Michael Tomasky: The Republicans Have Created a Frankenstein Monster





[Michael Tomasky is editor-in-chief of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.]

...[T]he larger question is where the Tea Party is going and how profound its long-term impact will be. The optimistic answer is that if it gets mixed results in the midterms this November, the economy improves, and Barack Obama's approval numbers go back up above 50% while Sarah Palin's act starts wearing thin, then 2010 will prove to be the Tea Party's zenith.

At the other extreme, the most worrisome possibility goes something like this. This tendency has always existed in the US. In the early days of the republic they were the anti-federalists. Their base was in the south, as it is still, but they were everywhere; and while they didn't necessarily oppose union (that is, creating an entity called the United States of America), they wanted the loosest possible affiliation among what were then called "the several states".

They had the habit of losing a bunch of elections to federalists of various sorts. They brought on the civil war (and you should watch the American readers thrash out this sentence in the online comments!). Their side lost, and then they were really tamed – the south was essentially occupied. Before you know it, the 20th century had arrived, with urbanisation and industrialisation and Wall Street replacing the City of London as the home address of world capital and the US's rise to global power....

Yes, the Reagan years were fine for them, and the George W Bush years. But let's face it, the Obama years are their heyday. It took economic calamity, large government bailouts, and perhaps most of all a president who is so utterly alien to them – and who embodies American ruination and turpitude just by standing there – for them to rise up as one.

Thus the historically situated question is this: is the Tea Party movement a flash in the pan, or is it a historic fulfilment of an urge that has been building for 230 years and is on the cusp, with the help of Rupert Murdoch's "news" channel, of becoming a permanent fixture in American politics?...



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