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Grudging Harvard Prof: Tea Party Is Here To Stay

December 30, 2013 by  

Despite all the mainstream media punditry that’s ready to shovel dirt over the casket of grass-roots conservatism and truly liberal (as opposed to radical progressive) thought, at least one Harvard professor thinks the Tea Party isn’t going away anytime soon.

Harvard sociology professor Theda Skocpol actually believes Americans are more fed up today with the ossified stubbornness of the political class than they were in 2007, when “Tea Party” became a household phrase.

It’s clear from the tone of his article that Skopcol is anything but an apologist for conservative values (he calls sequestration “draconian budget cuts,” conservatives “saboteurs” and Ted Cruz “arrogant”), but she sees the future written in Americans’ present disgust with the government they have now:

Americans may resent the Tea Party, but they are also losing ever more faith in the federal government—a big win for anti-government saboteurs.

Then she ponders how to be rid of “the damage the Tea Party is inflicting on American politics” and faces some realities that, though she laments them, are hard to ignore:

For one, at least three successive national election defeats will be necessary to even begin to break the determination and leverage of Tea Party adherents. Grassroots Tea Partiers see themselves in a last-ditch effort to save “their country,” and big-money ideologues are determined to undercut Democrats and sabotage active government. They are in this fight for the long haul. Neither set of actors will stand down easily or very soon.

Also worth remembering is that “moderate Republicans” barely exist right now. Close to two-thirds of House Republicans voted against bipartisan efforts to reopen the federal government and prevent U.S. default on loan obligations, and [John] Boehner has never repudiated such extortionist tactics. Tea Partiers may not call for another shutdown right away, but they will continue to be able to draw most GOP legislators and leaders into aggressive efforts to obstruct and delay. In the electorate, moreover, more than half of GOP voters sympathize with the Tea Party and cheer on obstructionist tactics, and the remaining Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are disorganized and divided in their views of the likes of Ted Cruz.

…Finally, Democrats need to get over thinking that opinion polls and media columns add up to real political gains. Once the October 2013 shutdown ended in supposed total victory for President Obama and his party, many Democrats adopted a cocky swagger and started talking about ousting the House GOP in 2014. But a clear-eyed look shows that Tea Party obstruction remains powerful and has achieved victories that continue to stymie Democratic efforts to govern effectively — a necessary condition for Democrats to win enthusiastic, sustained voter support for the future, including in midterm elections.

Those pesky obstructionists! If only they’d allow Democrats to “govern effectively.”

Of course, those who watched Democrats shut down the government, blame the Tea Party, and then proceed not only to get everything they wanted in the first place – but to rewrite the rules of Senate procedure to their benefit – see a very different set of political motivations than the ones Skopcol sees.

It’s almost as if, grudgingly, progressives are already trying to take control of the narrative for the kind of political fight they’re (finally) realizing they’re doomed to face in the years ahead.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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