Myths and Realities About the Tea Party

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In his triumphant return to the Washington Post, Dave Weigel debunks five myths about the tea party:

  1. The tea party isn’t a reaction to President Obama, it’s a reaction to the bank bailouts.
  2. The tea party is racist.
  3. Sarah Palin is the leader of the tea party.
  4. The tea party is bad for Republicans.
  5. The tea party will transform American politics.

I think Dave is 90% correct. These are all myths, with the partial exception of #4. In the short term, he’s right: “The tea party movement is giving Republicans a dream of an electorate, one in which surveys find more GOP-inclined voters enthusiastic about casting ballots than voters who lean Democratic. Democrats have done some damage to the tea party brand — its favorability has fallen in polls — but in general, the presence of a new political force that is not called Republican and is not tied to George W. Bush has given the GOP a glorious opportunity to remake its image, at a time when trust in the party is very low.”

True. But in the longer term I think the tea party movement is more dangerous to Republicans than he lets on. There’s a limit to how crazy a party can get and still win elections even occasionally, and the tea partiers are very rapidly taking the GOP to that point and beyond. It’s probably a net benefit in 2010 — though even that’s debatable — but beyond that I suspect it’s almost pure millstone.

I’ll have more on this in the next issue of the magazine. If I understand our production timetable properly, that shouldn’t be too far off. But don’t hold me to it. I might not have as good a handle on MoJo’s print schedule as I think.

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