Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, Tea Parties, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:16 am

Should the tea party movement be seen as a phenomenon as large and consequential as another Great Awakening?

Glenn Reynolds thinks so:

I attended this past weekend’s National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and I came away feeling that I had seen something important. The Tea Party movement is part of something bigger: America’s Third Great Awakening.

America’s prior Great Awakenings, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, were religious in nature. Unimpressed with self-serving, ossified, and often corrupt religious institutions, Americans responded with a bottom-up reassertion of faith, and independence.

This time, it’s different. It’s not America’s churches and seminaries that are in trouble: It’s America’s politicians and parties. They’ve grown corrupt, venal, and out-of-touch with the values, and the people, that they’re supposed to represent. So the people, once again, are reasserting themselves.

Mr. Reynolds is incorrect. The Great Awakenings were very much about politics - so much so that the First Great Awakening is seen as the first stirrings of what historian Page Smith refers to as an “American consciousness.” For the first time in colonial America, a clear distinction was widely sensed between the highly stratified society in England and America’s more egalitarian, less class oriented social structure. It had a profound impact on most of the Founders who saw “moral behavior” as the true value in evaluating an individual’s worth, not his class.

The importance of this political awakening cannot be underestimated. Before we could sever our ties to Mother England, the colonists had to make the leap of logic that we were a separate people deserving of our own country. The Great Awakening was not only about renewal and reform of religion and its institutions, but also the notion that the unmistakable hand of God was at work in forging a new people, a new “race,” unsullied by the infection of aristocracy and class-based social conventions.

Admittedly, Mr. Reynolds used the term “Great Awakening”more as a metaphor than a straight comparative concept to describe the tea party movement’s importance in America.

But even as a metaphor, it doesn’t hold water. The tea party movement may be more popular than the Republican party with voters (more than both parties by independents) according to this Rasmussen poll but it is hard to see how this nebulous, self-described “bottom up” political movement can translate those good feelings into the kind of massive political power that it would take to upset the establishment in either party.

This is especially true since, despite protestations to the contrary, at least some of the tea party organizational structure is being absorbed into the Republican party - as it was always intended by establishment politicians who fed the nascent movement over the last year with cash and organizational resources. The tea party embrace of Scott Brown’s candidacy in Massachusetts revealed to what lengths some in the movement had been co-opted.

Brown’s “fiscal conservatism” runs a mile wide and an inch deep, as he will shortly prove as he takes his seat in the senate. As an alternative to the clueless Coakley, he was fine. But to imbue the senator with qualities that he has never demonstrated in his political career was either the product of wishful thinking or deliberate self-delusion. Brown is plenty conservative enough - for Massachusetts. But it is at least possible that if the Democrats re-work health care reform, he might vote in favor of it. And if the Democrats jigger cap and trade, he could vote for that too. He may even be persuaded to vote for a modified card check bill.

Brown, of course, played to the sunny side of conservatives during the course of his campaign, giving tea partiers what they wanted to hear while downplaying some of his more problematic positions on the issues. That’s politics, children. This is a politician who no more wants to “shrink” the overall size of government than any other inside the beltway, establishment legislator. A rebel, he is not. An independent conservative, he is. And what he means by “independent” is that he rejects conservative litmus tests that would pigeonhole him as the kind of revanchist politician favored by many in the tea party movement.

If Brown has been elevated to hero status despite his true colors being decidedly less conservative/libertarian than some of his supporters give him credit, what about the impact the tea party movement might have on Republican politics?


And the biggest action item that she presented the crowd with wasn’t to support Sarah Palin, as most politicians would have asked, but to challenge incumbents in primary races. Primary battles aren’t “civil war,” she said. They’re the kind of competition that produces strength in the end.

This seemed to resonate with what I heard from conference attendees. Over and over again, I heard from Tea Party Activists that they were planning to take over their local Republican (and, sometimes Democratic) party apparatus starting at the precinct level and shake things up.

The sense was that party politics have been run for the benefit of the party insiders and hangers-on, not for the benefit of constituents and ideals. And most of the conference, in fact, was addressed to doing something about that, not to worship of Sarah Palin, with sessions on organizing, media skills, and the like.

First of all, I doubt whether “most politicians” would have addressed the convention asking if they could be their leader - at least none with any brains. Most tea partiers have made it clear time and time again that they wish no “leader,” but rather want to remain a nebulously organized entity with ill defined goals. Most politicians would know that and, like Palin, steer clear of overtly trying to hijack the movement for their own ends.

And primary battles aren’t “civil wars” unless that is the perception advanced by the media. ‘Nuff said there. I love the civil war going on in Florida right now with a real up and coming conservative Marco Rubio taking it to the too comfortable Bush/Republican establishment. Sometimes, civil wars are good in that they clear away the deadwood and infuse new ideas, new personalities into a party.

But Florida is an open seat race and hence, a perfect battleground for this sort of thing. Not so in some other races where a GOP incumbent would be challenged by a tea party conservative. Certainly there are allowances to be made when a conservative goes against a moderate in primaries, although just as an example, I don’t think that J.D. Hayworth is the best choice to face off against John McCain.

