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Published on: January 5, 2012
After Iowa: Dems Are Playing Defense in 2012

The endlessly hyped Iowa caucus process has finally drawn to an inconclusive close. Here’s what acres of media coverage extending over months and months and months of stultifying boredom and pointlessness have told us: Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain and Rick Perry aren’t going to be president of the United […]

The endlessly hyped Iowa caucus process has finally drawn to an inconclusive close. Here’s what acres of media coverage extending over months and months and months of stultifying boredom and pointlessness have told us: Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain and Rick Perry aren’t going to be president of the United States.  Nobody much thought any of these people were going to be president a year ago, and a year from now only a handful of political junkies will remember how the various figures campaigns self destructed or otherwise failed to catch fire.

Here is something else we all knew a year ago and still know today: many people in the Republican Party don’t want to nominate former Governor Mitt Romney, but it is very hard for them to find a credible candidate to run against him. Former Senator Rick Santorum is the latest flavor du jour auditioning for the role of the credible not-Romney candidate.  The others were briefly taken up by voters hungry for an alternative despite their obvious flaws; once they had a good look at them the voters concluded that the flaws (of character, back story, judgment or electability) were real and put them back down on the shelf. So far, there is no evidence to show that this won’t be Senator Santorum’s fate, but we shall see.  Life is full of surprises.

Rick Santorum

In any case, the turmoil and trouble of Iowa told us almost nothing that we didn’t know six months to a year ago.  I hope the media outlets who covered this in such cash burning, mind numbing detail are pleased with themselves. Otherwise it would all look like a terrible waste of money and bandwidth.

Like much else in traditional American political rituals, the Iowa caucus process is collapsing under its own weight. Many news accounts in the last few days spoke of more journalists than voters being present at campaign events; this coverage could be dialed back sixty to eighty percent and the country would be if anything better served and better informed.

2012 did see something new. The ridiculously extended presidential campaign process in the United States now features an extended clown car crash derby as a kind of opening event.  This year’s Iowa caucus process was like those early American Idol episodes in which the truly terrible and desperate get their moment on stage (yes, Donald Trump I am thinking of you — among others). The caucus process was an audition this time around and half the fun was watching so many egotists and poseurs get the hook.  Those who enjoy the spectacle are welcome to it, but the over-investment in meaningless campaign rituals by the legacy media has gone way beyond farcical.  Perhaps this will be remembered as the campaign that jumped the shark; the public boredom with this hollow show may grow to such a point that increasingly cash-strapped editors and publishers will cut back on the number of correspondents sent to track campaign busses over the hills and dales of what remains a surprisingly beautiful midwestern state.

There was, of course, a story behind the huckstering and the noise in Iowa: the Tea Party’s quest for a real leader.  Many politicians would like to become Mr. or Ms. Tea Party: from Sarah Palin on, many have tried and, so far, all have failed. (Interestingly, no national figures want to be Mr. or Ms. Occupy Wall Street; some flirted at the beginning with the movement, but not even marginal Democratic political players seem to want the OWS label now.)

What’s clear at this point is that the Tea Party has not yet produced a credible national leader from its ranks.  This is partly because the most visible wannabe leader is Ron Paul, and his views are so polarizing and, on foreign policy in particular, so alien to the instincts of many Tea Party-affiliated voters, that while he can split the movement he can never lead it. There are other reasons why the Tea Party is so poorly led; nevertheless, unless Senator Santorum can do what Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all could not, then the most powerful politicial movement in recent GOP history will have failed to impose its choice on the party in 2012.

Ms. Tea Party?

But while political reporters were fixated on Iowa, the contours of the 2012 election began to swim into focus.  The driving force in the country remains a deep unhappiness with the status quo and with both parties, but ten months out from the election, this mood looks as if it will hurt Democrats more than Republicans.

Not that Republicans will have a fun year.

Watching the political squabbling in Washington and the uninspiring performances of both parties, many Americans have been wishing for a plague on both their houses.

Those wishes seem to have been granted.  The Republican presidential primary contest has so far been as bad as a plague for the GOP.  The serial rise and fall of ultimately unsatisfactory GOP candidates makes the incumbent look better by contrast even as the candidates field-tested attack ad themes the Democrats can turn to next fall.  President Obama’s numbers are up a bit even as short-lived GOP favorites crash and burn.  Throw in the House payroll tax kerfluffle, and the GOP sometimes looks as if it is trying to drive voters away.

But last month’s news that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson won’t seek re-election reminds us that the Democrats also look snake-bit this year.  Holding onto the Senate looks hard and might even be out of reach.

Many things can and will happen in a year, but as it looks now, the GOP seems to be reasonably secure in the House, poised to take over the Senate, and facing no worse than a 50/50 chance of taking the White House.

Many things could change that picture in the next ten months.  The economy could start to grow, allowing President Obama the chance to talk about “morning in America.” A European collapse could cause people to rally around a familiar president. A war with Iran or some other national security emergency could increase President Obama’s support.

But assuming that things run on as they do and that the Republican nominee does not self-destruct, President Obama is almost certain to do worse in 2012 than he did in the unusual election year of 2008.  After all, for several months now the polls have showed a slim voter preference for a ‘generic’ Republican over President Obama, and Governor Romney is as close to a generic Republican as we have seen in this cycle.

If 2012 doesn’t offer any big surprises, North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana will probably revert to their traditional GOP presidential preference. Florida and Ohio also seem to be drifting away from the current White House team. In 2008, President Obama could have lost all those states and still had a comfortable margin of victory.  Because of reapportionment after the 2010 census, if those states go red, President Obama will lose if any other state (except for tiny Delaware) jumps ship. Several states look to be good candidates for this role; they include Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and (if Romney is the GOP nominee), New Hampshire. In some ways, this could be a very conventional US presidential election: the Republicans can’t win without Ohio and probably though not quite certainly win if they get it.  President Obama has spent a lot of time in Ohio; he is not, at this moment, much loved there.

Republicans then go into 2012 likely to hold the House and take the Senate, and with a solid chance of taking the White House as well.  For Democrats, this is shaping up as an election in which they try to limit losses: a far cry from the historic realignment they were dreaming of three short years ago.

Via Meadia is not in the soothsaying business; this is not intended as an election forecast.  But after months of horse race coverage in Iowa, it makes sense to step back from the day to day headlines and spend a little time thinking about how the big picture is starting to shape up.  The playing field is tilting away from the Democrats this year; after running the table in 2008, Democrats face losing it all this time around.

show comments
  • stephen b

    And they should…lose it all, that is. Democrats since they re-took Senate and House in ’06, and especially since they controlled executive and legislative branches after big O’s election, have shown themselves manifestly unsuited to wielding political power, and apparently only interested in how best to marshal any remaining power. When was last time Senate produced a budget? Oh yeah, no one remembers that far back. Of course, so far, GOP has not shown much capability in political power wielding either.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead mostly gets this right; the Senate will almost surely go Republican, the House will stay in the Republican column (although the Democrats might pick up a few seats) and the Electoral College map doesn’t look great for Obama. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida will almost surely determine the outcome of the election (once again). Whichever candidate wins two of those three states, wins.

    What Professor Mead gets wrong is the magnitude of the failure of the Tea Party movement. After its enormous success in 2010, it has mostly fizzled out. The fact that a movement that dominated the Republican Party just a few short months ago couldn’t prevent Mitt Romney from securing his Party’s nomination is a sign of pathetic incompetence by the Tea Party types. This is just fine with me; I am thinking about voting for Romney and I have never voted for a Republican presidential candidate in my life. I would have been hard-pressed to vote for any of the other Republican candidates.

    The failure and ultimate demise of the Tea Party shouldn’t surprise anyone. Populist movements in the United States rarely have much staying power and to suggest that an insurgent movement in today’s Republican Party can survive is almost an oxymoron.

    Oil patch Republican elites used to pick the Party’s nominee but now that power has shifted to Wall Street Republican elites. Anyone who knows anything about the Romney campaign knows that he has raised many millions of dollars from people who live on Fifth Avenue in New York City between 60th street and 90th street. These are the people who call the shots in the Republican Party not some group of people standing on street corners kvetching about “Obamacare.”

    If you don’t believe it, ask yourself how Mitt Romney, the man who virtually invented Obamacare, could end up the nominee of the Republican Party. If that doesn’t convince you, reminisce about the last 5 Republican nominees; Romney (soon to be), McCain, Dubya, Bob Dole and George Herbert Walker Bush; there’s not an insurgent in the bunch and everyone one of them had the support of Republican elites. In the Democratic Party, Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter can all, to one extent or another, be considered insurgent candidates.

    The Tea Party is finished but I still think that Mead’s analysis of its effect on foreign policy as outlined in his recent “Foreign Affairs” article is interesting. If you haven’t read Mead’s brilliant article, go here,

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67455/walter-russell-mead/the-tea-party-and-american-foreign-policy

    Unfortunately you can only read the abstract for free. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, Professor Mead, tear down that pay wall!

    Mead is right; the “soothsaying business” is a treacherous business, but it’s still fun.

    My prediction is the Romney will be elected; that he will end up being despised by a significant portion of his own Party and that he may very well end up as a failed president. By 2014 the Democrats will retake the House and the Senate.

    Romney’s foreign policy will be dramatically better than Obama’s but his foolish belief in austerity will make U.S. economic problems far worse not far better. Eschew Keynes and the economy tanks; it’s as if G-d himself ordained the economic laws of the universe and John Maynard Keynes is his prophet.

  • Kansas Scott

    I agree that the Iowa caucus is a strange and perhaps dated creature. But some part of it seems to work in that so many candidates were vetted and found wanting even by folks who really, really wanted to like them. It’s not pretty but it seems effective in paring the field before any real damage is done.

  • Optimus Primed

    @WigWag

    Please. Anyone who still believes Keynes still has a pulse after the complete debacle of the last 3 years is nothing but a leftist partisan hack.

    Please don’t come across the aisle. You voted this clown in despite any rational evidence that he was competent, accomplished, and even remotely intelligent and yet you still push the leftist iedological crap despite evidence of it driving global failure at every turn? You should have to go down with President as well…

    Give the Tea Party a chance. It is in the early innings and it is a legitimate movement run by productive people who have no history or experience with actual organizing. This isn’t a bought and paid for leftist movement with professional agitators leading the way, you would expect some level of stalling before they learn how to affect further change.

  • SDN

    Romney has secured the nomination, wiggy? News to me.

  • http://www.tempeteaparty.org Lee

    The left’s electoral successes in ’06 and ’08 were created by a news media corrupted by leftist infiltration and subversion.

    Obama’s presidency is the ultimate triumph of the left’s efforts to capture institutions such as the media.

    But what the left never realized is that an institution’s influence and prestige are not set in stone. Free people turn against institutions captured in this way, and they become irrelevant.

    This is what has happened to the Marxist Socialist Media (MSM), and there is no firmer proof of this than how blatant they have become in their dishonesty. In years past they worked to present a patina of objectivity, into which they would insert subtle attempts at manipulation. These methods don’t work anymore. When someone knows they are being lied to, they stop listening. As a result, the media has gone full leftard and quickly run through whatever lingering credibility remained.

    Never again will a racist marxist be elected president by running as a post-partisan centrist.

    P.S. The notion presented by “WigWag” that the Tea Party is waning is incorrect. We now OWN the Republican party.

  • Meremortal

    @Wig Wag: While you are correct that the Tea Party wasn’t able to field a TP candidate for President, you are not correct that it is dead. It is just getting started. The TP will be heard at the balllot box again this fall, just as it was in the last mid-terms.

    The TP put the brakes on some of Obama’s idiotic plans for the country, and he is reduced to signing statements and end-runs around the Constitution to pursue his destructive agenda. His signature “achievement” will go broke and have to be reformed, and it will go broke much faster than the other social programs Dems and Repubs have passed.

    The inability of welfare states to fund themselves becomes more evident as time passes, and that reality will be enforced by the bond vigilantes around the world, who are doing their work in Europe presently. Son-of-a-gun, those that have the gold still make the rules.

    It’s not the Tea Party that is in trouble, it’s the welfare state that is dying, collapsing under the weight of of too many riding in the wagon, not enough left to pull. Watching Europe descend into the Maelstorm will be a nice object lesson for Americans. And America will decide not to follow the Eurozone into oblivion.

  • Robert

    No Democrat. Any office. Ever.

  • uncleFred

    No WIgwag the TEA party has not failed. The path to reversing the imbalance between the public and private sectors is simply long and twisted.

    After correctly recognizing that it could only accomplish this goal by restoring the Republican party to the roots it turned from 58 years ago, the TEA party began a grassroots effort nominate more conservative Republicans when ever possible. They had success in this effort in 2010 and will again in 2012. With a bit of luck the Senate will not just be in Republican hands, but those hands will be more conservative. The house will remain in Republican hands and probably be somewhat more conservative if only because hard left democrats will not win in the swing districts. With that legislative mix any of the current crop of Republican presidential candidates will be adequate to sign reform legislation.

    In 2014 the number of Democrat Senate seats up for election will again far out number Republican seats. The TEA party will continue to work to nominate conservatives and there is an excellent shot for the Republicans to get to sixty seats if not more. At that point real governmental reform will be possible. It will be incremental but real.

    The other fact that you over look is the sweeping level of change in the state governments that were effected by the TEA party in 2010. These are the source of the next generation of federal politicians. In all but the bluest states even the democrats have moved rightward.

    For many many many years the average voter ignored the leftward slide by both parties following the election of LBJ. In 2009 they awakened. Not just Republicans but independents and even a significant number of life long Democrats make up the TEA party movement. They are not going back to sleep anytime soon. These are the people who are used to working every day for years to accomplish something they consider worth while. For all the impatience with the slowness of the process, at their core they know this is a long hard slog and will stay with it to the end.

  • Pat D

    The three core principles of the Tea Party Patriots. They are fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets. These should be bedrock GOP principles but the GOP, post Reagan, has become the Democrat-lite party. The Tea Party moved the party in their direction in the mid-terms. They will continue to do so in 2012 through the primaries and by grass roots activism.

    The Tea Party is right about one thing: fiscal responsibility is coming one way or another. A large part of that is entitlement reform. As Sarah Palin said back in September, “See, the reality is we will have entitlement reform; it’s just a matter of how we’re going to get there. We either do it ourselves or the world’s capital markets are going to shove it down our throats, and we’ll have no choice but to reform our entitlement programs.”

    Tea Party Patriots recognize the country is on an unsustainable course and they are demanding a course correction. Until that happens, they will remain active and involved. As the looming fiscal disaster becomes ever more obvious, the Tea Party movement will grow, rather than shrink. The Tea Party will only be finished when it is no longer needed.

    The current crop of GOP candidates is weak. It is going to take a couple more cycles for Tea Party backed candidates to emerge as potential GOP candidates. People like Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Alan West, Susanna Martinez, Rand Paul and Scott Walker represent the first generation of potential Tea Party candidates.

    The typical Tea Party member is employed in the private sector, has not been politically active before, but has come to the realization that we, the people, need to regain control of our country. We’ve had it with the Permanent Political Class. We’re sick of Crony Capitalism. We recognize we won’t have one of our own as the GOP candidate this time around, so we’ll be focused on the House and Senate races. We don’t need any more rallies; we just need to know where to send our money and who to call.

  • Andrew Allison

    As is usually the case, I largely agree with Prof. Mead’s analysis, I think, however, that his inclusion of Gingrich among those who “aren’t going to be president” premature. The many people in the Republican Party, and perhaps more importantly independents such as myself, who don’t want Governor Mitt Romney” should not be underestimated.

  • Jim.

    @WigWag:

    Reporting on the TEA Party’s demise is terribly premature, and definitely wishful thinking on your part, WigWag. The fact is, if there were only one TEA Party candidate instead of several, that candidate would have won in Iowa. Bachmann’s departure is bad for Romney; when the next TEA Partier leaves after New Hampshire, things will be even worse.

    Romney got 25% of the vote in Iowa in 2008, and 25% in 2012. He didn’t budge the needle. If he doesn’t budge the needle in New Hampshire, his political career is dead *even if he wins*.

    Also… the idea that anyone like you would vote for a GOP candidate is either a self-deluding velleity, or a calculated lie. Any political pro on the GOP side who counts on your sort to vote for Romney (did any of you vote for McCain?) will never be trusted again.

    Our budget deficit is still out of control. Our national debt still threatens to destroy the long-term (even medium-term) prospects of the country. The collapse of the Eurosocialist extreme of the Blue Social Model makes the high-tax option to “solve” our fiscal problems an obvious blunder.

    These forces combine to mean the TEA Party isn’t going away any time soon. It’s just getting started.

  • Yahzooman

    The more Republicans on the stump the better. Seven people hammering Obama is more effective than just Mr. Romney. Of course, it would do us well if they obeyed Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment.

    The Tea Party is not dead. It is eating nuts and berries while snug in its den. The hibernating behemoth will arise in the spring, assess the landscape and emerge in full throat.

    Tea Partiers care about ONE thing: defeating Obama. They will be a force in the 2012 campaign, no matter who the GOP selects.

  • Tim_K

    If the Tea Party is finished, so is America. Unless we return to the limited government and federalism established by the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which was based on a firm belief in natural rights, there is no hope for the future of this country.

  • RHD

    What a sour rendition of purely conventional wisdom. Far from your best, WRM (and your best if very good indeed). You need to take a walk and get some fresh air. Hope it’s sunny wherever you are if you decide to do so.

  • http://www.ilike.com/artist/Ritchie+the+Riveter Ritchie The Riveter

    Here on Long Island, the Tea Party movement is actively working at the local and state levels to see its agenda implemented within our various levels of government. Those in the movement are smart enough to realize that focusing on the Presidency alone will not get that done.

    In fact, the control of Congress has far more significance when it comes to economic issues than ANY President.

    The rumors of the demise of this movement are GREATLY exaggerated … it has now gotten past getting mad, and is now starting to get even …

    … as in, making sure our government is even-handed and respectful of our rights, instead of it being the playground for a few Best and Brightest who think they must jam their socio-economic morality down our throats “for the common good”.

  • anon

    It is way too early in this election cycle to say the the Tea Party has lost its influence.

    Gov. Romney has been running for President for more than 5 years, if you count his start in early 2007. My goodness, he ought to have it figured out by now.

    Even if you think he is some sort of moderate flip-floping Massachusetts Moderate you have to respect his ability to sucessfully run large Business and Public institutions. That should be a great help for him in organizing a Presidential campaign.

    Sure, he ‘only’ received 25% of the vote in Iowa. However, only one other candidate did as well. And that guy certainly can’t have the staff or resources that Gov. Romney does.

    Cong. Bachmann was bright enough to realize that this was not her year. After each upcoming primary or caucus, that same light will down on another Republican candidate or two.

    Quite frankly the only candidate so consumed by his own brilliance, and so unable to deal with reality is Cong. Paul. He ran for President twice before and was roundly rejected by those who actually DO live in the real world.

    You doubt me? Take a good look at the videos from Cong. Paul’s 3rd place ‘victory’ speech in Iowa. Look closely at his son
    Rand’s face. It is the look of a sucessful professional politician who wishes that the train wreck he has to support – the Congressman IS his father – would come to a quick close.

    Face the facts Paulistas, if 80% of the Republicans in a very conservative state like Iowa want someone else to be President,
    he doesn’t stand a chance.

    You can heap whatever scorn or hatred you want at me, which might make you feel better, but has as little chance of changing the facts as Cong. Paul does of winning the Presidency.

    But I do hope he stays in the contest as long as possible as his 10-15% takes votes away from, say Perry or Newt or the losing Senator from Penna., guys who at least have a SLIM chance of beating Gov. Romney.

    And, in point of fact, it makes no difference to me as I will be voting for President Obama regardless of who the R’s nominate.

  • WigWag

    I am not sure why, but reading the comments addressed to me on this post put me in mind of that great movie starring William Powell, Myrna Loy and Asta (the airedale), “The Thin Man”

    In particular it reminded me of the scene at the end of the movie where all of the assorted suspects are sitting around the dinner table in the hotel room rented by Nick and Nora Charles waiting for Nick to reveal who murdered Clyde Wynant.

    At the beginning of the dinner, Nora says to the waiter (a policeman in disguise),

    “Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?”

    It was a great movie that somehow seems apropos here.

  • NYCmik

    “Romney’s foreign policy will be dramatically better than Obama’s but his foolish belief in austerity will make U.S. economic problems far worse not far better. Eschew Keynes and the economy tanks; it’s as if G-d himself ordained the economic laws of the universe and John Maynard Keynes is his prophet.”
    -It depends what you mean by austerity. If he cuts the budget back to 2008 levels ($400 billion deficit), is that austere? If he is able to do something with entitlement (Ryan’s road map), wouldn’t that lift a great burden from future liabilities? Or will that help with your prediction of the Dems taking over Congress?

  • John M

    This is such a great blog.

    Does anyone have any insights on three election related issues.

    *The Tea Party: It appears that Tea Party identification is dropping off. But does that matter? If it’s true that the Tea Party started in angry opposition to bailouts, unreasonable taxes, and big and intrusive government, none of those “features” has changed. Isn’t it likely that the anger is still there, just not bottled under the Tea Party label? Is the decline in Tea Party identification more the result of relentlessly negative news coverage (or some such) than a philosophical change of heart?

    *Independents: A number of surveys recently have shown that voters are leaving the GOP and Democratic parties and that many are becoming independents (for example:

    http://decoded.nationaljournal.com/2011/12/battlegroundstate-voters-leavi.php#.TuB-qTx17Wl.twitter

    How are these new independents likely to vote? Will they return as indies to support their old parties or will they tilt heavily left or right?

    *President Obama’s reclusiveness: A number of stories (most recently and gently in the NYT

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/29/us/politics/obama-gains-reputation-as-distant-in-washington.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=Helene%20Cooper&st=cse)

    describe an Obama who has little interest in working with anyone outside his immediate circle and especially not Congress. Similar stories have dealt with his Cabinet and foreign leaders. If the reclusiveness claim is true, isn’t it more likely that Obama, rather than the “system” in Washington, is broken. Wouldn’t the Dems be wise to replace Obama with, say Hillary, for the good of the country? Wouldn’t the GOP be wise to call more attention to the fact that Obama doesn’t play well with others?

  • Immanuel Goldstein

    @Wigwag; I think that you are making way to broad sweeping generalizations on too little evidence. The Tea Party, as defined as middle class Americans appalled by out of control spending by the Federal government has not died out as a movement. After the 2010 elections, they simply redirected their focus on local and state wide races. They’ve mostly ignored the Primary Presidential race because of the fact that none of the candidates really addressed their concerns. Unlike the OWS crowd, who camped out on public lands and had nowhere to go after their initial media blitz, the Tea Party is doing the hard street level organization that can affect real, permanent change. The Republican elites might still wield sufficient influence to take the present election cycle, but their days are numbered. The Republican establishment is on it’s last legs.

  • Mr. G

    The Tea Party’s failure to produce a candidate is not a major failure of the Tea Party. It is a new movement and not a brand and simply can not offer by the book politicians waiting to see if they can advance.

    The Tea Party’s success hinges on whether it makes a big enough difference on local politics that viable candidates can rise through the ranks that have actually governed through Tea Party principles and therefore will have no problem showing leadership potential when “vetted”.

    The Democrats and Republicans are in many ways simply established name brands. New ideas like new products have to fight for shelf space and take time to establish.

  • Richard

    The big loser in all of this is the media, despite what you say about the ratings. Next time the glitterati media tries to moderate a Republican debate, the audience will come prepared with tomatoes and raw eggs. I wouldn’t have voted in Iowa for Santorum, but when Alan Colmes tried to bring up his conduct over a stillborn baby, I was deeply offended by that. This ____________ needs to go away for good. The media are mostly PR hacks for the Democrats and not very good ones at that.

    The tea party is far from dead. It is a bottom up movement. Although their ideas are very different from the Progressive movement, they resemble the Progressives in responding to a corrupt and decadent political establishment. The Progressives never elected a President but they were nonetheless able to achieve many of their goals. So will the tea party.

    The #Occupy movement was an example of history repeating itself first as tragedy then as comedy. As one who was around in 1968, the last thing I would want is to relive that year. Unfortunately for them, they did make their point: their college educations weren’t worth what they paid for them.

  • RedWell

    Despite remarkable sound and fury to the contrary, I’m inclined to agree with WigWag (and, naturally, WRM):

    1) Angry responses above illustrate the point: populist movements make a splash, but they remain too inarticulate, purist and unsophisticated to last. Tea party favorites in Congress, for instance, are not exactly creating winning coalitions.

    2) WigWag is the best writer.

    That said, I’m not convinced Obama will struggle more than Romney: the Republicans are angry but not inspired. They’ll make a lot of noise, but they are in no better position to turn out the vote.

    The real issue to ponder, though, is that while the US can easily survive a President with mediocre economic performance (i.e. Obama), it will suffer decades of cultural and political angst if our first “black” president is turned out after one term.

  • Bonfire of the Idiocies

    Micheal Barone recently had a column wondering if any major party has ever had as weak a field of candidates in a year when their chances seemed so good as does the 2012 GOP. His answer was the 1932 Democrats. Despite the bad economy and dislike of Hoover, a Democrat victory did not appear to be a given. Even though FDR emerged as a formidable candidate and politician, he was not highly regarded when 1932 began. So even though the GOP field looks weak now, it may not stay that way.

  • Mike M.

    Getting away from the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Tea Party for a moment, am I the only one who is bothered by the fact that it was somehow determined somewhere along the way that Iowa gets to go first in every single presidential election?

    I have nothing at all against Iowa, or any other midwest farm state, but I can’t think of any logical reason why it should have some kind of divine right to be first to speak in every cycle. It’s deeply unfair to the rest of the country, and in my opinion it borders on being undemocratic.

    We’re in the 21st century now, and it’s time for both of the two big parties to do away with the antiquated nonsense and come up with a nomination process that is fair and actually makes some sense. Some kind of rotating system would probably be best, but almost anything would be better than the horrible system we have in place now.

    I hope that the political class will do something to rectify this in the next four years, but I’m certainly not holding my breath.

  • Outrajus1

    @Wigwag
    After getting sliced, diced and totally roasted, all you have is nuts? Your second response is as empty as the content of your first….. maybe you could go and cut&paste something from HuffPo or KosKids. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

  • Toni

    “The endlessly hyped Iowa caucus process has finally drawn to an inconclusive close. Here’s what acres of media coverage extending over months and months and months of stultifying boredom and pointlessness have told us: Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain and Rick Perry aren’t going to be president of the United States. Nobody much thought any of these people were going to be president a year ago, and a year from now only a handful of political junkies will remember how the various figures campaigns self destructed or otherwise failed to catch fire.”

    Prof. Mead, this is true only if you don’t care who winds up taking office in 2013. The whole essay is demeaning and dismissive of the democratic process.

    You’re writing with perfect hindsight. Romney was not the inevitable candidate. One of his competitors might have caught fire, and Santorum still might, or (at long odds) Perry. Competition works as well in the political process as it does the auto market. The relatively small number of Iowa voters got to kick the tires and look under the hood of this year’s GOP models, and so did the media.

    The Tea Party is what OWS wanted to be. The former grew up organically to reflect the passions and conviction of millions of voters. It doesn’t need A leader. It has many, including Sarah Palin, and Tea Partiers are still passionate. They’ve already achieved a huge goal: pulling the GOP back toward its roots in fiscal responsibility and limited government.

    What you wrongly call “the turmoil and trouble of Iowa” told us LOTS “that we didn’t know six months to a year ago.” Perry can’t debate. Cain had skeletons in his closet. Gingrich, among other problems, is an emotional mess. All these factors can help the GOP find a suitable vice presidential candidate.

    Oh, and when was the last time Obama broke 50% in the approval ratings? Killing Osama maybe, but he’s been under water for years now.

    My diagnosis is that you’ve never previously paid much attention to other side of the party divide, and you’ve never realized the important role retail politics plays in winnowing the candidates. Neither merits your flip, dismissive approach.

  • http://inthisdimension.com alex scipio

    I’m sure Iowa is important to Iowans, but nobody in any major state really cares about it. It’s way past crazy that the states in which most of the nation’s citizens reside have no say in determining the nominee of either major political party, isn’t it? I mean I live in CA, along with 10% of the citizens of America, and I have NO VOICE in the nominating process…. this is just seriously stupid.

    And the ego of Iowans always is entertaining: someone is running for the most powerful office in the history of the world and he or she has to grovel around coffee shops and donut holes to get these people to support them? How about having lots of town halls in NY, IL, TX and CA, have those four vote on the same day and let everyone else play their little games later?

  • WigWag

    “After getting sliced, diced and totally roasted, all you have is nuts? Your second response is as empty as the content of your first…” (Outrajus1)

    You’re right, Outrajus1, I went back and reviewed my comment and I see that I was mistaken.

    As it happens, Asta was a Wire-Haired Fox Terrier not an Airedale.

    I apologize for the mistake.

  • Richard F. Miller

    WRM:

    Like you, I’m not in the soothsaying business either. However, history is another matter, and I’d like to plead the case for Iowa type caucuses, however over-hyped they may be.

    This case begins by noting a not-so-curious Gallup phenomenon: Republican party identification has gone up substantially since this campaign marathon began. This is as it should be–the Democrats have no competitive process this year, and Republican cacophony, however often it veers, nevertheless, makes a perpetual case highlighting the incumbent’s shortcomings, and doing what political parties in a democracy are supposed to do: highlight differences.

    Second, there is a “therapeutic” side to democracy, not always acknowledged–psychologically, it’s important that every side have their “say” and have a chance to present their man or woman to the party faithful. This especially applies to primaries. To a shallow observer, the candidates may “sound alike” but in fact, there are real differences in their appeals, some nuanced, some patent. At the end of this tedious process, there are few constituencies who can argue that they didn’t get a fair hearing. It is this dynamic that allows parties to unite behind the eventual winner.

    You may not be impressed with this year’s crop of candidates, but that’s hardly the point of the process–it isn’t to field eight Abraham Lincolns, but to let the Seward, Chase, and Cameron wings also have take their shots. This is what tends to keep American third parties marginal (but still influential) and enhances political stability.

  • Richard

    I’m no fan of the Iowa Caucuses either. It’s not Iowa, it’s the idea of the caucus. It might be a fun social event for political activists, but the rules are such many people can’t attend. People in California, Texas, and New York watch while a handful of people have more say on the nominees than millions of other Americans. Hillary Clinton’s campaign rather stupidly signed on to the idea of expanding the role of the caucus in the nomination process, then sat back and watched Obama eat their lunch. We need primary elections, not caucuses.

  • Anthony

    “After Iowa: Dems Are Playing For Defense in 2012.” WRM, what the Iowa Caucus reinforces for me is that the filling of public office (in this case the Presidency) amounts to quite an ‘industry’ in an economic sense – gives employment to many people (media, pundits, partisan online outlets, operative, fundraisers, etc.) without countenancing real problems facing United States and its mulitple divisions (demographics as analyst label them)

    I recall being told that “the electoral system is the setting for a cat-and-mouse game between the greater part of the demoralized public and the professional politician” – a man who knows what he wants for himself and usually gets it; politics is the realm productive of public policy and the troubles of the country, in some measure, can inevitably trace back to politics – officeholders chosen by the people in caucases or primaries).

    Meanwhile as WRM correctly summerizes, the parade goes on into November with very little substantive public policy (Domestic & Foreign) presented for citizen consumption given our very real condition of economic, social, political, and cultural estrangement (but the horse race and party alignment of a future congress acquire paramountcy as we handicap Democrats and Republicans).

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The Primary is just getting started, Romney hasn’t face any negative advertising yet, and Gingrich is going to make a comeback in the states that never saw all the negative ads (47% of all political ads in Iowa) that hurt him. The Not Romney TEA Partiers like myself are not finished yet, and New Hampshire only gets 12 delegates, while South Carolina gets 25 and Florida gets 50. Also recent changes to the Republican primary, that give only half the delegates and those proportionally to early voting states, will drag the nomination process out so that more states get a say in who the nominee is going to be. In 2008 the Democrats primary was almost unending as Obama and Clinton fought it out, under a similar system.

  • Georgiaboy61

    Alec Scipio, re: “I mean I live in CA, along with 10% of the citizens of America, and I have NO VOICE in the nominating process…. this is just seriously stupid…” and “And the ego of Iowans always is entertaining: someone is running for the most powerful office in the history of the world and he or she has to grovel around coffee shops and donut holes to get these people to support them?” Spoken like a true California leftist, Alex, i.e. as arrogant and ignorant as the day is long. Considering that your state is broke, and rapidly becoming the northern-most province of Mexico, don’t you think you should have other priorities?

  • Toni

    Ahem. Prof. Mead, here’s the apology you’re due.

    I spent a career writing authoritatively, but my post went further, into truculence and judgmentalism. I’m embarrassed by “My diagnosis.” I have zero basis for those assertions, and I should never have made that leap. Please forgive me.

    Perhaps I can atone by calling attention to a nifty WSJ feature, I believe available to all. Their Election 2012 section has turned Real Clear Politics poll info into interactive graphics, so that you can see many trends (GOP candidates, Obama approval, Obama vs. generic GOP, etc.) — the RCP average or by poll (Gallup, Pew, etc.) — over time, going back as far as Feb. ’09.

    I hope this link goes there.
    http://projects.wsj.com/campaign2012/polls#cand=Romney&race=2&region=US&src=rcpo

    Obama’s approval rating has indeed been mostly below 50% since Dec.’09. But I hadn’t known the averages, approve and dis-, are now almost identical. Maybe 2012 will be a cliffhanger.

    I heard that a Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times.” We do, and we can pray they’re not a curse.

  • Kris

    RedWell@24: “The real issue to ponder, though, is that while the US can easily survive a President with mediocre economic performance (i.e. Obama), it will suffer decades of cultural and political angst if our first ‘black’ president is turned out after one term.”

    I think we should already mobilize to repeal the indubitably racist Twenty-second Amendment.

  • WigWag

    I don’t know what it is about the Tea Party that keeps putting me in mind of funny movies.

    There’s a scene from Woody Allen’s movie “Annie Hall” where he describes Tea Party types to a tee. It’s actually at the very beginning of the movie where Woody’s character, Alvy Singer, is wondering what he will be like when he gets old.

    He concludes that he’s likely to lose his hair but he wonders whether he will be “the balding virile type” and whether he will be “distinguished.”

    Finally he begins to worry that he just might be,

    “one of those guys with saliva dripping out of his mouth who wanders into a cafeteria with a shopping bag screaming about socialism.”

    Annie Hall came out in 1977. Who could have guessed that he could have so closely predicted what many Tea Party types would be like 30 years before anyone even dreamed up the Tea Party.

    Wow.

    The scene can be seen here,

  • Toni

    @Kris

    Your post bewilders me. Would you please explain why the 22nd is indubitably racist?

  • Toni

    WigWag, you’re [very, very prejudiced].

    A bigot is anyone who holds a demeaning stereotype of a group of people he doesn’t know. Your particular bigotry is simultaneously vicious and supercilious. You think citing old movie scenes that illustrate the demeaning stereotype you hold makes you clever while demonstrating your superiority.

    It doesn’t. It shows you’re narrow-minded, smug and ignorant, some of the worst traits of knee-jerk liberals.

    Go to a Tea Party gathering and see for yourself what these people are like. At least stop making posts that insult people you don’t know. They’re disgusting.

  • Kris

    Toni@39: “Your post bewilders me. Would you please explain why the 22nd is indubitably racist?”

    Why, because it prevents His Magnificence from serving a third term!

    I assume there would be less bewilderment if I had appended a “[/sarc]” to my original comment.

  • Toni

    Hi, Kris. I was a professional writer, and in the early email days, I refused to use emoticons because I thought I should be able to get my meaning across without them. But they serve to clarify what facial expression or tone of voice would otherwise have conveyed.

    Might I suggest you forego Internet shorthand for all of us not so savvy? E.g., “I was being sarcastic.”

  • Luke Lea

    I see drift with no hope on the horizon.

  • lotuseater

    Here is interesting piece on Tea party (also Iowa caucas, and why Rick Perry may still have some life left) from Economist:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2012/01/tea-party-movement

  • Luke Lea

    Here’s a better link to WRM’s Tea Party article in Foreign Policy WigWag referenced above:

    http://www.ihavenet.com/politics/The-Tea-Party-and-American-Foreign-Policy-WRM.html

    For what it is worth I’ve taken to searching by title using Bing to get behind firewalls. If you add pdf or scribd to your search terms that also helps.

  • Frank Arden

    WigWag,

    Woody Allen’s neurotic characters are always good for a good laugh. I’m still laughing as I write this, but I wonder what an aged OWS protester will look like, too. Will he be one of those guys with saliva dripping out of his mouth who defecates in the streets (or a cafeteria) with a shopping bag screaming about capitalism?

    We’ll see.

    In the meantime, I tend to agree with you about republicans this year. I agree that that the Electoral College stars are not aligned for Obama, that Romney as president will probably have a difficult time with his own party, that it’s a stretch seeing him as a two-term president, and that the democrats will improve their lot in 2014.

    Other than that, I’m sorry you’re taking a beating in these posts Old Boy, but you see, you punched one of my Tea Party friends in the nose. Then you rubbed salt in the wound with all that Keynesian talk.

    I’m not a Tea Party person, yet I am sympathetic to its frustrations with both parties. I don’t think the Tea Party has failed and I don’t think Mead failed to see it’s magnitude of failure.

    The Tea Party is barely two years old. It’s not really a political party per se and it will take years before it will field one of its own as a republican candidate, if ever. It has, however, been effective in state and congressional races which are more influenced by grassroots movements.

    I think, too, its notoriety is in large part due to the knee-jerk liberal hatred and fear of it espoused by the MSM.

    To me, the bigger influence it has had was to show disdain and anger by regular salt-of-the-earth citizens for the place both parties have brought this nation thus far.

    Deficits and debt is a bipartisan crime.

    Unlike Toni, who called you “narrow-minded, smug and ignorant, [having]some of the worst traits of knee-jerk liberals,” and unlike another poster who told you not to vote for Romney, but to go down with Obama because you voted for him (if I’m not mistaken, Mead voted for him, too), I’m glad you plan to vote republican this year.

    It reminds be of the movie, Casablanca, in the last scene where Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo thanks Rick (who’s been cynical about taking sides in the war) for the Letters of Transit to neutral Lisbon.

    Laszlo shakes Rick’s hand and says, “Welcome to the fight. Now I know our side will win.”

    By the way, I shocked, shocked to find politics going on in this blog.

  • PSpengler

    Carter and Clinton could be described as insurgent Democrats, but not Obama. Obama got the Democratic nomination in 2008 chiefly because he had the support of the party king makers (Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, MSNBC) and Hillary Clinton did not. It was the superdelegates who gave Obama his delegate majority at the Democratic convention.

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