Thus the 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?
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.