4 Reasons the Tea Party Movement Happened and Will Never Happen Again

How the GOP’s rebranding became even less popular than the GOP

If you’re ever feeling masochistic, take a look into the comments of a post on Breitbart.com. You’ll see gems like this one from “Patriot”:

We have quit. Mitt won hands down & we did nothing. Whats left to do? Become a terrorest against our own country?

( “terrorest” must be the superlative form of “terrorist.”)

Fueled by instances of actual black people actually voting in Maine and Mitt receiving zero votes in urban precincts in Cleveland and Philadelphia, Breitbots are questioning the validity of the election. This is despite the fact that in 2012 President Obama won with a higher share of the popular vote of any candidate since 1988—except himself in 2008.

They just can’t accept the reality that Barack Obama’s re-election was much more resounding than George W. Bush’s.

Maybe people on the left can understand this.

In 2004, when the exit polls didn’t match the results of the voting machines in Ohio and long lines sent many voters home without casting a ballot, it was difficult to accept the results of a much, much closer election. But generally we did. (Though the lingering suspicion about the results fuels much of this ‘Anonymous Stopped Karl Rove From Stealing The Election” stuff we see this year.)

Regardless, we didn’t turn our dismay into a war on voting rights that resulted in some Floridians waiting nine hours in line to vote.

But what’s even more delusional than the comment from “Patriot” is the headline of the story it’s commenting on: “NORQUIST: NEW, LARGER ‘TEA PARTY SECOND WAVE’ COMING”.

Grover Norquist is a figurehead for the billionaires who are committed to the belief that taxes on the rich should never, ever, never pay the tax rates they did back before we had booming deficits. He’s used the same way the Tea Party was used in 2010 to make a plutocratic agenda seem populist. And just like the Tea Party, he’s delivered huge multiples on the investment of his patrons.

But what made the Tea Party work so well up until 2010 was the mix of four explosive factors that no one who isn’t a Breitbart.com commenter would ever expect to happen again:

1. The economy
We were losing 700,000-800,000 a month until the Stimulus kicked in. The shock of that kind of job loss and the huge pool of frustrated human capital would require another eight years of George W. Bush in the White House.

2. The shock
Compound the devastating economic news with the shock of the first African-American president and you had kindling for an overreaction from the national born with the “birth defect” of slavery. Of course, that you had a maniac on national television saying that the president’s health care plan was “reparations” did not help.

3. The Fox Effect
Fox News decided in 2009 through earlier 2010 to go beyond simply spouting propaganda for the GOP—it actually did most of its organizing. Protests were ginned up and advertised on the channel. Fox personalities engaged in fundraising for the group. This continued until Rupert Murdoch had to directly answer for it in the press. The channel has since revamped its positioning a bit and proved that actually has more credibility than Karl Rove when they refused to cede to his demands not to call Ohio on election night.

4. Focus On Economic Issues
With a populist attack on debt just as government spending was needed to save the economy, the Tea Party effectively limited the president’s options with an alternative philosophy that made visceral sense. Pretty quickly voters figured out that this was all a smokescreen for tax cuts and a fundamentalist Christian view of social issues–in other words, Republicans.

On election night, we found out that Mitt Romney, Wall Street and everyone who watches Fox News all had the one thing in common: they’d been fooled into thinking Mitt Romney had a chance of becoming president.

Now will they be fooled into thinking the Tea Party can save them again—even though the group’s favorable rating is 32 percent compared the GOP’s 38 percent?

The real question is: Are the people who fund the GOP as delusional as the poor middle class dreamers they convince to fight for a billionaire’s agenda?

Or is this just more of that happy talk Republicans spew when they can’t admit they’re losing.

[Image by Chris Savage]

  • TrickleDrown

    I honestly think that what we are seeing is voluntary blindness. There are people that have had the good fortune to hang on to a decent job, pay their bills and maintain some semblance of normalcy during the Great Recession.

    All around them (at least in my town in Milford, MI), they see the disintegration of roads, the closing of schools, less services and requests for additional millages due to the reduction of federal funding.

    Unfortunately, they BEGAN watching Fox News when it wasn’t so sinister (OK I used to, way back in the late 90’s) and it has just become habit for them. What felt like a refreshing change at the time has become Jonestown Kool-aid, and they can’t pull their psyche into a more normal place.

    Doing so would be to acknowledge how fragile their existence is; doing so would demand actual empathy for their neighbors; doing so would mean admitting that they COULD afford a little more to make good on the promise that is the organizing principle of our communities, however large or small: The common good.

    Dan Crowley
    @TrickleDrown

  • kirke123

    as a well known senator recently stated about the tea party, ” they didnt come to washington to compromise, they came to shut down the government.
    it is very sad that america has become so divided in so many ways, that we lost the american way of life. until we get rid of these hot heads on radio and tv it will remain that way and fox news is the biggest instigator of them all.
    i am lucky to live in a very small town with small town kindness and small town values, where people smile and offer a helping hand and keep politics and religion to themselves.