My point is that it is lunacy to support every insurgent against every perceived RINO across the board. Like Scott Brown, some of those moderates are the best you’re going to get from the GOP in that state. Unless you think like Jim DeMint - that it would be better to “have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs…” then you have reconciled yourself not only to minority status, but also the passage of Obama’s far left agenda. The fact that Scott Brown does indeed have a set of beliefs - except they are at odds with DeMint’s narrow, parochial view of conservatism - won’t stop a lot of tea partiers from pushing for candidates who are simply too far to the right to win a statewide contest.

Yeah - but you’ll sure show them moderate RINO’s somfin, huh?

How prevalent is this attitude among the vast tea party universe? Hopefully, there are practical heads who will recognize that picking and choosing one’s fights is better than trying to nuke the party establishment because they fail some rigid, ideological benchmarks artificially imposed from outside a district or state. Questions like “How limited should government be?” will be answered differently by different conservatives across the country. Penalizing those who fail to live up to some conservatives’ ideas of a 19th century American template for “limited government” will only bring failure to the movement’s efforts.

This “Awakening” that Mr. Reynolds writes about may come about eventually. If it does, it will be the result of hard, slogging work performed by activists who eschew any kind of leadership model and rely on enthusiasm and fervent belief in their cause. It’s been done before. Look at the Democrats prior to 1968 and then view the party after McGovern’s debacle in 1972. The rioters in 1968 ended up sitting on the convention floor in 1972. And they didn’t get there because they were invited by the old-line, southern dominated Democratic party establishment.

We need more good conservatives in both parties. But is the tea party movement the right vehicle to realize that goal?


  1. Here’s a reminder of who your Tea Partiers are:


    Comment by TomD — 2/8/2010 @ 11:33 am

  2. What the GOP needs is candidates who can keep their talking points short and to the point, able to fit on one hand.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 2/8/2010 @ 12:00 pm

  3. Depending on whose numbers you believe there were between 600 and 1100 people at the Nashville convention.

    I had 200 attend a speech I gave on technology and the future of publishing.

    So this Great Awakening — backed by incessant media promotion, Palin’s book promo, and endless hype — outdrew me by, let’s say, 5 to 1. And I’m not even a MILF let alone a future President of Christian White America and Grand Poobah of an entire Great Awakening.

    The clock is ticking toward the moment when Rick Moran finally embraces Palin after discovering that she has grown and matured. I think we should take bets on exactly when. I’ll say within 3 months.

    Barely mentioned Palin. And as long as you’re in the business of reading minds and predicting the future, who’s going to win the Superbowl next year? I want to get my bet down early.


    Comment by michael reynolds — 2/8/2010 @ 1:25 pm

  4. This says it all about the MA election:
    As an alternative to the clueless Coakley, he was fine.
    Brown was a better choice because of the kind of candidate Coakley was, and the fact that he got out and campaigned. I saw Brown ads alot while surfing the net before the election, I cannot remember seeing anything of Coakley or its the face she was drowned out.

    Funny how all politics are local, except when people decide they want a race to mean something in the wider scheme of things. Massachusetts is a funny state and sometimes the results don’t add up to the result some people expect, this was a race that regardless of how Coakley and others tried to make it about the National Agenda came down to good old fashioned campaigning. Brown did it, Coakley (when she did) came across as the detached, prosecutor that she is. ’nuff said

    Comment by Boy 0 — 2/8/2010 @ 2:19 pm

  5. The Tea Party Movement that I know has had a number of positive accomplishments so far, including the education of a wide swath of our citizens on the Constitution, deviations from it in being today, government plans to increase their freedom to legislate as they see fit (largely bypassing the Constitution), who they are that want to take us in that direction, and what we ought to do about it.

    It has given great heart to many citizens that see our government as hopeless, unresponsive, far too complex, and in the hands of people with wrong ideas. The very act of attending a TP and rubbing shoulders with other citizens that feel even approximately the same way is an affirmation for many that will last. (Of course, the devil is in the details.)

    This alone makes the TPM a useful effort. It remains to be seen how the movement can be segued into a more effective and focused political role, either as a significant part of the Republican Party, or something else entirely. Real political power is not esily acquired nor given up.

    Comment by mannning — 2/8/2010 @ 4:53 pm

  6. Rick:

    You think the tea party and Palin are separate phenomena? That’s funny. You and the rest of the clueless mainstream GOP don’t get it.

    This is not about small government or conservative principles or any of the rest of that. This is a white, rural, uneducated backlash fueled by demographic, economic and cultural panic.

    If you think you and your burned out political party are going to profit from this movement you’re a fool. You try to belatedly throw your arms around this they will drag you down to their level and you will learn the same bitter lesson that moderates inevitably learn when they imagine themselves taming radicals.

    Why the drama queen routine? Not enough excitement in your life?

    I suggest watching golf. That will bring you back to earth.


