the upcoming tea party president

Now that things are wrapping up, let’s ask: what did we learn from the 2012 GOP presidential primary? I’ve always viewed the national GOP as a contest between two factions, social conservatives and establishment Republicans, with a libertarian fringe that pops up from time to time. Mitt Romney, the apotheosis of establishment guys, won out over a gaggle of social conservatives and libertarians. Seems like business as usual in the GOP, right?

Dig deeper. There’s a case to be made that the age of the establishment Republicans is finally over. In my state, Dick Lugar, the stately older conservative got bumped by a Tea Party upstart in a primary. The two candidates who won states in the presidential primary, Santorum and Gingrich, are social conservatives who grabbed the Tea Party label. Gingrich’s career is over, but Santorum is still quite young. Most of the Republicans who seem influential, from Sarah Palin to Chris Christie, are riding the Tea Party label. There are no Bushes, or Doles, or old Nixonites left.

My prediction: This is the last presidential election cycle where establishment Republicans are in charge of the ship. The establishment’s “bench” has been decimated by defections and primary bump-offs. Those who remain are probably cowed by the Tea Party. In other words, if Romney loses, the successors will be Tea Party adherents. In a system where power see-saws between parties, that means were going to have a Tea Party president within the decade. Start preparing now.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 17, 2012 at 12:02 am

12 Responses

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  1. Wonder though how much of this tea party swell is a matter of President Obama’s race?


    Scott Dolan

    May 17, 2012 at 12:46 am

  2. Neither Christ Christie nor Chris Christie strike me as the Tea Party sort.



    May 17, 2012 at 1:08 am

  3. Unrelated, but related at the same time, I learned today that voting ballots have “American Independent Party” as the first choice which is code for the Tea Party. I can’t tell you how many people on campus were checking that assuming it just meant that they were independent of parties. We had to have someone clarifying what it meant to students turning in their voter registration. It felt like every single time people were caught off guard and had to go scribble it out and write in ‘Independent’ next to ‘Other’. I feel bad for the students that were trying to claim non-partisanship but are now listed with the scumbag tea baggers.

    Now, more related, if this is the end of establishment Republicans then does that mean we are on the brink of the end of the Republican party? From my own experience, a lot of average Republicans keep the Tea Party title more than a safe distance away. Will they become so extreme that they become isolated? Or, maybe you are right and this will be the end of the establishment Republicans because the whole American political spectrum has moved so damn far to the right that even “Super duper liberal Obama” is pretty damn conservative.



    May 17, 2012 at 1:20 am

  4. Do sociologists bet? I’d bet you $500 that we will not see a Tea Party president — ever. This rump group is self-marginalizing. They look a little bit like the other end of the color and political spectra from the Rainbow Coalition. The more establishment Republican Party will continue to find governors who can carry the traditional core of the party and enough of the large, centrist independents (who elected both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama) to run as credible presidential candidates. And these candidates can and will win if the Democrats run unattractive lefties.



    May 17, 2012 at 2:18 am

  5. @Undergrad – I don’t think the AIP is code for the Tea Party. The AIP has been around for a long time and I think the Tea Party is more interested in trying to capture the Republican party than they are in messing around with some marginal third party. That being said, I’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about people “accidentally” registering as members of the AIP. I would imagine a non-trivial percentage of their membership consists of people who intended to register as unaffiliated.



    May 17, 2012 at 2:38 am

  6. I’m with Randy. Santorum (old social conservative wing) was a player before the tea party and Gingrich (say anything wing) goes back almost to the original tea party! Christie is more establishment/libertarian than social conservative. I think the tea party has mostly run its course, leaving behind residue in the form of an unfortunately strong congressional caucus. Lugar’s primary defeat is quite significant, of course, as is Deb Fischer’s win in Nebraska; but I suspect that, like O’Donnell in 2010, tea partiers will end up costing Republicans high on the ticket and by 2016/2020 we’ll be back to the same old coalition.

    The other thing to say — which kind of undermines what I just said — is that I’m not sure what you mean by tea party at this point. Is there any distinction between a tea party candidate and a social conservative candidate?



    May 17, 2012 at 9:42 am

  7. Establishment Republicans are toast!



    May 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm

  8. These discussions remind me of 1972. McGovern activists took control of the Democratic party and then got smashed in the general election. Thereafter began the Democrats run for the middle.



    May 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  9. Um PS, I should say that I recognize (1) the Republican mainstream has kept control of the party so far despite the Tea Party challenges and (2) it is probably just wishful thinking on my part to hope that the Tea Party extremism will be enough to push voters to the Democrats. And, (3) for the record, I was a Democratic extremist in those days (and still now) and was to the left of McGovern. But the view that the “radical” takeover of the Democratic Party led to its defeat and regrouping is a pretty standard stuff.



    May 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm

  10. I eagerly await to the Paulista takeover of the GOP National Convention and the new party platform which advocates total withdrawal from the Middle East, the abolition of several government agencies, and a return to the gold standard.



    May 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

  11. @joshmccabe: “… and a return to the gold standard.”

    A terrible idea, because we could never afford the moon encampments promised by the Gingrichista takeover.



    May 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm

  12. OTOH the congressional upheaval is already showing signs of softening:



    May 21, 2012 at 4:18 am

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