Third party movement, Republican pest or Democratic gift? The first time I heard about their convention it was through an ad on a conservative blog. Christian Science Monitor writes about the possibilities:
.. But with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ranking a generic “Tea Party” as more popular than either Democrats or Republicans, and Palin herself rivaling the charming Mr. Obama in poll popularity, many experts see the Tea Party event as a potential milestone for a mounting, even transformational, force in US politics.
“[W]ith two wars, a continuing terror threat, huge federal deficits, and a major healthcare overhaul in the works, there is no shortage of disaffection out there … and that could prove to be political dynamite,” writes the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz. Against that backdrop, writes Mr. Kurtz, “The tea types can either blossom into a Perotista-style third-party movement or be subsumed to some degree by the GOP.”
Indeed, the Nashville event is not about chartering a new political party to represent conservative ideals like low taxes and states’ rights, but more about unifying to take on “Obama, Pelosi and Reid this year,” writes Judson Phillips, head of Tea Party Nation, one of many Tea Party groups and the lead sponsor of a convention that will feature conservative firebrands such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota. …
The current state of politics is not only national. Take a look at Florida’s Senate race, which has Crist in real trouble against Tea Party sanctioned Mark Rubio. A big write up in the New York Time‘s magazine section this Sunday marks a moment that takes the Tea Party from fringe group to mainstream dreamland. Rubio now in the spotlight, with Crist, who once embraced Obama, the guy on the outs.
Protesters have been mocking Crist at Tea Party rallies across the state. His opponents play (and replay) video of “The Hug,” a killer clip from last February in which the governor, while introducing President Obama in Fort Myers, happened to engage in a quickie man-embrace with the new commander-in-chief on the podium… When I mentioned “The Hug” to Crist, it was as close as I came to seeing him annoyed. “Obviously some people focus on it,” Crist said as we rode in the back of his S.U.V. after a Veterans Day event in Pembroke Pines.
It took less than a year for a hug from Pres. Obama to become the Lieberman equivalent kiss of political death on the right.
Not long ago, Jim DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina, summed up the purity side this way: “I would rather 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.” And when I asked Rubio recently which current senator he most admires, he said DeMint.
Mr. DeMint might want to consider what they can actually get done with “30 Republicans in the Senate.”
As for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, Jon Meacham’s Newsweek covers (see here), from the old one pictured here with the caption “She’s One of the Folks (And that’s the problem),” continue the drumbeat that implies Palin isn’t to be taken seriously. Well, guess what, it’s not up to Mr. Meacham to decide, but he could funnel us all into a rut. As I’ve been writing about since the 2008 presidential election ended, the more traditional and new media targets Palin dismissively, unfairly, using Beltway elitism, misogyny or double standard as the angle, the less likely we are to get an honest airing of just what she has learned since she was put on McCain’s veep ticket, and how she would govern, with people rallying around her personality, which is never good for politics. Because like it or not Palin is going to get another chance. When I ask people around the Virginia area about Palin not being a serious contender their response is similar: She was a governor, so she can’t be stupid; with the next phrase about Obama being, well, let’s just say even this far out it’s doubtful he’ll take Virginia in 2012. Still, Palin has yet to undo her Tina Fey persona that stuck with many. She simply cannot win nationally using the Jim DeMint theory of “30.” On the other hand, no one should ignore the emotional connection she has with her supporters, which is a deadly effective component, depth of qualifications still in question or not. The Democratic Party already releasing at least one preemptive oppo memo.
A lot of people across the political spectrum have been talking about a third political party, some for many years. I just don’t think the Tea Party is what they had in mind. However, unlike the nebulous “independents,” which have no ideological through line, structure or driving dream, the Tea Party does. It’s just not very inclusive.
But this newly formed political party has found their darling this year. And for the first time in history a new political wing is not being represented by a man. The right would call that progress. The left will have to decide if it’s a gift or nightmare.