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The Upcoming Tea Party Disillusionment

October 19th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Chris Weigant has a very interesting piece up at the Huffington Post entitled Tea Partiers Should Prepare for Disappointment in which he points out that once these Tea Party-backed candidates take office, they’ll have no choice but to disappoint their base in some way.

Serious-minded Republican Party stalwarts are going to be in an awfully tough position, because they are going to be absolutely terrified of the Tea Party movement. They’ve seen how easy it is for sitting Republican politicians (or up-and-coming traditional Republican candidates, for that matter) to be trounced in the primaries by fire-breathing Tea Partiers. Which means they’re going to live in fear of the same thing happening to them, if they don’t go along with the Tea Party agenda. Even though the numbers of Tea Party candidates who win office are likely to be small when compared to the Republican Party as a whole, they are going to be the ones setting the course for the party for the next few years.

Unlike the dynamic between the grassroots left and the establishment Democratic Party, the grassroots right is far more likely to have a real impact on the establishment Republican Party, pushing their agenda to the right in the way that the left has failed to push their party’s agenda significantly to the left.

So why is this bound to disappoint the Tea Partiers?

If the Tea Partiers had a different agenda, this might not be such a big problem, but at the core of the Tea Party is a giant contradiction that is going to have to be faced once the excitement of the election is over and done with. Stripped of all the "take our country back" rhetoric and patriotic garb, the Tea Party’s basic two tenets are mutually exclusive. The Tea Partiers say they stand for (1) lower taxes, and (2) cutting the deficit. But they’re going to have to realize (about the time that their first budget proposal comes back from the Congressional Budget Office with some numbers attached to it) that you simply can’t do both right now.

No matter what, republicans simply won’t be able to make good on their vows to both lower taxes and cut the deficit. If they lower taxes, the government gets less revenue which means the deficit goes up. The only way to compensate is to cut massive amounts of spending, but unless you take it from our biggest expenditure—defense, which most right-wingers would never accept—you’ll have to start looking to slash things that right-wingers would never actually want to give up in practice. Things like Social Security and Medicare can’t be touched without massive public resistance, so it’s likely these things won’t be touched. And it’s hard to imagine anyone successfully making the argument that we should cut things like food safety inspectors or air traffic control. Everyone hates Big Government but when confronted with the things government actually does, most people don’t want them to stop.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when massive disillusionment sweeps through the Tea Party in the same way that disillusionment has taken hold among progressives. They’ll have to learn the lesson that no matter what rhetoric the politicians may offer about taking on the machine, once they get into office they almost always become a part of that machine.

It’s a shame they won’t hear us out long enough to recognize where we have common ground—how we are all interested in making the government work for the people rather than Big Money interests. They refuse to recognize how Big Money interests have already taken over their movement and twisted it to serve their own purposes. Hopefully once those candidates reveal themselves to be just as interested in selling out as everyone else, enough Tea Partiers will wake up and realize they’ve been duped.

But as long as they keep watching Fox News and listening to people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, they never will. They’ll be convinced that no one ever said anything about reducing the deficit, and they’ll be made to forget that they ever thought the national debt was a problem. Impeaching Obama will be the only thing on their minds.

And when they fail to accomplish even that, hopefully enough of them will throw up their hands in defeat and declare the Tea Party officially over.

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