a bright future for the Tea Party?

FT Washington columnist Edward Luce (born 1968) writes that the Tea Party is succeeding, even though this does not please the British journalist.

Tea Partiers offer a never-ending supply of late night comic material. But insulting their IQ only improves the odds their Washington representatives will try again. It reinforces their worldview of a town run by Ivy League snobs. ….

The closest parallel to today’s Republican party is the late 19th century Democrats – the party of the defeated south. In spite of having lost the civil war, it managed to restore much of the reality of slave society through “Jim Crow” laws. Then, like now, Americans were living through a period of disruptive new technology, robber baron-scale inequality and unsettling mass immigration from non-English speaking cultures. The obstinacy of the so-called Dixiecrats persisted right up to the 1960s. ….

Mr Obama was right last week to say that he hoped the Republican party’s take-no-prisoners tactics would be replaced by something more constructive. The prospect of another three or four months of Tea Party fiscal attrition – followed by another deadline when the two sides fail to agree – is hardly uplifting. It could be the story of his second term. But hope is not a strategy. The Tea Party speaks for tens of millions of mostly non-urban whites, mostly middle-aged and older, who believe Mr Obama is redistributing their hard-earned nest eggs to younger, less deserving, Americans. Their embittered sense of alienation has driven a selfish and destructive politics in Washington. But it is not stupid. Consider this: all US domestic budget cuts to date – and they are steep – have fallen on the younger generations. Medicare and Social Security remain untouched. By that yardstick the Tea Party is succeeding. At any rate, its failure should never be assumed.

Edward Luce, “It is stupid to believe that the Tea Party has no brain“, Financial Times, 21 October 2013.

The parallel between Tea Party Republicans and Dixiecrats is a good one. Tea Partiers, like Dixiecrats before them, seek to weaken central government and strengthen states rights.

 

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