The tea party never existed

The loosely organized movement arose as a reaction to the reigning liberalism of 2009 and 2010, just as previous liberal moments in the mid-1960s, late 1970s and early 1990s brought about conservative backlashes. It was also, in part, a retrospective reaction by conservatives to compromises they had made during George W. Bush’s years in the White House. This, too, is a fairly normal feature of political life: Purification is always easier when your side is out of power.

And just as the intra-Democratic conflicts of the Bush years — think of the 2006 Ned Lamont-Joe Lieberman Senate primary in Connecticut, for example, itself a retrospective reaction to the party’s moderation during Bill Clinton’s administration — didn’t lead to lasting schism, so the Republican factionalism of recent years seems to be fading away.

This was predictable and, for that matter, predicted. In early 2010, Kate O’Beirne and I looked at detailed polling of Tea Party attitudes for the National Review. We argued that unifying the Republican Party would be easier than it was when Christian conservatives or supporters of Ross Perot joined the coalition: Unlike those earlier groups, Tea Party advocates already believed the same things that regular Republicans did. They basically were regular Republicans, just, if you will, more so.