Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Tea Party vs. the GOP -- Get your popcorn!

I thought it might be fun to watch a bit of Glenn Beck's program last night as we headed into Election Day. I clearly have an odd sense of humour, but I did think it could be of interest to watch the crazy little man ping off the walls as he anticipated Republican gains in the House and Senate.

But what I also saw was Beck focusing his anger on certain parts of the GOP leadership for not being sufficiently on side with the Tea Party tide, which Beck believes to be the voice incarnate of the American people.

Whatever may be true of Beck, we know that this election is not so much about the popularity of the Republican Party but about anti-incumbency sentiment in hard economic times. This sentiment has obviously manifested itself in great measure as the Tea Party movement. We can likely count on these folks feeling pretty empowered in their relationship with what they will consider the "inside Washington" Republican establishment should their anticipated electoral successes materialize.

In this context, Beck also took aim at those unnamed sources cited in the Politico story about certain individuals in the Republican leadership who are fearful of a Sarah Palin run for the presidency as they begin to strategize about how to oppose it. As the story goes, these Republicans know as well as anyone that a nomination for Palin, with her Tea Party affiliation, would almost certainly guarantee an Obama re-election.

Nothing new in any of this, but it does speak to the tensions that we will continue to see between the insurgents and the establishment within the GOP.

We saw it in the nominations of candidates like Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, and Marco Rubio. Some of these people are undoubtedly going to Washington. We will see how beholden they feel to the people who got them elected and, perhaps, how crazy they really are.

On the other hand, those old enough to remember will speak of the divisive 1964 elections resulting in Barry Goldwater's nomination and the ability of the Republican Party to pull things together enough to elect Richard Nixon in 1968.

This will be one of the most important political questions over the next two years. We can speculate as to how well the Republican Party will be able to assimilate its rebels. The answer will tell us a lot about Obama's chances in 2012, especially if it all leads to a Palin candidacy or to another nominee feeling the need to move that much further to the right.

But it will also be interesting to see how much public sniping there is within the Republican Party over the next two years and how many outlandish tactics Tea Party affiliated members of the House and Senate pursue. Are we going to see attempts to impeach the president or to revisit the Birther nonsense, the kinds of things that would not only damage the credibility of the Republican Party but could also expose strains within the party itself?

Anyway, it will be fun to watch. My commitment is to wake up Wednesday morning and begin the process of keeping close track of every internal battle within the GOP and amongst conservative pundits so that, by the time the next election rolls around, I will have a pretty good database of every nasty thing they have said about each other and every silly thing they have done to wreck their credibility.

It might come in handy in 2012.

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