GOP
Maybe now is a good time to take a step back and see this whole Wisconsin thing for what it is. On this evidence, what happened tonight might just be the final blow for one of the two dominant political parties.
No. Not the Democrats. The Republicans.
Full explanation, post-jump.
Everybody talks about how the Democrats are so good at shooting themselves in the foot. And they are good at that. They’ve practiced at it. A lot. Anybody who has supported the Dems in the past decade has to be punch-drunk from all the times they have been alienated. (Latest example: the closure of Gitmo — the clearest chance to be on the right side — has gone by the boards.)
But the GOP is plenty good at it, too. Consider their embrace of people who are politely called immigration activists. The Latino community could be on-side with Republicans on a bunch of things (notably, the social-policy stuff). But Republicans, writ large, have spoiled any chance of winning over what will be the largest single identifiable constituency within the next 30 years (through actions like spiking the DREAM Act).
And the GOP’s pursuit of laws with respect to ladybits, and those with a chronic case of the gay — particularly at the expense of time and energy that could have been used on the Budget — locks in a certain gender gap. Throw in the Republicans’ apparent desire to go after Medicare and Social Security, and you have old folks voting Democratic again and again. And the fight to save the republic from NPR and PBS (including dirty commies like Click and Clack, Garrison Keillor, Jim Lehrer, and Oscar the Grouch) just looks petty.
So, what swing group is left? Reagan Democrats — who were (and are) simple, hard-working folks who feel like the Democrats have led them astray, and who buy-in to the free market, low tax ideology that the Gipper sold. More than anything, I think, these people are attracted by the sense of fair-play that the GOP trades in. And fair-play certainly was not present tonight.
Supposing for the moment that some of these folks switch off Fox News every now and again, and supposing that the mainstream media actually covers what happened tonight fairly — a long shot, to be sure, but stay with it — you would have to think that this has to go down hard with them. To paraphrase the great political philosopher, Walter Sobchak, “this is not ‘Nam. There are rules.” Anybody who saw Walker talk about compromise in the morning, and saw the Republicans ram the bill through tonight, has to know that the GOP will stop at nothing to get their way. And what happened tonight will not, in the end, help average people one bit. The instant spin may tell them different, but the proof will be in the pudding.
And what is the common thread running through the GOP’s attack on anybody who could — oh, I don’t know, help them win elections? The Tea Party. Everything the Republican Party does nowadays is all about placating them. The GOP, seeking to do anything to get the mojo working again after Barack Obama handed them their lunch in 2008, latched on to the teabaggers. And it was fun for a while, and they won a bunch of elections that earned them the right to take control, and Michelle Bachmann and Paul Ryan and scores of other telegenic superstars of the vibrant right-wing all got famous and powerful and stuff.
But, what happened next? Scott Walker is Exhibit A. The mass uprising against his actions is Exhibit B. Exhibit C may very well be an off-off-off year election that deposes, democratically, the Wisconsin legislature.
If the Republicans are smart, they’d cut off Scott Walker at the knees and move to the center. But they’re not that smart, and they’re in too deep with the Tea Party now. Run away from them and the Tea Party may bolt (thus splitting the GOP in two, right then and there). So they will hold them close, if not closer still, and the die will be cast.
If the Democrats manage to take advantage now — long odds on that, true — then the GOP could be knocked deep into oblivion. It may be that the GOP and the Tea Party take the White House in 2012. If that happens, then what happened in Wisconsin will be a day at the fair by comparison. And the American people will not like the result, if I have my guess.
And, thus: dirty hippie liberals owe the Tea Party a huge debt. Without the Tea Party, the stakes could not be plainer. And the most unlikely thing might just happen: people could start paying attention. When that does happen, if it ever does, then the GOP will truly become what they have risked becoming: a weak, miserable force, confined largely to the South, that has no hopes of ever retaking power on a national level for the foreseeable future.
That’s the view from here tonight. Tomorrow, we — as usual — will be back to forecasting the Democrats’ risk of eternal doom… which is smack-dab in the middle of a well-beaten path.