The two Tea Parties
by Bernie Quigley
for The Hill on 10/22/10
In Peggy Noonan’s excellent column at the WSJ this morning she writes that “ . . . the tea party is not a ‘threat’ to the Republican Party, the tea party ‘saved’ the Republican Party.” As far as saving the party, she can thank Sarah Palin for that as it was she who single-handedly folded the funky and the grass roots in with the mainstream, exactly as she said at the first must be done, and only she could have done it. As Palin said, and as Noonan said today in her column, had the Tea Party formed a third path it would have split the conservative vote. Instead, it brought “high spiritedness,” energy and earnestness, rescuing the Republican Party from the “fat, unhappy, querulous creature it had become.”
It did, but it may be killing the Republican Party as well. Can the unhappy, musty, querulous, old and staid really accommodate Jack London’s wild spirit of the north woods and the Jacksonian heart that is Palin and family riding 100 miles an hour into the snowy night on a tweaked-out Arctic Cat? Can staid and stultified New England Protestants like the Bushes really accommodate the secessionists, nullifiers and Tenth Amendment callers that formed the backbone of this movement? Can the traditional Republican party really be the party of “Hell, no!” Hell no.
What the Republicans get with the Tea Party is Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey. He is all over the place today; the new “man at the center.” But he is not in the first draft of the Tea Party. He is the one honest man who first steps forth to turn the tide. He is Alpha Dog in the tradition and the Republicans are lucky to have him.
The Tea Party movement became a vague cultural zeitgeist the moment it was adopted by Glenn Beck and Fox News. As the Libertarian writer Nelson Hultberg said just before the Beck rally in Washington, D.C.: “Neo-cons like Newt Gingrich and pseudo-conservatives like Dick Armey have moved their organizations to co-opt the Tea Party revolutionaries into the Republican Party. This is the kiss of death. Gingrich, Armey and their cohorts are the epitome of what is wrong with the conservative movement in America. They pay only lip service to freedom's ideals.”
If the Republicans continue on the path of Beck, and bring in more amateurs and incompetents like Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle they run the risk of become as puerile and banal and stupid as the ‘80s rock music they play for background in grocery stores. Beck will be a generational theme; the party’s half-assed Keith Richards, and we will look forward to his gritty and squalid memoirs years to come with baited breath.
The best and brightest will migrate elsewhere and the survival of America will demand that they do. They will come from New York and LA, the Rome and Athens of the American condition. Thus, the call this week to Mike Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger to step forward.