Will The Tea Party Movement Fragment?
Along with several other issues, in an Examiner item, Glenn Reynolds points to some recent comments from Joe Scarborough on the Tea Party movement. The actual dynamics of both the original Boston Tea Party and this new movement are terribly misinterpreted by the element of today's American society that fancies itself the mainstream.
Last week, Joe Scarborough wrote that the Tea Party movement might "tear itself apart." His evidence of this: Some squabbling over a Tea Party convention in Nashville, Tenn. Well, squabbling is normal in movement politics, particularly when people think they're being shortchanged on money and credit. But what's really striking about the Tea Party movement isn't that there's squabbling — it's how little squabbling, overall, there has been.
Scarborough's column, remember, was occasioned by the Brown victory in Massachusetts. A few Tea Party purists didn't want to support Brown, seeing him as insufficiently pure. But the vast majority made the entirely pragmatic determination that Brown, whatever his flaws, was vastly better than his Democratic opponent Martha Coakley, and just the guy to stop Obamacare in its tracks if elected.
For starters, the movement can't fragment, because it is already fragmented. That's a strength, not a weakness. What it most represents is the majority of the American electorate, not some fringe insurgency. That was as true in Boston as it is today.
As blogger Freeman Hunt wrote recently:"You want a big tent? It's fiscal conservatism. The people are overwhelmingly in favor of it.You offer that, you follow through on it, and you get the Republicans, the moderates, and a sizable chunk of disaffected Democrats."
What today's movement most represents is the impact of technology and new media on the political process. Back in the early days of the so-called post-Reagan Revolution, in 1993, Rush Limbaugh penned a book called The Way Things Ought To Be. It pointed out many of the same frustrations the majority of Americans, who still are center-Right by today's standards, (in reality the center) – felt back then and feel even more strongly today. The problem was, there were few opportunities for them to speak out, let alone organize.
Mostly they were relegated to listening to this, or that, bit of Right-side media – and most didn't even do that. Today things have changed. The American people do have a very good sense of the way things ought to be. Now, thanks to the Internet and improved means of communications that empower activism, they are able to do more than simply listen.
A combination of influences appear to be giving rise to an age in American politics in which the American people can finally be heard – and heard without the filter of the mainstream media. It's that voice that ultimately may be giving orders as we approach the elections of 2010 and 2012 - and perhaps for some years to follow.
But whether the political class likes it or not, this sort of thing is probably here to stay. While 2009 was the year of denigrating and ignoring the tea parties, I suspect that in 2010, they'll be listened to quite closely. Those who fail to do so, are likely to find themselves out of a job.