Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So, How's the Tea Party Taking the News?

A few days back, Andrew Sullivan wrote that Mitt Romney losing the election would force the Tea Party and the rest of the conservative base to reconsider its positions and rhetoric:
My own view is that the only way to rehinge an unhinged party is for it to lose badly. And because Romney put Ryan on the ticket, and endorsed the entire Tea Party shebang, it will be hard for the wingnuts to blame defeat on running a moderate.
In response, I  had written that channeling the spirits of the Tea Party faithful is not one of Sullivan's many gifts.
Sullivan is insightful about many things, but he utterly misunderstands the Tea Party and the Republican Party's primary electorate. Should Mitt Romney lose the election, as it seems reasonably likely that he will, the Tea Party movement and the larger set of Republican partisans who populate its primary electorate will, I suspect, draw precisely the opposite lesson from the election.
So, Romney has lost.

How is the Tea party taking the news?

It's still early, but  it looks like I will turn out (sadly) to be right about this one. This morning, the website Tea Party Network News, ran a statement headlined "Tea Party Vows 'No Retreat': Promise to search out candidates with clear conservative records; no more Dole-McCain-Romney nominees." It opens:
Leaders of the Tea Party News Network (TPNN) and offered an unflinching assessment of Election Day results. Todd Cefaratti, editor of the Tea Party News Network said, “We’re disappointed in Governor Romney’s loss. But this goes to the heart of what we have been saying all along. Bob Dole didn’t win. John McCain didn’t win. And now Mitt Romney hasn’t won. The lesson the GOP and Americans need to learn is that weak-kneed Republicans do not get elected. Conservatives do.” 
“The Tea Party has not yet begun to fight. It’s time for a wholesale reassessment of the D.C. establishment politicians and party grandees who have no commitment or courage to reduce the size of government. We now have another four years ahead of us with Barack Obama leading the charge against liberty,” TPNN News Director Scottie Hughes said. “There were some bright spots tonight from Ted Cruz to Jeff Flake, to a decisive win in the U.S. House where Tea Partiers have a mandate to stand against Obama’s big government second-term agenda. ”
“I eagerly await the day the GOP establishment figures out that the ‘safe’ candidates are not getting the job done,” stated Hughes. “The GOP needs to adhere to stricter ideological purity and put forth candidates that represent a significant difference in viewpoint from the Democrats that are creating devastating policies for Americans. The Republican Party has been shoving ‘their’ candidate down the throats of conservatives for years, and it’s not working. It’s time for them to wake up.”
At Tea Party Nation, Judson Phillips writes:
There are some lessons to be learned from this disaster.  The first lesson is, no more moderate Republican candidates.  Mitt Romney now joins the long list of moderate Republicans who line up right next to General George Custer.   Romney lost.  McCain lost, George W. Bush barely won and set the stage for Obama.   Bob Dole lost.  The only reason George H.W. Bush won a single term was because he was Ronald Reagan’s Vice President.  When he ran on his own as a moderate, he gave us Bill Clinton.

We conservatives have to say this time; we will not support a moderate again.  Our desire to remove Barack Obama and the Party of Treason was so strong that we jumped on board the Romney train.  The Republican establishment correctly assumed that if it could get Romney nominated, we would have no choice but to fall in line.

It happened this time.  It will not happen again.
Daniel Horowitz writes on the front page of
We ran with Dole in 1996, and we lost; we ran with McCain in 2008, and we lost; we ran with Romney, and we lost.  Romney took the issue of Obamacare off the table and barely attacked Obama directly for much of anything.  There was no potent conservative philosophy that was offered to provide voters with a sharp distinction between the parties.  The Republican convention was a pathetic Oprah show and the entire campaign was basically an advocacy of Obama’s policies, albeit with less enthusiasm.  And let’s not blame the loss on Paul Ryan and Medicare reform; he outperformed Bush and McCain with seniors.
This line of thinking spills over into the Conservative semi-establishment. Writing at National Review Online, Grover Norquist faults Romney's lack of commitment to tax cuts and entitlement reform:
The Republican House was reelected after not just touching but fondling the “third rail of American politics.” It is clear that if you are specific about your reforms they cannot as easily be misrepresented to voters. The Republicans in the House all voted for Ryan. They lashed themselves to the mast and thrived. Romney hinted he was sort of in that general vicinity.
These examples are a nonrandom sample of the some of the Tea Party's first responses to the election. I don't know how representative they of of the Tea Party as a whole or the larger core of the conservative movement more generally. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if this line of thinking becomes the movement's conventional wisdom and motivates its leaders' strategic decisions between now and 2016.

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