“I began to realize how crooked party politics are. They’re at each other’s throats all the time, unless someone on the outside is threatening their turf. Then they join forces and tear the newcomer to pieces.” – Jesse Ventura, I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed
I’ve scratched my head more than once about how Congress can have an approval rating in the low 20s and yet incumbent re-election prospects are always very good. Shouldn’t approval by under 1/4 of the electorate mean incumbency is exactly the worst place to be if you want to win? Yet, somehow, these guys keep winning.
We know from some sampling data that people generally disapprove of Congress but are more approving of their Congressman. Sort of a “he’s not like the rest of them” argument. Hmmm. Now, there are certainly cases where it’s true (e.g., Ron Paul), but by-and-large they are all the same. Whatever personality, style, or even policy differences they may have, they are all interested in peddling their power for personal favors. They are all interested in giving away the store to their backers, at the expense of taxpayers and the next generation. They are all, to but it bluntly, bums.
In times past, ideology battles were shoehorned into Republican-versus-Democrat contests. The people held their collective noses and voted for the less offensive candidate; or rather, voted against the more offensive candidate. Times they are a-changin’ though.
The past 20 years of presidencies have shown us that picking one political “family” over the other has not worked well. (Weren’t the Georges Bush supposed to be conservatives? How then did we see such dramatic growth of government?) We need a different way.
Back in the 90s we tried to break out with a third party and Ross Perot. Man, did he flame out. I thought the guy had a shot back in 92, but he went and quit the campaign then rejoined – that doesn’t work buddy. His reform party was later squashed by Pat Buchanan and a Republican takeover.
The tables may have turned, and this time, it seems to be going the other way. Now the grass-roots conservatives, the last defenders of freedom and the rule-of-law, against federal takeover of lives and livelihoods, have invaded the Republican party. Tea Party backed candidates have knocked off quite a few establishment candidates, including some incumbents. Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, dispatched a Mitch McConnell endorsed establishment candidate in the Kentucky primary. Marco Rubio so badly beat establishment candidate (and sitting governor) Charlie Crist in Florida, that Crist dropped out before the election and declared himself independent. Joe Miller leveraged a Tea Party and Sarah Palin endorsement into a victory over sitting U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski. The same held for Mike Lee in Utah, knocking off sitting Republican Bob Bennett. Sharon Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado are also Tea Party darlings knocking off establishment candidates. Most recently, Christine O’Donnell dispatched establishment candidate Mike Castle in Delaware.
(Of course, the Tea Party isn’t unbeaten by any stretch. Most notably, John McCain won the nomination to defend his Senate seat … but he had to spend about $20 million in the primary to do it.)
It does not at all surprise me that these things should happen. Conservatives have been fleeing from Republicanism. (Or maybe Republicans have been fleeing from Conservatism.) This ground the Republicans to nothing in 2008, and was bound to bring a backlash once enough conservatives stood up and said “wait a minute, we have enough clout to turn this around.”
What is surprising, or not surprising but telling in its brashness, is the response of the political establishment to all of this. The Republican establishment has been in dismay, indicating that the Tea Party is going to cannibalize the Republicans and let the Democrats maintain power. Even tonight commentators are discussing how O’Donnell has no shot of winning the Delaware Senate seat. Really? For my part, I say “cannibalize away” – the sooner we have a real, freedom-based, conservative political party, the better. If we have to revamp the Republican party to do it, fine.
Democrats are rejoicing a bit themselves, feeling that a house divided cannot stand and hoping that they can pick up some seats while the “right wing” is having a civil war. This rejoicing may be a bit premature. True, the new candidates have had some rough times. While their sway with the grass roots is enough to win primaries, we do not yet know if it is enough to win general elections. What we do know is that energy and vigor on the part of those who wish to dispatch you never works in your favor.
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, has shown us that unashamed articulation of conservative principles can win elections and popular support – in a place like New Jersey! It draws energy from conservatives, who see a chance to rid themselves of the political establishment. It also draws support from unlikely or unconventional places. You’d be surprised at just how many people out there would fall on the political “left” if you asked them about Republicans and Democrats – but in turn support clearly articulated conservative principles and will vote for a candidate like Chris Christie. The Tea Party candidates have no doubt taken note of this.
When Jessee Ventura won the mayorship of Brooklyn Park, MN, the wife of one of the good-old-boys network politicians broke down into tears, exclaiming “Oh, my God, what’s going to happen now?” Here he was, taking power away from the establishment – and the establishment responded as though tragedy had struck the city (and nation) and all was lost (invoking the name of God nonetheless).
What will happen if all of the Tea Party, conservative candidates win election? What will happen if Miller, O’Donnell, Paul, Buck, Angle, Lee, Toomey, and Rubio all win Senate seats? Well, if that happens then there is a reasonable probability the Republicans will have taken control of the Senate. Further, a full 7 of their 50+ votes will be Tea Partiers – enough to swing the party on some major, major issues. It will be a culmination of a grass-roots takedown of the political establishment. This is a dangerous theme indeed.
If the “left” realizes that a grass-roots movement can scuttle the establishment, non-liberal Democrats may also find themselves in trouble in 2012 primaries. I don’t know what their counterpart to the “Tea Party” will be called – nor do I care all that much.
What I do know is that stripping bare the power accrued by the political class and returning it to the people is a good thing. As emperor Caligula said, “let them hate us, as long as they fear us.” It is clear that the political class has held the people in great contempt for some time. Perhaps disruptions to their power grab, presented by Tea Party candidates, will at least allow them to fear the will of the people again.