By all indications, Election Day could serve as a coming out party for the Tea Party movement. NY-23 has been a clusterfuck of epic proportions, but when all is said and done it looks like the Tea Partiers were right: Dede Scozzafava was a wretched candidate, and if Doug Hoffman pulls out a victory tomorrow night, it will be hard to argue that he shouldn't have been the GOP's candidate. By the time dawn breaks on Wednesday, the Tea Party movement will be both hailed and vilified as the new power brokers on the Right.
I've been on the fence about the Tea Party movement from the get go, and I'm not quite ready to hop down on either side yet. I completely recognize the legitimate anger towards incompetent elected officials who seem uninterested in what their constituents have to say, the fear that the country is drifting (or dashing headlong)away from the principles of our Founders, and the
And yet I'm still not convinced that the Tea Party movement is, on the whole, a good thing for conservatism. I realize the tar and feathers are being readied for me after that statement, but hear me out for a moment or two.
First off, the notion that the Tea Parties are non-partisan in nature should finally be put to rest. The Tea Partiers support limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a restoration of our Constitution (as best as I can sum up from the various Tea Party websites out there). And supporting Doug Hoffman is well in line with those values. But why did the Tea Party people care about the RNCC supporting Dede Scozzafava? Why did a blogger/talk show host like Dana Loesch start a "dump Dede" website? Why did the Tea Party go after the Republican candidate and not the Democratic candidate? The answer's blindingly obvious: Tea Partiers are conservative, and they feel a connection with the Republican brand, even if they feel a disconnect with the current Republican leadership. That's all fine and good, but if the Tea Partiers want honesty, they can start with themselves.
That means that the Tea Partiers are waging a two-front campaign against both the progressives in power and the out-of-power (and quite possibliy out-of-touch) GOP. Two front wars tend to be more difficult, and tactically speaking, are to be avoided when possible. It's one thing to go after a bad candidate in a winnable district. It's another thing to go after the existing party structure, especially when the Tea Party movement itself is still very nebulous and unorganized.
I'm very interested to see who, if anyone, starts to become the de facto leader of the Tea Party movement. There are a lot of people, both established pundits and those who want to be the next conservative star, who have and will attach themselves to the movement. Some of them have some fairly wacky ideas about things, and I'm curious to see how the movement deals with the far-right fringe. We know that Dede Scozzafava is too far left to be welcomed into the Tea Party fold. Is it even possible that someone can be too far right to be embraced by the Tea Party faithful? How about "too crazy"? If the Tea Partiers break with a candidate because they're pro-choice, but welcome activists who believe in FEMA death camps, can the Tea Party movement really be considered mainstream? More importantly, can a movement predicated on the belief that The People innately know what is right and best really be considered conservative?*
There are a lot of questions surrounding conservatism and the Republican Party these days, and not every question needs to be directed at the party leaders who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Dede Scozzafava's campaign.
*I plan on expounding on this at some point in the future. I've been mulling it over in my head, and have even attempted to put some thoughts on paper, but I'm not quite ready yet.