Tea Party Politics: Can their minority coalition stand?

Writing in last Wednesday’s NYT, Thomas Friedman refines his argument that the “fringe festival” Tea Party overlooks the established political procedure of majority rule and sets a dangerous precedent–should President Obama give in to demands. He also suggests that Republicans are the ones who must stand up to the party insurrection–much as the Labour Party in Britain underwent changes after losses to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, leading to Tony Blair.

Business lobbying groups are considering funding Republican challengers to Tea Party candidates to “counter the rise of an ideological brand of conservatism that…is more anti-establishment” portending a punishment to their powerful Congressional coalition.

Independents could benefit from the power vacuum (or not).

What is the Tea Party’s next move? What should Republican leaders do to regain control? Will this be the defining moment?


7 thoughts on “Tea Party Politics: Can their minority coalition stand?”

  1. Paul Krugman made a similar sort of argument in today’s NYT – that the only people who can stop the Tea Party are the less extreme Republicans.

    Krugman and Friedman might be right. At least, I’d imagine that any vote that raises the debt ceiling will get at best a narrow margin of victory in the House. But it seems like a poor negotiating strategy to phrase things that way. I’m sure John Boehner is having a hard enough time trying to convince the Tea Party that he’s serious about their concerns without the New York Times printing op-ed pieces openly encouraging Boehner to sabotage the Tea Party project.

    (For the record, I’m not convinced the Tea Party project is a good idea, but refusing to take them seriously isn’t likely to make them less stubborn.)

  2. I think the star of the Tea Party is quickly burning out. Throughout American history, there have been several political movements of varying influence that have come and eventually gone (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Political_movements_in_the_United_States, etc.). I think the Tea Party is one such group. Admittedly, it holds more political clout than most of these groups have, but nonetheless, the heyday of the Tea Party has come and gone. Especially with the repeated attempts to defund ObamaCare and now the government shutdown, they’re losing popularity and moving themselves to the fringe. In 20 years I think we will look back at this movement and see it for what it is: a somewhat influential, but ultimately short-lived impassioned microtrend. Kowtowing to their demands will only prolong the inevitable.

    1. I agree their demands shouldn’t be kowtowed to. But there’s still a way to argue with a group without making them feel like their back is to the wall and nobody takes them seriously.

      The Tea Party is probably fading in influence, but there are some trends in the movement that I think are good – like a certain wariness of the U.S. exercise of military power abroad, or of domestic surveillance at home – and perhaps those moods can be incorporated in positive ways into future movements.

      1. I certainly agree that there are positive things that can be taken away from the Tea Party movement. However, few, if any of them, are unique. Wariness of the use of military power abroad has been present in American politics for years: George Washington’s farewell address and the War Powers Resolution of 1973 come to mind. While domestic surveillance is perhaps more timely, the idea of a right to privacy from government agents’ involvement in our lives has its roots in the Founding: the 3rd, 4th, and, arguably, 9th Amendment, for example. My point is that when it comes to what could be considered to be the party line of the Tea Party, there seem to be two categories: timeless issues not unique to the Party itself that will likely always be around, and issues unique to the party that have not maintained support among the general public. While I believe that everybody should have a say and no voice should be completely written off, there comes a point where your existence serves no other purpose than to slow down and muck up the process of governance. The Tea Party’s wings have been clipped. It’s time to let them go the way of the Dodo.

  3. This puts the more moderate Republicans in a tricky situation. Many of them come from swing-states where the people they represent are not happy with what the Tea Party has been doing. You can tell as many of them have come out against some of the Tea Party representatives for example going against John Boehner’s claim that if he put the Senate bill on the floor it would fail. But it makes it difficult for them because they do not want their party to be seen as a dysfunctional one. The truth is that the Republican party is already seen that way. And though I don’t necessarily think that it will have a good outcome according to my political beliefs I believe the author of the article is right in that there will eventually have to be some changes to the Republican Party

  4. One interesting thing about the Tea Party is that the movement just further polarizes politics. The most passionate of the Republican base loves the Tea Party, and so the moderate Republicans who go against them will get voted out of office. At the same time, the most outspoken Tea Party members are relatively safe in their elections, because of their passionate base. On the other side, the Democrats hate the Tea Party and it makes negotiating more and more difficult.

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