Are Baggers Here to Stay?

Democracy: The Journal of Ideas has a symposium on whether the old Republican/business establishment can take their party back from the Tea Party. Or, perhaps, the movement will lose steam after 2016 and we’ll more than likely have a white president again.

I haven’t read all of the articles, but at least two of them think the baggers probably will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Theda Skocpol writes,

Here is the key point: Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority—indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center—the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincers operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates. Tea Party influence does not depend on general popularity at all. Even as most Americans have figured out that they do not like the Tea Party or its methods, Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals. Most legislators and candidates are Nervous Nellies, so all Tea Party activists, sympathizers, and funders have had to do is recurrently demonstrate their ability to knock off seemingly unchallengeable Republicans (ranging from Charlie Crist in Florida to Bob Bennett of Utah to Indiana’s Richard Lugar). That grabs legislators’ attention and results in either enthusiastic support for, or acquiescence to, obstructive tactics. The entire pincers operation is further enabled by various right-wing tracking organizations that keep close count of where each legislator stands on “key votes”—including even votes on amendments and the tiniest details of parliamentary procedure, the kind of votes that legislative leaders used to orchestrate in the dark.

Dave Weigel argues that the Tea Party doesn’t have to win elections, especially presidential elections, to keep the GOP hogtied.

But does the Tea Party’s clout depend on winning the nomination? Can’t it run the party just as well by commandeering its agenda and platform? The Tea Party is better at co-opting RINOs (“Republicans in Name Only”) and demanding their fealty to a certain agenda. Romney and McCain both made moves to the right to shore up conservatives. Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate was the most visible example (this was before Ryan’s advocacy for immigration reform morphed him into a RINO). But more telling was Romney’s endorsement of the 2011 “cut, cap, balance” pledge.

During the height of that year’s debt limit crisis, Tea Party and conservative groups from FreedomWorks to the Club for Growth coalesced around a plan: Any deal to raise the debt limit—pure political poison—would need to cut that year’s spending by $110 billion, cap future spending at a decreasing percentage of GDP, and force through a Balanced Budget Amendment that would require supermajority votes for any future tax increases. Romney endorsed this. Other Republicans nodded at whatever Tea Party fiscal demands were necessary to stave off primary challenges.

That’s how the conservative base runs the party. If it gets a candidate through the primaries in 2016, it would be a greater triumph. If another candidate co-opts the movement, they’ll grumble but take it. Whatever happens, their agenda can triumph in the nomination process as candidates lurch to the right. If that agenda doesn’t win the general election, its authors will know whom to blame. Somebody else.

On the other hand, Christopher Parker thinks that once there’s a white President again, even if that President is Hillary Clinton, the Tea Party will lose steam. It won’t go away entirely, but some will take their tri-corner hats and go home. See also Sean Wilentz on why the baggers are anti-Jacksonians.

Meanwhile, some elements on the Right are still flogging Third Way and the alleged war between Clinton and Warren supporters among the Dems. David Freedlander writes at Daily Beast,

For the past five years, Democrats have delighted as a civil war has raged over the soul of the Republican Party, with the establishment pummeled by a group of small-government Tea Party absolutists. …

…The first salvo in the Democratic war may have been a December 2 Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal by two leaders of the centrist think tank Third Way, Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, who urged Democrats not to follow the examples of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, both of whom ran as anti-Wall Street economic populists. Cowan and Kessler called that strategy “disastrous for Democrats” beyond liberal bastions and a “fantasy-based blue-state populism.”

In Pennsylvania, John Hanger, a Democratic candidate for governor and former secretary of state’s Department of Environmental Protection, promptly called on Rep. Allyson Schwartz, the presumed frontrunner in the race, to resign as honorary co-chairwoman of Third Way. The move brought Hanger, who was previously best known for being the only candidate to support the legalization of marijuana, some much-needed attention. But Democratic strategists and activists across the country say the debate is playing out locally in ways great and small in races up and down the ballot where candidates are deciding which side of the line they are on.

If you read the rest of the article — and I don’t blame you if you don’t — Freedlander’s examples are mostly about more progressive Dem candidates beating “centrist” ones, and somebody saying this is a generational divide — the young folks who don’t remember the George McGovern wipeout are keen to move the party Left, while the older folks are more cautious.

The last claim, about a generational divide, is bullshit, IMO. It’s also bullshit that there’s a divide in the Dems that is somehow equivalent to the bagger-establishment divide in the GOP. Michael Lux writes,

However this isn’t really mainly a battle between progressives and “centrists” for the soul of the Democratic party, although there is certainly an element of that, and it is certainly understandable for reporters to talk about it in those traditional political battle terms. But what this is more fundamentally about is a battle between the biggest special interest corporations in the world, who tend to have overwhelming sway over everything in Washington, and those of us who want to confront and rein in their power.

That’s closer to it. Among those ordinary citizens who self-identify as Democrats, I see no support for Third Way’s fiscal austerity faux centrism. Third Way’s support appears to come mostly from K Street and corporations, and even from some Republicans. They don’t speak for anyone but themselves and their funders.