  • Carolyn 4444

    Though I’m not a republican, I wonder why the more moderate members of that party are so reluctant to band together and with some active aggression take hold to create a new GOP? I’m sure they could reclaim support from some former moderate republicans like Luger and Snow, for example, that would add some credibility. Perhaps the problem is that the Repubs as a party have moved so totally far right, which in turn, almost forced the Democrats to move much more to the Middle, that the Repubs’ only choices are to move back toward the Middle and become more Democrat-like, which makes no sense, or go off the deep-end as Republicans and almost cease to exist as a viable political party in this country. I think that the Tea Party’s been absorbed and co-opted by the wealthy who bankrolled Romney. I tend to believe that they are pretty much the mouthpiece of the “Tea-folk” at this point. They keep some loonies on the fringe who are more anti-everything and get the focus of the press. Still, I ask myself, why would Big Money, hence Big Business, spend so much in an endeavor that would lead to weakening the Republican Party? What would they get out of that?

  • http://twitter.com/Norbrookc Norbrook

    I think we’re seeing the “denial” stage of the stages of grief, fueled with a hefty dose of racism. They were told throughout this election cycle that they were winning, and all the pundits they listened to assured them the polls were in their favor. Even the other media outlets painted this as an “extremely close race.” So losing, and not even losing closely, is a major shock to them, and they don’t want to believe it.

    They also can’t accept that they’re no longer a member of the overwhelming majority when it comes to race. The comfortable certainty that “real Americans” are like them, and seeing it in their politicians. The election of a black President, with a name that isn’t “American” as they see it sent them right off the edge. It’s instructive to look at the attendees for the political rallies for Romney and the ones for Obama. Romney’s were what they think America is, while Obama’s were what are what America actually is. One is the past, the other is the present … and the future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MISFD Richard T. Desvernine Jr.

    The precincts in Philadelphia are strictly monitored by both Democrats and Republicans. If there had been even the slightest hint of fraud it would have been reported. Since there was absolutely was no fraud –allusions to fraud are rumor and gossip. Innuendo and suspicion are the stock-in-trade of GOteaP. Once again they have nothing.

  • http://twitter.com/BlueTrooth Rich Baska

    Breitbart.com, Limbaugh and Talkers, Fox…they all deal in propaganda and “sell” their war on reason quite well. Listeners and viewers are literally addicted to the “button-pushing”. They’re addicted to feeling anxious, excited, angry and most of all, empowered. The readers and listeners cannot accept the election results because they aren’t allowed to recognize the “real world”. They’ve been trained to only read, listen or view the approved network of businesses that sell their brand of propaganda. The sad truth is that most of the “Patriots” out there are being victimized and preyed upon in the pursuit of profit through ad revenues and donations.

  • Scott Urbanowski

    I think the “Tea Party” will find another way to try to come back into relevance; however, as the Obama Recovery continues, they’re going to have to focus on social issues. We shall see…

  • Learned_Hand_01

    This post doesn’t make sense. You carry out the first part well: “Why the Tea party happened” but only one of your four reasons support “and will never happen again.”

    1) The economy. Yes, the economy was bad and that stirred up populist anger. This will happen again. You don’t imagine that we have escaped the business cycle do you? We surely haven’t done much to rein in the type of Goldman Sachs shenanigans at the heart of the housing and derivitives bubbles. Wall Street and the banks will go crazy again and cause a bust. The business cycle will go up and down. We will have another economic disaster eventually.

    2) The shock. While some of the reaction to Obama was race based, much of it was general conservative rage at a Democratic leader. The reaction to Obama was not that much worse than the reaction to Clinton. This will happen every time a Democrat is elected and will happen roughly in proportion to how liberal he seems to be.

    3) The Fox effect. Are you kidding me? Megyn Kelly is able to momentarily distinguish between partisan alternate reality and actual reality and you spin that into an idea that Fox Republican cheer leading and organizing is going to stop? Roger “Willy Horton” Ailes is not going to back off partisan activities. There is nothing to indicate that the influence of partisan media, especially on the right, is declining.

    4)You have basically two questions. A) “Will conservatives believe going harder right is the answer again?” Of course they will. Don’t you listen to what they say every time they lose? They say “if only we had been more true to our conservative values we would have won.” There is no reason to think this will change.

    B) “Are the conservative billionaires as delusional as the saps who they convince to vote their way?:” Yes, Yes, a thousand times yes. Do you think Sheldon Adelson has had a come to Jesus moment? (if he has, his rabbi is going to pretty upset with him). These guys all live inside the partisan echo chamber. They really believe the spin that they listen to and deliver on a daily basis. Just because a guy is good at business or inheriting money does not mean he is good at politics. It’s going to take more than a couple of losses to convince them to save their money. This is especially true since they often make tremendous returns on their investment in politics in the way of tax breaks or other business favors. They have no reason to quit and no reason to have changed their minds.

    You have shown pretty well why the tea party happened, but a better title is “Why the Tea party happened and why we are doomed to experience it again and again.”

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