Commentary Magazine


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Brooks and the Tea Party

David Brooks steps forward to defend the Tea Party movement. He writes:

Many of my liberal friends are convinced that the Republican Party has a death wish. It is sprinting to the right-most fever swamps of American life. It will end up alienating the moderate voters it needs to win elections. There’s only one problem with this theory. There is no evidence to support it. …

I asked the election guru Charlie Cook if there were signs that the Tea Party was scaring away the independents. “I haven’t seen any,” he replied. I asked another Hall of Fame pollster, Peter Hart, if there were Republican or independent voters so alarmed by the Tea Party that they might alter their votes. He ran the numbers and found very few potential defectors.

Brooks is dead on when he observes that “as the Tea Party has surged, so has the G.O.P.” This does not mean that every Tea Party candidate is going to win in the general election, and some have serious issues. (Although, as Brooks notes, even a “weak” candidate like Sharron Angle is deadlocked with the majority leader.) But is that the standard for success in American politics — that you win every race? Certainly not.

Brooks then feels compelled — this is the New York Times, you know — to deride the movement for “some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil.” The evidence for this? He doesn’t say, but he does chide others for “untethered assertions.” It is hard for pundits, I think, to cope with a grassroots movement that has no single leader and no official platform; while individuals who seek to associate themselves with the movement may be subject to these faults, is a movement of millions, then, guilty as a group? Are millions of Americans playing the victim card? And by the way, that list of defects does aptly describe one political figure: the president.

In the end, Brooks backtracks, claiming that “the Tea Party doesn’t matter.” It’s the economy and objection to ”one-party Democratic control” that are the deciding factors. Well, the Tea Party is either the key to the GOP’s success or irrelevant — take your pick. From my vantage point, it is both a result of one-party Democratic rule and the best thing to happen to the GOP since Ronald Reagan. That doesn’t mean its candidates will all win, but when the GOP picks up oodles of seats, much of the credit will go to the Tea Partiers.