Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Tea Party Blues

A couple of posts ago, I ranted and raved (which I have a tendency to do) about how the Tea Party was fringe and non-relevant. Boy was I wrong (as happens from time to time, or all the time!). As I write this post, Christine O'Donnell has defeated Mike Castle in Delaware for the Republican Senate nomination. For those that don't know, I lived in Delaware for four years and Mike Castle is as much of a favorite son as you can be. What's even more shocking is that O'Donnell had the "perennial candidate" syndrome where she was always on the ballot for something but never seemed to get any traction.

To get back onto a little more of a philosophical note, I think 2010 has been the season of tea for several different reasons. For starters, the most involved and dedicated voters (especially in the primaries) are arguably the "hard-core" partisans and ideologues. For Republicans this means ultra-conservative partisans dominate the process, and for Democrats it's progressive and liberals. What has been different in this season is that Democrats have been more lenient to their moderate members while Republicans have brought the hammer down on them with force. For examples, I use Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a moderate Democrat who survived a left-wing primary challenger and Mike Castle/Lisa Murkowski, two arguably moderate Republicans who were shocked by tea party upstarts.

To summarize the conversation so far, one could argue that the Republican tent is getting smaller while the Democrat tent is for most purposes staying the same. Republicans are demanding ideological purity while it is common knowledge that most Americans are moderates/independents. Does this help the party? You can argue both sides effectively but you can't argue the fact that it makes Democrats more competitive in many races where they were all but written off. The larger question is what does it mean for the future of the Republican party? Does it move right and assimilate the tea party-ers into its base, or do two separate factions develop that threaten to virtually hand the races to Democrats?

I've been on the record saying that moderate candidates are good for America. This means people like Mike Castle, Scott Brown, Tom Kean, Claire McCaskill, John Warner and Jon Tester. You can argue that I've named all liberal politicians here, but if you check their voting records you will find that they buck their party more than most for the good of their constituents (and to save their hides!). It isn't about being Republican or Democrat, it is about being able to go against your party and vote for your people. You can call that a RINO if you want, but I call it a moderate.