Political Animal


November 24, 2012 4:03 PM The Tea Party … comin’ back at ya!

By Kathleen Geier

If you still haven’t finished Schadenfreudegasming over the elections, you might particularly enjoy this article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, about how the Tea Party movement is responding to the election results. True to form, they believe they’ve learned a lesson: Republicans still aren’t conservative enough!

In the article, Tea Party activists reel off a long list of reasons why their candidates fared poorly in the elections: there’s “the strength of the Obama ground game,” for one, and “the fact that Romney just didn’t inspire much enthusiasm,” for another. Oh, and also the fact that some of the campaigns they supported allegedly were not very well-run.

They pin the blame entirely on outside forces and on failures of competence and execution, not on basic message. That it never dawns on them that the vast majority of voters might find their “it’s all your fault, you loser! you’re on your own!!” ideology to be deeply unappealing, particularly in light of the worst economic crisis of the last 80 years, is telling. According to exit polls from the election, only 21% of voters support the Tea Party (30% are opposed and 42% are neutral).

The Tea Party’s plans, now, are to take out various national Republicans they don’t deem to be conservative enough, via aggressive primarying. Because that worked out so well last time. Among their targets: Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Eminently mockable though the Tea Party types may be, I would never count them out. They are passionately dedicated to what they believe in, and not easily discouraged. The fact that they are also bat@#$% cray cray actually works in their favor in some ways; ignoring all evidence, they are deeply convinced that America is behind them and would totally support them, if only The People Knew the Truth! They will soldier doggedly on.

No doubt, also, they will learn. I am convinced that all it would have taken for the likes of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock to win would have been some higher quality media training. You take away their gaffes and you would have had some very tight races indeed. The TP types surely know this. They know, too, that since 2014 is an off-year election with an older, whiter electorate, they will face a more favorable playing field. All in all, I am very far from counting these dudes out.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • TCinLA on November 24, 2012 5:37 PM:

    Which is why Democrats need to be educated to the fact that elections don't just happen when the President is running.

  • c u n d gulag on November 24, 2012 6:13 PM:

    Oh, I'm sure they'll try to dance their little dance in '14, with tri-corner hats, teabags gayly dangling from them, holding their misspelled signs.

    But let's see how well these little monkey's dance when some rich dudes may not be inclined to pay the piper.

    And even without the money, I fervently hope that they make some big noise and primary a bunch of the less than wackiest Republican Senators and Congressmen - all the better for the rest of us.

    The Teabaggers might be the greatest gift to Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives, since FDR, LBJ, and RFK.

    Dance, monkey's - DANCE!!!

  • JackD on November 24, 2012 6:20 PM:

    Except those monkeys gave us a Republican house in 2010 and could repeat that and damage the Senate in 2014. Kathleen is right to be concerned.

  • schtick on November 24, 2012 6:24 PM:

    I nearly spit my coffee out when I read the "outside forces" bit. Here's hoping the DNC doesn't fall asleep for 2014 like they did in 2010 or we might as well let them have all of it.

  • Tony J on November 24, 2012 6:35 PM:

    Sure, if Tea Party Republicans just shut their mouths about their actual policies and opinions they'd stand a much better chance of getting elected. It's worked that way for decades, aided and abeted by a MSM that refuses to ask uncomfortable questions of anyone with an R after their name.

    But that's their problem in a nutshell. Tea Party Republicans are representative of a rabid and frightened GOP Base that - wants - their chosen sons and daughters preaching the TP gospel loud and proud. High volume, maximum clarity. That's what their radio and TV rage-peddlars give the, and, dammit, that's what their politicians should give them too.

    Anything else verges on an acknowledgement that a) Their opinions and policies are wrong, and b) The whole RW media chorus they've been listening to for decades not only lies to them, but lies to them for financial gain. It's a con, they're the marks, and they have been for a very, very long time.

    They'd do anything for America, but they won't do that.

  • rrk1 on November 24, 2012 7:16 PM:

    The key obviously is to let the TPeers continue to go after those they deem insufficiently conservative as that has really gotten them very far. They need to focus on that very hard.

