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Friday 31 December 2010

Comfort Of The Tea Party

I have a confession to make: unlike some observers of politics Stateside, I’m comfortable with the Tea Party movement. That’s because it demonstrates – unlike the assertions of some of its supporters – that fundamental freedoms still underpin the USA: if you want to start, support or work for a political movement, then you are free to do so.

Moreover, citizens of the Republic are also free to voice whatever opinions they hold, protected by the First Amendment. So anyone who believes ACORN stole the 2008 Presidential Election, that Barack Obama is not a natural born US citizen (and/or a practising Christian), or that any factual analysis ever comes out of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) is entitled to their view.

Of course, I don’t hold to any of those views, and that is where the Tea Partiers don’t get it: in a country of 300 million inhabitants, it’s not difficult for those of a conservative persuasion to find other like minded individuals. Thus the blogosphere and Twittersphere are alive with such people, but what they too often forget is that those places are also alive with those of a more liberal slant.

The results from some of the Mid-Terms should have brought this home to the Tea Partiers: had the GOP won the Senate races in Colorado, Nevada and Delaware, this would have given them 50 seats against 48 Democrats and two Independents. Most likely Mitch McConnell would now be Majority leader, and the Republicans would be in control of both Houses of Congress.

But those three races were lost by Tea Party backed candidates – Ken Buck, Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell – who proved unacceptable to the wider electorate. To have them win the Primaries in those states may have given those favouring Ideological Purity a warm feeling, but politics is, as ever, the art of the possible: there are always compromises to be conceded, pragmatic choices to be made.

And that’s another reason why I’m comfortable with the Tea Party movement: the more control they exert over the GOP, the less electable it will be come 2012. If the movement gets to pick the Republican Presidential challenger, it will more than likely choose Sarah Palin, and that will deliver Barack Obama a slam-dunk second term.

In a system where there are just two electable parties, any candidate that repels a significant part of the electorate should not be standing – not if their party is serious about winning. There is little point in being ideologically purer than the next man, if doing so keeps you away from the levers of power.

[UPDATE: this post has also featured on Liberal Conspiracy. My thanks, as ever, to Sunny Hundal]

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