    Comment by michael reynolds — 2/8/2010 @ 5:17 pm

  7. I’m generally more confused than enlightened. So what is the future foreign policy going to be like. As I have stated before, I see more similarities with the second Bush term and the present administration. Thank God the neocons are gone. So does Palin want them back? If so, who then is going to pay for our ever expanding military. So what do the Tea Partyiers want? Interesting analysis:

    BTW, my day job currently rules me hence slacky attendance

    Comment by funny man — 2/8/2010 @ 6:10 pm

  8. Rick:

    You’re trapped.

    You started by attacking the teabaggers.

    Then you flip-flopped and embraced them.

    And they embraced Palin.

    Which leaves you where exactly?

    Where I always will be; calling em as I see em. My opinion of Sarah Palin has not changed on iota. She is still unfit for high office although you may see me from time to time praising her considerable political skills - just as I did with Obama.

    I think the tea party will be co-opted by the GOP. All of these independent “movements” are eventually absorbed by one party or the other. And these people especially who have no clear agenda and eschew any kind of leadership will gravitate to the Republicans in 2010. Or become discouraged and quit.

    How that identifies me as “embracing” the tea party movement I don’t know except as it relates to your rather hysterically over active imagination.


    Comment by michael reynolds — 2/8/2010 @ 6:19 pm

  9. Perhaps all the teabaggers really need is a phonetic spelling of the word “nuclear” on Sarah-cuda’s other palm.

    Comment by Dee — 2/8/2010 @ 9:36 pm

  10. Rick:

    I’m suggesting that a movement that is home to birthers, deathers, Christianists, dog whistle racists and bomb Iran ignoramuses, and is headed by Sarah Palin who took over as Bagger-in-Chief from Ron Paul, will end up taking over the GOP.

    You’re suggesting that on the contrary, said movement will be absorbed into the GOP.

    I’m not sure which of those two propositions is more insulting to the GOP. And I’m really at a loss to understand why an intelligent atheist like you would want to be associated with that party.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 2/8/2010 @ 10:08 pm

  11. I’m not sure which of those two propositions is more insulting to the GOP. And I’m really at a loss to understand why an intelligent atheist like you would want to be associated with that party.

    Two words: Southern Strategy.

    The Democratic party was well rid of the dregs the GOP collected courtesy of Richard Nixon’s outreach to the racists who fled civil rights and integration.

    Republicans made a deal with the devil that has bitten them in the ass.. finally.

    Now it’s time to welcome the birthers and anti-science wackos because they need the votes. Someone has to replace the Latinos they’ve insulted and the young who flee the fag bashing endemic to the GOP.

    The establishment will sand off the roughest edges, they will send the racists who can’t learn to use code words packing, Witch Doctor placards and watermelon jokes will be discouraged and all will be well, at least in 2010. When a white guy is running the country again in 2016, the emergency will be over and the GOP will have new worker bees. All this has happened before and will happen again.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 2/9/2010 @ 1:55 am

  12. Palin is like a hurricane - you never know where she’s going to land next, and she leaves a path of destruction. Unfortunately, I believe she’s going to end up doing more harm to the GOP than to Obama and the democrats - at a time when we have a real chance to make some gains. She scares the hell out of independents. Heck, she scares the hell out of me.

    It seems to me that cooler heads in the GOP wish to marginalize her, but of course they can’t. In the end, she has a real shot to become the nominee, and even if she doesn’t make it that far, or chooses not to run, the eventual nominee is going to find if very difficult to get any attention at all.

    The GOP needs to get real about Palin - and real fast.

    Comment by Pam — 2/9/2010 @ 9:53 am

  13. I see Mr. Sideways Munchkin and Mr. Bottom Feeder are spewing the typical race baiting and identity politics the jackass party is famous for. That garbage will hasten their downfall. Sooner the better.

    Comment by CZ — 2/9/2010 @ 12:45 pm

  14. What’s amazing i how Republicans have convinced themselves they are the party of racial reconciliation and gender equity, instead of the opponents of everything from Title IX to the Americans with Disabilities Act and equal pay for women.

    We didn’t coin the term Feminazi, Rush did. And American Renaissance, Jared Taylor, Sam Francis, Peter Brimelow, segregationists like Strom Thurmond, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and defenders of the Confederate flag are all on your side.

    By the way, how’s that project to elect a single black person to national office as a Republican coming?

    There must be one black guy out of 250,000,000 people who can pull it off somewhere in this country. Meanwhile, we’ll just coast by on our Commander-in-Chief and leader of the free world for now.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 2/9/2010 @ 1:18 pm

  15. Steele acknowledges that at times he has a tendency to take things too far. “And I get checked on that, just as when I was a young boy and I pushed the envelope too far and my Mama was there to check me.”

    But there’s an edge to his voice when he talks about a double standard that he believes has been applied by his critics, and he posits racism as the cause: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

    I’m sorry, I thought the Republicans had this color blind stuff all worked out.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 2/9/2010 @ 2:05 pm

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