    Unless the Dems start planning for 2014 NOW!!!! with massive GOTV efforts and the kind of keen targeting we saw in this election, the TPeers may well gain in both the House and Senate in the mid-terms. We have a never-ending election cycle these days, just as we have a 24-hour 'news' cycle, and there is no rest for the weary.

    Obama's campaign machinery must be kept running. He has to be campaigning day and night for the next two years. Unfortunately, he may prove to be no different in his second term than he was in his first. In which case we are in deep shit.

  • mb on November 24, 2012 7:17 PM:

    "Among their targets: Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee."

    I hope they get 'em all, especially Chambliss and Graham -- Alexander seems pretty inconsequential. But I'd relish seeing Chambliss and Graham totally humiliated. Fun thought: if Graham is primaried by a tbagger, think there's a chance in hell they aren't going to attack him for his rumored sexual "aberrations?" I imagine his closet is going to get a little stuffy before it is over. I think I already hear the distant sound of tiny violins.

  • Hue & Cry/Loud on November 24, 2012 7:27 PM:

    Irritates me some that these tea partiers enjoy all these recess vacations on the tax payer dime.
    And health care, prescription cards, insurance, fleets of cars, phone and computer use, postage for the crap they send--you know, all the free govnmint stuff they hate (that we pay for.) Yeah, they're the takers.

    Knuckledraggers, health and science deniers, plotting their cunning designs on womens' rights.

    Wouldn't it be nice if each of the lawmakers had to account for recess time, as if spent with constituents, designated number of town halls--time sheets to fill out and submit for our review approval....

    ....stumbled on this economic blog:


  • cwolf on November 24, 2012 7:36 PM:

    The TB'rs are poised to blow off $50 - $75 million in a fruitless attempt to unseat Sen. Franken in Minnesota.

    Maybe I should become a rabid dog's consultant & grift a piece of that easy money pie.

  • Hue & Cry on November 24, 2012 8:01 PM:

    Kathleen's "Schadenfreudegasming" is just perfectly cute.

  • N.Wells on November 24, 2012 10:56 PM:

    At some point, I'd expect that the contingent of somewhat-less-than-batcrap-crazy business people will realize that A) they can buy a boatload of Democrats for far fewer $$ than they are throwing away on unelectable batcrap-crazy Republicans, B) many Democrats are pretty much right where Rockefeller republicans were a generation ago and are therefore pretty much aligned with their interests, and C) going with A and B means that they no longer have to hang out with the rightwingnut crowd. Win, win, win for them, I'd have thought.

    In the meantime, however, the prospect of Chambliss and Graham being successfully primaried leaves me giddy with delight.

  • Rick B on November 24, 2012 11:18 PM:

    Key problems for Democrats in 2010 in my opinion were the collapse of the economy and also overconfidence in Democratic candidates after 2008. The conservative election machine latched onto these two elements and Mitch McConnell guaranteed that the Senate was tied up so that Obama had few if any economic successes to tout.

    Then the Republicans successfully demonized both TARP (as a bail-out of the banks - and the banks in Wall Street had appeared to support Obama in 2008) and they really tore into the Affordable Care Act.

    Of the two really big items, the economy is clearly improving (if the Republicans in the House can't stop that) and I think that the Democratic overconfidence is a lot less likely. I can't be sure of the latter, since they may sit back and think the President's ground game will save the day. It won't, and Citizen's United will provide money that is a lot more effective than it has been in 2012.

    The 2014 election - where the older white men turn out and Democrats tend not to - is going to be a really tough one. The Republicans are going to see it as setting the stage for their recovery in 2016 when the Democrats do not yet have a candidate.

    In many ways 2012 was a warm-up for 2014. The tea party will be front and center. We can hope they continue to make messaging mistakes, but we really can't count on it.

  • Tom on November 24, 2012 11:21 PM:

    The Obama coalition is maturing and learning. Everyone thought that the turnout in 2008 was a extraordinary wave and would not be repeated in 2012. But it was. A Lot of people learned a very important lesson in 2010 and in 2014 will be more ready.

