[T]he 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?Thank you. I know it's terribly shrill but the fact is that in this fractured culture of ours, counting on people to "see through" these tea partiers is far too faith based. There is no guarantee that they will. And the consequences of them not doing so is quite grave.
If most of those eight candidates lose on 2 November, the more establishment Republicans will attempt to rein in the movement. Whether they can do so is another question. Meanwhile the Democrats now have an opportunity, in a year that has largely been bereft of them, to make the Beltway politics chatter focus on the other side's problems, rather than their own. Democrats have a tendency to play by the old rules. One old rule of politics is that when the other side is shooting itself in the foot, do nothing – just stand back and watch.
But we are in a new media and political environment. In fact it's not even new any more. It's been around for 15 years, but still Democrats think the old rules apply. One old rule is, don't respond to nutty allegations because you only give them oxygen. Well, Democrats have spent two years not responding as "birthers" spin their conspiracies about Obama, and the result is that between 20% and 25% of American adults doubt that the president is a genuine American.
So I propose a new rule: when the other side is shooting itself in the foot, stand close by and keep handing out bullets. Democratic strategists should be thinking of fresh ways to demonstrate to the American people that these Tea Partiers are not the sons and daughters of John Adams but people who stand almost entirely outside the country's best mainstream traditions.