The fundamental difference between the Tea Party movement and the GOP regulars can be explained in one passage, taken from The New York Times Sunday Magazine's long analysis of the Republican gubernatorial primary in Texas. Written by Robert Draper -- who also penned "Dead Certain," one of the best books written yet on the George W. Bush presidency -- the piece sets up the Rick Perry vs. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison contest as the Texas-based microcosm of the "war."
And buried in the middle of the piece, we find this nugget:
I'm in it to save our party," Kay Bailey Hutchison told me one morning this past October, "because I was there from the beginning, when it wasn't cool to be a Republican."
"Are you saying you made it cool to be a Republican?" I ventured jokingly.
The senator's campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, laughed, but she did not. Nor did she smile. "I'm saying he wasn't there in the beginning," she stated, referring to Perry's having switched parties in 1989. "He's a Republican of convenience. I'm a Republican of conviction."
You can just hear the condescension in Hutchison's voice, see the curl of her lip as the sneer spills forth: "He's a Republican of convenience. I'm a Republican of conviction."
The terrible thing about this is, she says it in the utter conviction that this statement will injure Perry politically, that it will explain why he is unfit to carry the GOP banner into battle. In her mind, it is a -- dare I use the phrase? -- "litmus test" ... and he has failed it.
And that's where she, and the entire GOP establishment that's now struggling to figure out how to deal with the Tea Party movement, misses the boat.
Because the secret is, the Tea Party movement couldn't care less about whose Republican Party bona fides are longer or silkier or more true-blue -- or in this case, true red.
"I'm in it to save our party," she says. Since when is "saving our party" a valid and appropriate reason to run for high public office, let alone a big office, like governor?
"He wasn't there in the beginning," she sniffs. Guess what? Neither was Ronald Reagan. Perhaps you've forgotten him. Perhaps you can better remember another Texas Republican who began his political life as a Democrat -- Phil Gramm?
It struck me, as I read the Draper piece, that I had come across this kind of thinking before -- when, after I worked in the Bush-Quayle campaign of 1988 as the campaign's liaison to the conservatives, I forwarded a couple dozen resumes to the transition team's personnel office, and was sent back a cover form for each of the job applicants to fill out and attach to their resumes before returning them.
On that cover sheet were 17 different boxes to be checked, each one indicating a different level of support for George Bush's political career.
The earliest box that could be checked said, "I was a financial supporter of George Bush's 1964 campaign for the U.S. Senate."
Of the 17 boxes that potentially could have been checked, only three were available to people who hadn't fallen in with Bush before had won the nomination contest in 1988.
This kind of elitism, a "clubism," really -- as in, "We only let specialpeople into our club (did someone say "Skull and Bones?")" -- is the public manifestation of an arrogance that harkens all the way back to Divine Right theory.
It treats the Grand Old Party as a family heirloom, something to be cared for and tended, and passed on only to those deemed "deserving," rather than as what it should be treated as -- nothing more than a vehicle to enact good public policy, or to block bad public policy.
Arrogance like that -- the same kind of arrogance and political tone-deafness displayed by presidents named Bush -- is what drove many people from the GOP and into the ranks of the Tea Party movement in the first place.[SNIP]Hutchison is going to lose the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary because, unlike Perry, she thinks it's about "saving" the Republican Party -- and if national GOP leaders don't figure out pretty damn quickly that Tea Party supporters will support national Republican candidates only so far as and to the extent that individual GOP candidates commit themselves to certain (read: conservative) policy goals, they're going to wake up the morning after the 2010 midterm elections and wonder how they could possibly have screwed this one up.
Friday, January 8, 2010
A battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party...
CQ Politics with a fascinating read (link). Excerpt follows...
I think Kay's "he was a Democrat once" schtick is pretty weak... especially in Texas where 20 years ago everyone was a Democrat. You just had liberal Democrats and conservative Democrats... Republicans were kind of a country club group... and many of the earliest Republicans are the Rockefeller variety... sort of Republicans in Name Only...
I think if the excesses of the Republicans in the 2000s taught us anything it is that parties are important but they aren't everything... ideas are a lot more than labels...