    Plus, the one thing about all voters is that they are getting older. The first time Obama voter in 2008 was 22 in 2012 and will be 24 in 2014. As voters get older, they take it more seriously and develop lifelong habits and loyalties.

  • Anonymous on November 24, 2012 11:59 PM:

    the TP's will have the momentum Democrats don't and wont have without a leader/a replacement for Obama. the Jim Crow laws/voter suppression laws will increase in all the Republican States/Florida, Ohio, Penns., Michigan, N.C. all have R's running them. with the Supremes taking up the Voting Rights Act, just wait to see how that affects voting.

    the Democrats won't do anything or much of anything required early enough to counter vote suppression.

    the TP's will have a field day as long as they refuse to answer the "wrong" question. The media will never ask "bad" question of their beloved "heroes"/candidates lest the media lose "access."

    going to be interesting to see who screws up America worse.

  • mudwall jackson on November 25, 2012 1:18 AM:

    of course the tea party types are in denial. they're true believers who hang out with other true believers, effectively creating their own little universe where they are the majority. in the real world, of course they're not, as evidenced by the results of two weeks ago, but they do exist in sufficient numbers and are sufficiently motivated to tip a low turnout election. they might be delusional but they're still a threat.

    which means that tcinla is dead right. if democrats don't turn out in 2014, we'll be right back where we were two years ago.

  • SqueakyRat on November 25, 2012 7:49 AM:

    It's precisely because the TPers are so passionate about what they believe in that guys like Akin and Mourdock can't keep their mouths shut about their demented convictions, so higher quality media training would probably be wasted on them. These guys really see themselves as heroes or martyrs, not as regular politicians.

  • Vince on November 25, 2012 8:01 AM:

    I caught part of Rahm's op-ed in the P...er..in another Washington publication and he hit some good notes. Basically, he was arguing that Dems can't rely on the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot in the next election cycle and have to consolidate 2012 gains by doing things that actually matter to voters. Good on him for that.

    Then again, it's going to be really hard resisting the urge to sit back, make popcorn, and watch what happens when they try to primary Lindsey.

  • MuddyLee on November 25, 2012 8:11 AM:

    The tea party idiots (with big money from karl rove and the koch brothers) did great damage in 2010 - taking out a smart, decent conservative Bob Inglis in the SC primary (hey i wouldn't vote for him but he was not a complete joke like so many ultra conservatives) because he made some anti-glenn beck remarks and knocking out my congressman John Spratt D with anti-obamacare hysteria and lies. They are capable of doing great damage again in 2014. Believe it or not, Jim DeMint in SC is worse than Lindsay Graham - and DeMint controls the tea party congressmen like Trey Gowdy and Mick "Edenmoor" Mulvaney. Maybe Graham and Chambliss will crash and burn in the repub primary - but the dems need to work hard to keep things from getting worse. Because it can always get worse - like from Mark Sanford to Nikki Haley, from Bush1 to Bush2, from Thurmond to DeMint.

  • Ron Byers on November 25, 2012 9:15 AM:

    How do we keep the Obama campaign together? What would it cost to retask their organization on the 2014 elections?

  • boatboy_srq on November 25, 2012 9:44 AM:

    They pin the blame entirely on outside forces and on failures of competence and execution, not on basic message.

    Has it occurred to them yet that their "basic message" has been crafted, broadcast and presented for execution by some of the most flawed representatives imaginable? Has it occurred to them that these representatives are part and parcel of the messaging - that to get voices crying out against the "scourge of the unRighteous" they need some pretty flawed characters making that noise? 2+2=4 still, people; there's been only one Guy who was able to pull that off, even in their lexicon, and He hasn't come back yet. And until that day, there's nobody out there outside their own little covens - er, churches - who'll understand forgiving One of Their Own when s/he falls short, whilst condemning everyone else for their least blemish.

  • George on November 25, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Obama needs to actively campaign for Democratic candidates in 2014. Huge weakness on his part to generally ignore Democratic congressional candidates. If he doesn't we have a fair chance of a 2010 repeat. Disastrous.