Sampling Some Tea
Those of you who stop by regularly know that I have spent a fair bit of time here contemplating the politics of the tea party movement. In particular, I have been trying to get a better sense of how the movement fits into (or challenges) the dynamics of our two-party system. If I can figure that out, then I should be able to determine how the movement is most likely to affect the midterm elections, especially in terms of grassroots organization, candidate recruitment, and the internal dynamics of the party primaries.
As I have progressed in this exercise, I have increasingly come to believe that the key is a better understanding of the relationship between the tea party movement and the powerful social conservative base of the Republican Party. So, I listened with great interest to New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange this morning, as two national journalists (from The Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post), who have spent a great deal of time covering tea party politics, provided their own respective takes on the movement. They described a fluid movement that is actually driven much more by the dictates of economic libertarianism than social conservatism.
As one of the journalists also noted this morning, the tea party movement is not really suited for third party status. So, while I don’t disagree with the notion that the movement is imbued with libertarian ideas, I continue to believe that the mechanics of the two-party system are such that the tea partiers’ most likely pathway for exerting influence on the political process is through the right wing of the Republican Party, which is by and large socially conservative. In addition to a shared rejection of President Obama, these GOP’ers are the only ones within the party who also exhibit the same level of open displeasure with Republican institutional leaders. My sense is that the current political environment has fostered a natural (rebellious) affinity between the tea party movement and social conservatives, one which is reflected in much of the polling we have seen recently.
Note:  I won't be posting tomorrow.  Back on Thursday. -Dean

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