There is nothing surprising about the Republican tsunami that will rock Congress on Election Day. It was obvious given the parody of governance demonstrated by the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate of incompetence. I first predicted that the Republicans would reclaim the House, and quite possibly the Senate as well, back on July 14, long before the conventional wisdom otherwise known as Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight began suggesting that they might have a shot.
Now here is another prediction: The tea party is about to learn that its efforts to transform the Republican Party by working through it are doomed to failure. In fact, there is a reasonable chance that, as soon as 2012, the tea party will go from the Republican Party’s most visible ally to its most vicious and implacable enemy.
As I described in a January 2009 column titled “Obama: Backstabber-to-be,” Obama has ruthlessly betrayed his supporters by casting aside his “hope and change” rhetoric in favor of following the Bush administration’s policy of war in the Middle East, big bank bailouts and subservience to the Federal Reserve. But, in doing so, he merely sacrificed the enthusiasm of his ignorant supporters, whose primary reaction will be to stay home on Election Day.
The tea party, on the other hand, is not motivated by romantic drivel, but by fear and anger. The tea partiers are political innocents, for the most part, which is why they are now being so easily co-opted by a Republican establishment that has expertly harnessed the energy of tumult among the grass roots in decades past. But what the establishment has failed to take into account is that these are much more precarious times due to the insolvency of the banking system, and Washington has never known fury like that to be expected from millions of frightened women used and cast aside by cynical old men.
As strategically stupid as the tea partiers are – it takes a truly clueless collective to simultaneously cheer multiple foreign wars while fulminating against government spending – they are nevertheless less likely to be won over by a few minor gestures on the part of Republican politicians as were the Moral Majority, pro-life and Contract With America movements before them. For one thing, it’s hard to not notice trillion-dollar deficits, and, for another, job losses and home foreclosures have a way of focusing attention on the matter at hand.
The reason we can be sure that the Republicans are going to betray the tea party once they come to congressional power is that we know that they are not going to even attempt to solve any of the four most pressing problems facing the nation at the moment. In some cases, Republicans are almost certainly going to try to make them worse. Consider:
1) The economy. Republicans have nothing to offer on the subject. They are almost completely silent on the subject of state bankruptcies, pension-fund shortages and the secrecy of the Fed. Trading fiscal-policy-oriented Neo-Keynesians for monetary-policy-oriented Monetarist Keynesians isn’t going to materially improve anything.
2) The massive mortgage fraud. Republicans are on the wrong side of this one, desperately attempting to defend the big banks from being forced to suffer the clear legal consequences of their criminal actions.
3) Immigration. Republicans are mostly on the wrong side of this as well, being self-destructive fans of unsustainable open borders.
4) The endless wars. Republicans still support invading and occupying other nations despite the overall cost of the Bush/Obama wars now exceeding one trillion dollars.
At some point, it is going to become clear to everyone that the Republicans who helped create the present financial peril that inspired the tea party have used it to return to power. Most likely, this will be connected to an attempt to protect the banks that defrauded investors with defective securities from being forced to live up to their contracts with those investors on the grounds that doing so will cause the financial system to collapse. (Hey, it worked for Nancy Pelosi and Henry Paulson, surely it will work for John Boehner and Tim Geithner as well.) It won’t be called TARP II, but that’s what it will be.
When that or something similar happens, the newly elected politicians of the tea party will face the choice of becoming proper establishment Republicans or facing the full wrath of the entire bipartisan establishment, including the media. Since few politicians have the stomach for intense and unending criticism, most of them will cave and betray the movement that got them elected.
And that is when we will find out whether the tea party intends to live up to its revolutionary name or not. For if neither the Republicans or the Democrats are capable of providing the answer, to whom can Americans turn next?