Update: See Thom Hartmann, Corporate Democrats freak out over Elizabeth Warren threat

9 thoughts on “Are Baggers Here to Stay?

  1. You mean, “The Turd Way,” don’t you?

    The people who comprise The Turd Way, lean heavily Republican on all but social issues.

    Turd Wayer’s are Whoreporatists who want to enrich the already rich individuals and corporations, at the expense of the middle class, the poor, the sick, the young, and the old.

    And they’re psychopaths and sociopaths too.
    With people’s IRA’s still not recovered – those that kept them, and didn’t cash out – and with pensions becoming like another story grandpa and grandma tell about old times, to want to cut Social Security is to throw even more seniors into even deeper poverty – and it’s not like with home prices still down, those that live in them are living the life of ‘O’Reilly.’

    Somewhere, somehow, over the last 50 years, too many Americans developed a cruel streak.
    I blame Conservatism. AND, the cowardly, compliant, and complicit,MSM, which refuses to tell the truth to people.
    But, when almost all of the MSM is owned by many of the same people and corporations comprising The Turd Way, what could we expect?

  2. I won’t answer the question in the title…because I would have sworn that Sarah Palin would have been long relegated to the dustbin of history after her vice presidential defeat. Little did I know how much mileage she was capable of getting. I guess I didn’t factor in Fox.

    • “I would have sworn that Sarah Palin would have been long relegated to the dustbin of history after her vice presidential defeat. Little did I know how much mileage she was capable of getting. I guess I didn’t factor in Fox.”

      If we had a true “free marketplace of ideas” Palin would have faded into obscurity some time back. A whole lot of bad ideas and stupid people are being sponsored (at a loss, I hope) by a few people with lot of money.

  3. The strategy, as I see it, is nothing short of brilliant. The Tea Party, the corporate funded side, which defined the ideology, launched and promoted the ‘movement’ wanted to shrink the federal government (and federal regulations and an apparatus to enforce) and limit taxes. The Tea Party was an early home to racist elements and crackpots in denial of Obama’s election. They also catered to violent elements who fantasize about a revolution which eliminates liberals in America. (There’s always the shadow of the guillotine in how they will make pure the American ideals, or theirs anyway. The other half of the Tea Party is the ‘grassroots’ element, happy in their echo chamber convinced they are ‘The Tea Party’ as they parrot the ‘ideals’ written by their corporate puppet masters.

    The absolute inflexibility of the House, under the influence of the Tea Party Caucus, has fallen out of favor with Independent voters and a lot of Republicans. Enter the ‘Third Way’, who promote a ‘moderate’ way out of the gridlock – an answer lot of moderate voters long for and a narrative the MSM loves. But look who’s funding. The same cats who launched the Tea Party. And what are the ‘ideals’ of the Third Way? Limited Government and Low Taxes. You have to give it to the puppet masters. Decaffeinated Tea Party. They are good. It helps to have unlimited funds, your own network, and the ability to conscript the mainstream media to read your talking points without question. But the strategy is brilliant if they can sell it.

  4. Doug,
    I agree with everything you wrote, except the following:
    “(There’s always the shadow of the guillotine in how they will make pure the American ideals…”

    Why are they buying all of those guns, if they want to use guillotines”
    They want to fill us Libtards full of holes, with their guns. They want us to dance a little jig, as they empty a clip.

  5. I don’t understand this at all. As I wrote just last month, but seem to write every couple of months anyway:

    The Tea Party Has Always Existed

    As I write there, “Basically, since at least World War II, there has always been about 20% of the population that thinks that the commies are taking control of the nation.” The “Tea Party” is a media creation. In 1960, they were the Birchers. It is all the same. They do indeed hate Obama, but I don’t think they hate him more than they hated Clinton. It is just they get more media now.

    The Tea Party has long been with us and will long be with us. But Weigel is right to an extent: until the Republican Party establishment learns that the only thing special about the Tea Party is that the same people just have a name now, they will be hogtied.

    PS: what a totally awesome auto-preview. Very cool!

    • Frankly — well, yes, the baggers are just the most recent version of what Richard Hofstadter and others were calling “pseudo conservatives” back in the 1950s and 1960s. A lot of us have recognized this for quite a while, even though we don’t repeat it every ten minutes. But the difference is that, then, they were a political fringe group with marginal impact on actual government policy. Now they are able to dictate terms in Congress, by extortion if not by reason.

  6. @Maha – I get that. But that’s the point. The media give the Tea Party lots of attention. But they don’t actually have more power than they ever did. Most of the time a Tea Party member goes up against an establishment conservative, the latter wins. But I think the establishment types relish the opportunity to swing far to the right. During his last election, Orrin Hatch can’t possibly have thought he wouldn’t get the nomination. But he pressed to the right nonetheless. I believe that we are three elections from the GOP being so bloodied by this push to the right that they will change or die out.

    PS: Often when I come to this site, Chrome warns me that the site is not safe. I’m not sure what’s up with that. Could just be a problem on my side. But you might check with your hosting company.

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