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Does the Tea Party Mean the End of the Two-Party System?

Friday, November 12, 2010

 


[Updated at 1:22pm]

The 2010 midterms proved that the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with—and it's not just Democrats that need to worry.

In their new book Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System, Doug Schoen and Scott Rasmussen look at how Tea Party supporters, currently helping candidates with an "R" next to their name get elected, may cut their ties to a major party and strike out on their own. With the movement's momentum, they argue such a split could finally give America a popular, viable third party. Doug Schoen isn't quite ready to predict that will happen, but he's not going to dismiss the idea either.

Who can really tell? We live in volatile times with uncertain moods, and one thing I'd say is that the Tea Party movement is not wedded to Republicans. Could they break away? It's certainly possible. Would they be a strong force on their own? I don’t rule anything out.

Backing up the idea, said Scott Rasmussen, are poll numbers.

78 percent of Republican primary voters have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party. At the same time, 72 percent of them say that Republican Congressional leaders are out of touch with the party’s base.

The support is definitely there. But is it for real, and is it sustainable? Some Tea Party candidates who were big surprises during the Republican primaries seriously floundered when they got to the big show. Carl Paladino, Christine O'Donnell, and Sharron Angle didn't really do the movement any favors. However, Doug Schoen pointed out that it was those candidates' personalities, not their platforms, that drew the most negative attention.

To me the problem of [these candidates] is not a problem of a political movement. This is the problem of individual candidates who were nominated in spite of, not because of, whatever their weaknesses may have been…I don't believe that so-called "fringe elements" are all that pervasive or important, but would the Tea Party have been more successful if they had candidates more like Marco Rubio running in Nevada, New York, and Delaware? I'm sure that would have been the case.

While the more colorful, more controversial candidates will always prick the media's ears, Rasmussen and Schoen said that the Tea Party's real efficacy comes from reaching people on the strength of their rhetoric. Said Scott Rasmussen:

The Tea Party is strongest when it taps into concerns shared by a number of Americans, and that includes fiscal policy in a big way. So the more Tea Party members, the more Tea Party activists can find ways to focus on those things that unite them with the majority around the country, the stronger they’ll be. The more they get decided on fringe issues, the less effective they’ll be.

The prospect of a third party in American politics is exciting, but for many voters the Tea Party is not the option they've been craving. What stymies some voters on both sides of the aisle is that the movement seeks to elect candidates who have no experience in government, who may be "unqualified." But that's a rallying cry for the movement as well: one man's trash is another's treasure, and "experience" is a corrupting force in the Tea Party vocabulary. That's a very popular sentiment, as Rasmussen explained, and yet another reason not to rule out that the third party will be the Tea Party.

I think it's easy to suggest these people aren't qualified, but nearly 8 out of 10 Americans trust their own judgment more than any member of Congress on economic issues…There is a question of whether some of these people are qualified or not, but most in the Tea Party—and a large majority of American voters—doubt that many of the existing elected politicians are qualified for the job.

What do you think? Is it time for Democratic-Republican binary to end? What's the future of American party system? Let us know!

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Comments [20]

Dw Dunphy from Red Bank, NJ

I'm surprised that people still think the Tea Party will have this much momentum in two years. If anything, their influence will be mooted to points near non-existence. Look to the Obama Youth Vote, Tea Partiers, and witness your future. Here's why:

The traditional G.O.P. sees the Tea Party as them that brought 'em to the dance, and not much more. By associating under the Republican umbrella, they moved enough heads under the tent to make it count, but are seen as radical and unpredictable, two elements Trad. GOP do not like. So, how do you keep the Democrats down AND alienate the Tea Party from their fans without looking like the bad guy?

The answer, in part, comes from Mitch McConnell. While Dems think the Republicans have to act in order to avoid being do-nothings, a tag that would shake up 2012, McConnell's assertions that Job One is holding Obama to one-termdom means obstruction continues, the economy continues to suffer, deficits continue to grow, business as usual. Election-killing behavior, right?

WRONG. In the Tea Party, the Trad GOP has exactly what they needed: a participating scapegoat. Things couldn't get done? Blame the TP for splitting the vote. The tone of the Legislative Branch has become even more harsh? Blame the TP for being well-funded but inexperienced (and maybe just a little crazy). What's the solution? Vote GOP party line and vote the "fringe element" out.

Sound familiar? It's the same tactic that froze out the Obama Youth Vote, except replace "crazy" with "naive." The Tea Party is the one entity that "still doesn't get it." The machine is broken, no matter how you change up the parts. For every TP loyalist threatening to "throw the new bums out" later on, there will be four more left disillusioned, bewildered their movement produced the exact same results, and likely to avoid reengaging in droves via that disenchantment.

Nov. 12 2010 12:12 PM
Dw Dunphy from Red Bank, NJ

I'm surprised that people still think the Tea Party will have this much momentum in two years. If anything, their influence will be mooted to points near non-existence. Look to the Obama Youth Vote, Tea Partiers, and witness your future. Here's why:

The traditional G.O.P. sees the Tea Party as them that brought 'em to the dance, and not much more. By associating under the Republican umbrella, they moved enough heads under the tent to make it count, but are seen as radical and unpredictable, two elements Trad. GOP do not like. So, how do you keep the Democrats down AND alienate the Tea Party from their fans without looking like the bad guy?

The answer, in part, comes from Mitch McConnell. While Dems think the Republicans have to act in order to avoid being do-nothings, a tag that would shake up 2012, McConnell's assertions that Job One is holding Obama to one-termdom means obstruction continues, the economy continues to suffer, deficits continue to grow, business as usual. Election-killing behavior, right?

