Will The Tea Party Movement Fragment?

January 31, 2010

Along with several other issues, in an Examiner item, Glenn Reynolds points to some recent comments from Joe Scarborough on the Tea Party movement. The actual dynamics of both the original Boston Tea Party and this new movement are terribly misinterpreted by the element of today's American society that fancies itself the mainstream.

Last week, Joe Scarborough wrote that the Tea Party movement might "tear itself apart." His evidence of this: Some squabbling over a Tea Party convention in Nashville, Tenn. Well, squabbling is normal in movement politics, particularly when people think they're being shortchanged on money and credit. But what's really striking about the Tea Party movement isn't that there's squabbling — it's how little squabbling, overall, there has been.

Scarborough's column, remember, was occasioned by the Brown victory in Massachusetts. A few Tea Party purists didn't want to support Brown, seeing him as insufficiently pure. But the vast majority made the entirely pragmatic determination that Brown, whatever his flaws, was vastly better than his Democratic opponent Martha Coakley, and just the guy to stop Obamacare in its tracks if elected.

For starters, the movement can't fragment, because it is already fragmented. That's a strength, not a weakness. What it most represents is the majority of the American electorate, not some fringe insurgency. That was as true in Boston as it is today.

As blogger Freeman Hunt wrote recently:"You want a big tent? It's fiscal conservatism. The people are overwhelmingly in favor of it.You offer that, you follow through on it, and you get the Republicans, the moderates, and a sizable chunk of disaffected Democrats."

What today's movement most represents is the impact of technology and new media on the political process. Back in the early days of the so-called post-Reagan Revolution, in 1993, Rush Limbaugh penned a book called The Way Things Ought To Be. It pointed out many of the same frustrations the majority of Americans, who still are center-Right by today's standards, (in reality the center) – felt back then and feel even more strongly today. The problem was, there were few opportunities for them to speak out, let alone organize.

Mostly they were relegated to listening to this, or that, bit of Right-side media – and most didn't even do that. Today things have changed. The American people do have a very good sense of the way things ought to be. Now, thanks to the Internet and improved means of communications that empower activism, they are able to do more than simply listen.

A combination of influences appear to be giving rise to an age in American politics in which the American people can finally be heard – and heard without the filter of the mainstream media. It's that voice that ultimately may be giving orders as we approach the elections of 2010 and 2012 - and perhaps for some years to follow.

But whether the political class likes it or not, this sort of thing is probably here to stay. While 2009 was the year of denigrating and ignoring the tea parties, I suspect that in 2010, they'll be listened to quite closely. Those who fail to do so, are likely to find themselves out of a job.

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  1. Jack Liberty says:

    Dan, do you think that the Tea Party Party could cause some damage to the Republican Party, and thus, weaken the small-government movement as a whole (because lets face it, the GOP is still the defacto (neo)conservative movement in Washington).

  2. Christopher says:

    The Way Things Ought to Be was published in 1993 – pretty post-Reagan if you ask me because by then, an entire post-Reagan presidency had already passed. Why call the mid-nineties “the middle of the Reagan Revolution?” Thankfully you left in the qualifier of “so-called” or do you implying that the revolution only came after Reagan was out of office?

  3. Dan Riehl says:

    You’r right, Chrsitopher – my bad. Doesn’t change anything, though. I’ll update.

  4. Neo says:

    Politicians have been astroturfing since before there was astroturf.
    Hence, they just can’t recognize a “grass roots” movement.
    Frankly, though the movement is built on a strong topic, it’s only one topic.
    Parties just don’t deal with one topic, so eventually it would fragment if it tried to move beyond it’s central focus. Perot had the same problem.

  5. sisu says:

    The Brown Revolution: Term limits by other means?

    Click here to join the “Draft Kudlow Committee.” “‘Draft Kudlow’ Movement Picking Up Steam” headlines News Max in an Insider Report that just came in over the transom:A rising voice is calling for CNBC talk host and supply-side economist Larry…

  6. bishop says:

    Well I always go to Scarborough, when I search for relevance, the sane man at MSNBC, They dismissed the teaparty at the outset, now they want to splinter it

  7. astonerii says:

    Nice post Dan.

