When facing a tsunami, what do you do? Pray, and tell yourself stories. I am not
privy to the Democrats’ private prayers, but I do hear the stories they’re
telling themselves. The new meme is that there’s a civil war raging in the
Republican Party. The tea party will wreck it from within and prove to be the
I don’t blame anyone for seeking a deus ex machina
when about to be swept out to sea. But this salvation du jour is flimsier than
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In fact, the big political story of the year is the contrary: that
a spontaneous and quite anarchic movement with no recognized leadership or
discernible organization has been merged with such relative ease into the
The tea party could have become Perot ‘92, an
antigovernment movement that spurned the Republicans, went third-party and cost
George H.W. Bush reelection, ending 12 years of Republican rule. Had the tea
party gone that route, it would have drained the Republican Party of its most
mobilized supporters and deprived Republicans of the sweeping victory that
awaits them on November 2.
Instead, it planted its flag within the party
and, with its remarkable energy, created the enthusiasm gap.
are measurable. This one is a chasm. This year’s turnout for the Democratic
primaries (as a percentage of eligible voters) was the lowest ever
Republican turnout was the highest since 1970.
Christine O’Donnell’s nomination in Delaware may cost the Republicans an
otherwise safe seat (and possibly control of the Senate) and Sharron Angle in
Nevada is running only neck-and-neck with an unpopular Harry Reid. On balance,
however, the tea party contribution is a large net plus, with its support for
such strong candidates as Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania,
Joe Miller of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah. Even Rand Paul, he of the shaky start in
Kentucky, sports an eight-point lead.
Nonetheless, some Democrats have
convinced themselves that they have found the issue with which to salvage 2010.
“President Obama’s political advisers,” reports The New York Times, “are
considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the
Republican Party as all but taken over by tea party extremists.”
irony. Fear-over-hope rides again, this time with Democrats in the saddle
warning darkly about “the Republican tea party” (Joe Biden). Message: Vote
Democratic and save the nation from a Visigoth mob with a barely concealed tinge
First, this is so at variance with reality that it’s hard to
believe even liberals believe it. The largest tea party event yet was the recent
Glenn Beck rally on the Mall.
The hordes descending turned out to be
several hundred thousand cheerful folks in what, by all accounts, had the feel
of a church picnic. And they left the place nearly spotless – the first
revolution in recorded history that collected its own trash.
general public is fairly evenly split in its views of the tea party. It
experiences none of the horror that liberals do – and think others
Moreover, the electorate supports by 2-to-1 the tea party
signature issues of smaller government and lower taxes.
Third, you would
hardly vote against the Republican in your state just because there might be a
(perceived) too-conservative Republican running somewhere else. How would, say,
Paul running in Kentucky deter someone from voting for Mark Kirk in Illinois?
Or, to flip the parties, will anyone in Nevada refuse to vote for Harry Reid
because Chris Coons, a once self-described “bearded Marxist,” is running as a
Democrat in Delaware? Fourth, what sane Democrat wants to nationalize an
election at a time of 9.6 percent unemployment and such disappointment with
Obama that just this week several of his own dreamy 2008 supporters turned on
him at a cozy town hall? Their only hope is to run local campaigns on local
issues. That’s how John Murtha’s former district director hung on to his boss’
seat in a special election in Pennsylvania.
Newt Gingrich had to work
hard – getting Republican candidates to sign the Contract with America – to
nationalize the election that swept Republicans to victory in 1994. A Democratic
anti-tea party campaign would do that for the Republicans – nationalize the
election, gratis – in 2010.
As a very recent former president – now
preferred (Public Policy Polling, Sept. 1) in bellwether Ohio over the current
one by 50 percent to 42 percent – once said: Bring ‘em on.