Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
Newark, DELAWARE ““ The morning after Tea Party movement darling Christine O’Donnell made political mincemeat out of Karl Rove’s and George H.W. Bush’s favored GOPer Mike Castle in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the News Journal here reflectedÂ reaction in the state ““ and beyond:
Its headline screeched: “Anti-establishment insurgency rocks Delaware”¦O’DONNELL IN SHOCKER”¦TEA PARTY-BACKED OUTSIDER STUNS CASTLE IN GOP SENATE RACE”
The Tea Party movement that grew with considerable help from Obama administration bungling, an ailing economy, big bucks from the right-wing Koch brothers, free promo from Fox News and talk show hosts, had enjoyed other victories but this was the biggie. The Washington Post’s EJ Dionne, Jr., one of the best political columnists around today, wrote of the death of moderate Republicanism.
But it really was more than that. Moderate Republicans were already becoming as hard to find as pay telephones.
What REALLY died was “compassionate conservatism” ““ the notion that conservatives could reach out and become accessible to those who might not agree with them, convince those who felt they were against them that they were wrong and even indulge in compromise for broader goals.
Conservatism got its first happy face with Ronald Reagan, who reduced government but compromised enough with opponents for historian Gil Troy to classify Reagan as a moderate President. Reagan’s sunny, hopeful uplifting spirit put conservatism and the GOP in an affirmative, forward-looking light.
Enter George H.W. Bush — an underappreciated President — whodeclared “a kinder, gentler nation” and upset conservatives by not being conservative enough. His son George W. Bush used the phrase “compassionate conservatism.” And while the second Bush often ruled as if he was President of the Base, By the Base and For the Base, he and Rove hoped to rope in Latino and other voters to build a broader GOP coalition in a bigger tent: to persuade and convince — not just cajole.
The current tea party movement advocates smaller government, slashed regulations, reduced federal entitlements, and more freedom for financial markets . But it is fueled by anger and seeks to cajole rather than convince.
It also reflects a 21st century trend. Newspapers are decimated by Internet sites permittingÂ anyone with a computer to write and publish their own reporting analysis andÂ rants without jumping through traditional media management hoops ““ and get an audience. Similarly, the Tea Party underscores how partisans no longer have to jump through party apparatus hoops by instead using talk radio and social media.
It was not surprising that as the GOP establishment clamored for Castle, Rush Limbaugh nearly melted his microphone urging listeners to vote for O’Donnell. When Rove continued bad-mouthing O’Donnell after her victory, Limbaugh virtually exploded at Rove on the air ““ and Rove backtracked. So who’s really politically dominant here?
The GOP establishment’s problem is that it must now totally embrace Tea Party candidates. Will these candidates scare away independent and moderate voters whoÂ started to move towards the GOP? And if they win will they paralyze government or overreach when demographics indicate the Republican’s future base will shrink?
But Democrats need not be smug. Experts have been wrong about Tea Party candidate prospects all year.
And the Democrats now have their own Tea Party-like rebellion angrily simmering under the surface: many progressives feel their party apparatus takes them for granted and does not deliver to THEM.
Is the Democratic Party poised to see the same kind of revolt somewhere along the line from its progressive wing and non-conservative leaning Americans?
Is there a Latte Party movement in America’s future?
Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at email@example.com and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman