Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interpreting Polls and Tea Party Support

I'm a couple of days late on this post (get used to that), but one of the interesting poll results of the last few days, provided by the Pew Research Center, suggests that the Tea Party is losing support in even the most conservative districts.  The popular narrative deriving from these poll results suggests that the Tea Party has overreached, that say intentionally creating financial crises like the debt ceiling hostage negotiation has hurt the Tea Party brand.  Unsurprisingly, I think the media narrative is wrong.  I don't think that these conservative districts believe that the Tea Party candidates are too crazy for them (though I wish it were so).  Instead, I suspect it results from the perception that the Tea Party has not been effective.  The simple fact of the matter is that Americans, either through willful or unintentional ignorance, refuse to acknowledge the institutional limits found in our American system of checks and balances.  When the Republicans rode economic calamity to an overwhelming Congressional victory in 2010, these Republican voters expected immediate political results.  How come taxes aren't lower?  Business deregulated? Obamacare overturned? Economic recovery at hand?  I mean, of course they blame the Kenyan socialist in the White House, but they still expect some kind of electoral payoff.  When an excited voter base doesn't see immediate results, support from both the right and left flanks can soften in a substantial manner. I mean, Democratic voters are guilty of this same ignorance.  Hell, I'm guilty of the same ignorance, frequently criticizing Obama for his failure to say, push for a larger stimulus package or single-payer healthcare reform.  But the reality is that we currently have government power divided between two parties right now.  Even if we didn't have divided partisan power, institutional gridlock would still be the norm.  There are just too many veto points.  And Republicans have normalized a MAJOR veto point by effectively establishing the US Senate as a 60 vote, super-majority legislative body.  Even if by some crazy catastrophe the American electorate installs Michele Bachmann in the White House, the right wing is not going to see implementation of the policies they paid for.  And this, by itself, is going to soften support for the Tea Party and its candidates.  And this same dynamic helps explain the frustration on the left and the creation of the OWS movement.  If and when OWS is absorbed by the mainstream left and they help, for example, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts get elected Senator, and we eventually re-learn that one progressive Senator cannot single-handedly solve the American banking crisis, we (meaning the far left) will still lose our faith in her as well.

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