President Obama gave the economy of Washington a big boost this past week. It was in the form of the 10,000 people who converged on the nation’s capital to attend the CPAC convention. Restaurants and bars, especially near the hotel where the convention was held, were packed throughout the three-day event. What they had in common was a strong dislike of the president’s policies.
The winner of the presidential straw-poll was Representative Ron Paul of Texas. One should not read too much into this as half the individuals who voted were under the age of 26—it wasn’t a representative sample of those attending the convention let alone the Republican Party itself. As well, if you looked at how the vote went, those who spoke at the convention before the vote was taken did better than those who spoke after or who did not attend.
I thought Glenn Beck gave a good key-note speech. I agreed with his criticism of those politicians—both Democrats and Republicans—who fall into the trap of big government. I agreed with him on the need to worry about the ideology of progressivism–which Mr. Beck said was just another term for big-government policies. I would recommend reading Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, which describes in great detail the origins of the political philosophies of many leading Democrats (and some Republicans as well).
My last thought is with the Tea-Party movement. It is good to have these types of grass-root movements to stimulate a dormant political party . My concern is not what they advocate but that the movement might break away to form a third-party. This would be disastrous not only for the Republican Party, but for the nation as a whole.
The one thing that has created political stability in the United States is the tradition of the two-party system of government. This requires the two major parties to fight it out for the moderate/independent voters. Look what happened in 1994 and 2009/2010 when the Democrats tried to nationalize health-care—they lost their majority in the House and Senate in 1994 and are faced with the same scenario this year.
It is not that most Americans don’t like change, it is they don’t like large-scale radical change thrust upon them all at once. I know those on the fringes of the political spectrum don’t like this but it is reality. The goal of the tea-partiers should be to slowly move the center of the political spectrum to the right. In other words, create a situation where the policies once thought of as conservative/far-right are now accepted by those who consider themselves moderates. This can’t be done overnight.
Some will cite polls which show those who identify themselves as conservative is greater than those who consider themselves moderate or liberals. While that is great, the percent of self-identified conservatives is less than 50%, so conservative Republicans need the support of some moderates and independents.
Nor should members of CPAC and the tea-party movement criticize any Republican who doesn’t tow the line on every point. The case in point is Senator Brown of Massachusetts. He became the darling of the party after his victory in January, but started to receive criticism when he voted to pass a Democratic sponsored jobs bill. Noemie Emery’s column in The Examiner sums up this idea very well. Richard Sammon at Kiplinger also has a good article on the tea-partiers.
No two people have the same views on everything. When fringe groups within one of the major parties threatens to form a third-party because they feel the majority has lost its way is not a sign of political purity but one of arrogance. It like the kid who doesn’t get his way on the basketball court takes his ball and leaves. In situations like that no one wins.