The Tea Party’s epitaph has been written. A confident Republican establishment is now prepared to possibly take the Senate in 2014 and then lose it again in 2016 to another wave of historical change.
In its defense the establishment, a motley collection of men paid by special interest groups whose future involves lucrative lobbying and even more lucrative consulting for the midterm election of 2018 where they will run on opposition to HillaryCare, can point to all the stupid and flaky Tea Party candidates who lost winnable elections. And they have a point.
We wouldn’t have to put up with Harry Reid or Chris Coons. Though we would still have Barack Obama in ’08 and ’12 because the establishment ran two men with no ability to appeal to people worried about losing their jobs and homes against a man who could do the “Feel your pain” dance.
The left didn’t start with Obama. It was willing to run a roster of bad candidates with silly beliefs for higher office. And it watched as those candidates crashed and burned outside their urban safe havens. But the left didn’t stop. It didn’t sit back and accept that the Democratic Party’s mainstream candidates would be the best it could get. Instead it doubled down and kept on doing it until it paid off.
It didn’t matter if they became national jokes. It didn’t matter if for a while the left seemed as likely to take higher office as Superman. The left thinks long term.
It built a coalition of its base groups and got them to agree to a single agenda. It got the unions and the NAACP to back illegal immigration and gay rights. It got the environmentalists to back illegal immigration. It got the unions to back the environment. There are tensions, but everyone falls into line even though the single agenda cuts the throats of their own working class voters.
Meanwhile the GOP has no idea who its base groups are and would like them to go away.
The GOP celebrating a victory over the Tea Party is like NBC celebrating a victory over its own highest rated shows.
Finally the experts who gave us the Romney Presidency and the De Facto Amnesty talking point will, hopefully, drag the Senate out of Harry Reid’s dead claws long after Obama and the Democratic Party discredited themselves with their own voters and even the media.
And they won’t have to credit the Tea Party for it.
The Tea Party’s role in politics has been flawed, but then how could it have been otherwise. Politics is a professional sport and in the age of television and Twitter, it’s most easily played by people who have been polished by media experts and consultants, who know how to recite talking points and nothing else. And the people most likely to take over have their own agendas.
The left was willing to accept multiple defeats in the short term to build a machine and a momentum that would take it through the system. And it succeeded.
Of course the left had advantages that the right does not have. No matter how much of a mess the left made, the Democratic Party would hang on to racially gerrymandered districts and it would be buffered against any major national changes by a judiciary, academia and bureaucracy that was largely in its pocket.
Reagan might win the White House, but business would continue as usual in Washington D.C. and the entertainment industry would push social change its way. Obama is a disaster for traditional Americans, but Reagan was only a setback for the left. It could afford to organize around opposition to him because it knew that his ability to undo everything they had set into motion was very limited.
The right doesn’t have those buffers. It couldn’t afford eight years of Obama even after eight years of Bush. And it’s easy to look around and see why. And yet it also can’t afford the GOP establishment.
What’s left is a choice between high stakes gambles on the future or dragging out the inevitable with the establishment. The Tea Party was a series of high stakes gambles, many of which did not pay off, but the road to Obamerica began with a series of high stakes gambles for the left.
And there are few short cuts.
The Republican Party once again brings nothing to the table. It’s no longer playing against old gentle enemies like the Kennedy clan or the Chicago Machine. It’s now up against an ascendant left backed by billionaires and the entertainment-media complex.
And ’08 and ’12 shows us how well it performs in that arena.
The GOP’s soulless teleprompter machines are no match the soulless teleprompter machines of the left. The ones on the left are occasionally capable of mimicking human emotions and make much better TMZ fodder.
And the left also brings ideology to the table while the GOP brings a shopworn Americanism that is vague on definition and big on grandiose rhetoric. Unfortunately the left has already hijacked that rhetoric and used its vague grandiosity to sell everything from illegal immigration to gay rights.
Tomorrow Obama can give a speech surrounded by American flags and quote from Madison and Lincoln to explain why he has decided to sell America to Saudi Arabia. It will be an obscene perversion and hypocritical nonsense, but then it will only be a matter of time until the GOP opposition summons forth a candidate who gives the same speech but with more flags.
He will say that you can only trust the GOP to get the best deal when selling America to Saudi Arabia.
The GOP doesn’t actually believe in anything. It’s been through too many changes over the years. It’s become a big tent for fiscal and social conservatives, as long as they don’t actually try to set policy, for foreign policy hawks, as long as they don’t push for anything Democrats are opposed to, and for an assortment of constituencies that add color and identity, but don’t actually get their way.
Republicanism has become a bland colorless conservatism that stands for some sort of competence and a vague commitment to smaller government and a stronger national defense which exists in theory, not in practice. It’s for morals, until they become too unfashionable. It’s for apple pie, as long as it’s not too fattening. It’s for proving that the left is unfair to call it a crazy bunch of extremists.
In placid times, that can work. Ideology is tiresome and no one likes being yelled at. It’s why the left does so poorly in most elections. But in troubled times, people want something to believe in. They don’t want the hollow assurances of hollow men that everything is fine when it clearly isn’t.
That’s when the Republican Party actually has to stand for something and explain why it stands for it.
Neither party actually does that except in the vaguest of ways, but the public rightly senses that there is a system of coherent beliefs behind Obama. Many of them would run screaming for the exits if they had those beliefs spelled out for them, but they’re not details people. They respond to passion and certainty. They like knowing that a candidate is animated by something more than careerism.
The public rightly sensed that there was no such system behind McCain or Romney. Both men believe things, but they’re big on being pragmatists. Their beliefs adapt to the situation. They have their own moral centers, but it’s not ideological. Their passions are personal, not political.
The Tea Party changed that. It had clear and compelling beliefs. It stood for something. And now the GOP stands alone and stands for nothing.
The Tea Party isn’t dead, but the results didn’t show up quickly enough and there were too many setbacks. And no one likes defeat.
Whenever I’m asked how to beat the left in Field X or Z, I answer that it will take a long march through the system, one way or another. It’s either that or cut the field out of your life entirely.
That’s true of public education and the entertainment industry. You either beat them at their own game by thinking long term or you cut them out of your lives. Politics isn’t like that. Boycotting it isn’t an option. Not in the long term. The game is absolute power and that absolutely includes power over you.
The left is collectivist and the right is individualistic. Individualism is the strength of the right, but it also means that the left can create a machine that feeds tens of thousands of its best and brightest into public education until it dominates the system and indoctrinates who passes through it. It can plan this out and carry it out for generations.
Meanwhile many on the right bail out when they don’t see results after four years.
The left functions like an army. The right functions like a guerrilla movement. Guerrillas can outlast an army by resisting occupation, but not when the army is fanatical and singleminded, and not if it manages to control the territory.
If the right is to have a future, it has to start thinking long term. It has to learn to understand the territory and it has to stop assuming that showing up is most of the job or that one decisive battle will change everything. It’s not and it won’t.
The American Revolution was a fight between one of the world’s leading powers and bands of ragged farmers. The farmers lost badly, over and over again. They learned slowly that you don’t win wars on passion. You don’t win them in one battle. You do it by staying in the fight.
The left in America began as a political insurgency. Now it runs everything. It can be beaten, but doing that will require learning a lot of painful lessons and picking up the necessary skills. There will be less passion and more technique. There will be more organization and less waste.
This won’t end tomorrow or in 2016. Wars last a long time. They are passed on to children. They become a generational struggle. It’s a daunting prospect for individuals as all wars are. But the alternative to the voluntary sacrifices necessary to win a war are the involuntary sacrifices that come from losing it.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century. He blogs at Sultan Knish.