WRONG. In the Tea Party, the Trad GOP has exactly what they needed: a participating scapegoat. Things couldn't get done? Blame the TP for splitting the vote. The tone of the Legislative Branch has become even more harsh? Blame the TP for being well-funded but inexperienced (and maybe just a little crazy). What's the solution? Vote GOP party line and vote the "fringe element" out.

Sound familiar? It's the same tactic that froze out the Obama Youth Vote, except replace "crazy" with "naive." The Tea Party is the one entity that "still doesn't get it." The machine is broken, no matter how you change up the parts. For every TP loyalist threatening to "throw the new bums out" later on, there will be four more left disillusioned, bewildered their movement produced the exact same results, and likely to avoid reengaging in droves via that disenchantment.

Nov. 12 2010 12:11 PM
Laura from UWS

Why is WNYC getting so much coverage to the Tea Party? They are supported by big money, by major corporate interests. I expect WNYC to give more coverage to groups that work for the public interest rather than private interests.

Nov. 12 2010 11:54 AM
Ed from Brooklyn

Lets not forget that Hitler was elected, lawfully, into office. Deciding elections on fear (real or imagined) and anger (often displaced from the cause of that anger) can be a very dangerous thing.

If 70% of the American public jumps off a bridge, does that mean it's a smart thing? I certainly won't be joining them.

But that was a wonderful advertisement for the new book. To call that interview softball is an insult to softballs everywhere.

Nov. 12 2010 11:35 AM
Sam from Astoria

These guys are hucksters! Unabashed artists with their painting of the electorate and obvious shills for fox news! I can't take them seriously at all.

Nov. 12 2010 11:33 AM
Billy Gray from Greenpoint

Everybody who wants to understand the Tea Party, and anybody who considers themselves a tea partier, deserves to read Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. It may seem like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not. It's a fascinating read that anybody who's got the Tea Party'ers concerns would do well to digest and consider. Quite outside mainstream commentary, and dead-on.

Nov. 12 2010 11:32 AM
moocow from manhattan

hmm. now they're not even willing to admit fox news promoted the tea party. you can't take these people seriously. case in point.

Nov. 12 2010 11:31 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

To what extent were the Tea Party galvanized by the emergence of women and minorities in high-profile political offices? I wonder whether a liberal, fairly aloof woman from San Francisco and an erudite African American as Speaker and President, respectively, represented a conservative white male living phantasmagoria that helped fan a spark.

Please, please also stop talking about the Tea Party as a can-do, grass roots phenomenon.

Nov. 12 2010 11:30 AM
HLogan from Stratford, CT

These people had nothing to say throughout the endless follies of the Bush Admin. They are full of, well, I won't say what I'm thinking because it's inapropriate. They are pawns in a game, just puppets on strings.

Nov. 12 2010 11:29 AM
HLogan from Stratford, CT

These people had nothing to say throughout the endless follies of the Bush Admin. They are full of, well, I won't say what I'm thinking because it's inapropriate. They are pawns in a game, just puppets on strings.

Nov. 12 2010 11:29 AM

This segment is making me stupid. I'm outta here.

Nov. 12 2010 11:28 AM
Tom from Dobbs Ferry

BRIAN!!!! You asked people if they think the tea party should be a third party and then you said, "Or do you not want to be like Ralph Nader?" I listen ALL the time and I have heard this before from you. I expect you, Brian, to remain objective on this! People who voted for Nader did not vote for Gore, but you act like they should have! If you want to blame someone for giving Bush the election blame registered Democrats who voted Bush! Those who voted Nader are alienated voters who DO NOT vote within the 2 party system, or are independents! Please stop pointing that finger! I can't believe you keep doing that!

Nov. 12 2010 11:26 AM
Ed from Brooklyn

To both guests......

Phuleeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Nov. 12 2010 11:24 AM
moocow from manhattan

okay. herein lies the scary, major problem. these guys are going to equivocate obama's qualifications with o'donnell's? no. the tea party is the dumbing down of u.s. politics.

I don't care if people trust their own judgement more than those in washington. does that mean they're actually knowledgeable necessarily? no. especially if they rely on fox news. this really isn't debatable. fox is newsertainment - a disney channel for right wing adults.

Nov. 12 2010 11:24 AM

Tea Party = GOP's red-headed step-children. Enough already!!

Nov. 12 2010 11:22 AM
Roger from Astoria

After witnessing the immediate disillusionment experienced by the left after Obama entered office, I think it is foolish of conservatives to believe that it will be any different should the tea party lead the country. All it feels like is a marketing ploy for the Republican party, their version of "Hope and Change."

Nov. 12 2010 11:20 AM
Ed from Brooklyn

I think a Palin run/win would be great. Especially if she won. I think then people would wake up to the fact that the "Tea Party" offers nothing of substance, just hollow rhetoric and jingoistic nationalism. And, it might make it much easier for me to claim asylum somewhere in Europe because I am an atheist.

Nov. 12 2010 11:20 AM
jake from nyc

How does this reflect our culture that a political party is spun off just like tv shows and movie sequels?

What our country needs are vastly different parties, where all our voices can be heard. This is just another version of republicans and libertarians, hoodwinking the public and spinning the same old into something new and riding the "change" idea because it's popular. Dissension from the two party system is not what is going on here.

Nov. 12 2010 11:13 AM
LKS from Brooklyn

Ditto: They are republicans pure and simple.

Not sure why we need to waste more time talking about this and what value a book would bring other than income for the authors. gawd enough of this spew and brew and just plain whinning about what these people think they and only they should be entitled to.

Nov. 12 2010 10:59 AM
Zeggae from NJ

What tea party? its the right wing of the republican party. They are republicans pure and simple. I would be surprised if 99% of these people did not have a history of voting the republican line.

Nov. 12 2010 10:13 AM

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