  8. Mr Evilwrench says:

    It’s not based on a topic, but a philosophy, which reaches into all topics. It’s the philosophy that the government is too big, trying to do too much, and making us pay for it. That gives us plenty to do for a long time to come.

  9. Gary Maxwell says:

    I dont expect the Democrats to do any more “listening” than they already have. Obama doubled down, and his rise in the polls in solely due to his improved standing among Democrats. They seem currently as preprogrammed as lemmings, and are headed towards the exact same cliff.
    Sadly, I am betting that after November provides a very serious can of whoop ass, that Democrats go back to their not so distant strategy of hiding from the voters what they truly believe. Its more likely to get them elected if they lie, so being unopposed to lieing as a political strategy, that is exactly what they will do. The lesson learned but briefly forgot from the McGovern and Dukakis debacles, will have another reinforcing episode. This one is likely to be biblical proportion, similar to the 49 State routs.

  10. I wish people would stop downplaying the CONSTITUTIONALIST nature of the Tea Party movement.
    It happens to be our strongest asset – even more so than fiscal conservatism.

  11. Greyneck says:

    Most folks love to listen to the sound of their own voice, even if the same thing has been said innumerable times in clearer, more concise and more explicit terms that communicates the essence of the problems created by the current administration, the Democrat and Republican Parties, and MSM and liberal bloggers with the aid of conservative bloggers(see SP facebook entries). If you do not agree with a group’s formation of any formal structure for the tea party Dan, get off of your duff and form your own convention and quit tearing down other individuals efforts attempts to organize a diverse and geographically broad movement. Or better yet hire yourself out as a consultant or form your own more perfect convention to teach them how to do it in your image.

  12. smitty says:

    How can the Tea Party fragment, when it never had any formal structure?

  13. NH says:

    How stupid.. One small group that most state groups have nothing to do with is not going to ‘fragment’ itself just because the press has created a situation that doesn’t exist.
    Much ado about nothing. Tea party is going strong!

  14. M. Simon says:

    I wish people would stop downplaying the CONSTITUTIONALIST nature of the Tea Party movement.
    Look at the Tea Party sign at the bottom of this post:
    It reinforces your point.

  15. serfer62 says:

    Its an association of common interests, like a church social…some play golf, some hunt, some rent but they all have a common thread for their association.

  16. Gary Ogletree says:

    Politicians and opportunists will come and go. We who are the tea party will soldier on until the nation is brought back to sanity. The same sleeping giant feared by Yamamoto strikes fear in the hearts of the progressive crime family.
    Don’t be fooled by phony tempests in the teapots.

  17. Jimbo says:

    Politicians and opportunists will come and go. We who are the tea party will soldier on until the nation is brought back to sanity. The same sleeping giant feared by Yamamoto strikes fear in the hearts of the progressive crime family.
    Don’t be fooled by phony tempests in the teapots.
    Jeebus H Christ on a cracker. “We who are the tea party will soldier on”? You fools wouldn’t get near a shooting war if it landed on your doorstep. Look around at your bowel movement. What do you see? Large, white, angry, retirees who have very little to do, very little information, and very little interest in solving problems in this country. That is what you see. Your darling are the quitter Palin, Joe the not plumber, Gingrich, etc…A larger bunch of political losers have never been gathered in one place – and you still can’t put together a good platform. The tea bagger movement is as lame as the tea baggers themselves. You fools make the USA look like a backwoods bunch of cowards. You speak for about 11% of thinking people. Pathetic.

  18. SDN says:

    Remind me what the vote percentage was in Massachusettes Jimbo. More than 11%.

  19. Terri says:

    Hey Jimbo, check out your anointed one bowing to the Mayor of Tampa Fl.
    Your POTUS makes the USA look like a freaking idiot.
    Nice huh?

  20. Gary Ogletree says:

    Jimbo who is not Jimbo: The real Jimbo has a radio show for truckers. Must be tough being an ignorant troll too scared to use his own name.

  21. “You fools wouldn’t get near a shooting war if it landed on your doorstep”
    Mighty brave, coming from a puzzy hiding behind his daddy’s skirt.
    Don’t suppose you’d have the _cojones_ to come say that to someone’s face, would you, chicken$h1t?

  22. “You fools wouldn’t get near a shooting war if it landed on your doorstep.”
    Thus bleateth the coward from behind his daddy’s skirt.