The Democrats Find Their Own Version of the Tea-Party Movement

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

Day Four of the Trump Administration. Sky status: Intact.

The Democrats Find Their Own Version of the Tea Party Movement

If the Tea Party movement had held its first rally on January 21, 2009, instead of midsummer of that year, would anything have changed?

Probably not, as the Obama administration and the majority of congressional Democrats were hell-bent on passing Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, their version of the stimulus, and so on. Scott Brown’s improbable Senate victory in Massachusetts didn’t drive them to the center, so it’s unlikely that any outside force could have spurred them to rethink their approach to governing in the opening years of the Obama presidency.

Critics argued that the Tea Party movement was driven by a panoply of issues: opposition to Obamacare, outrage over the TARP bailouts, the threat of tax increases, the growth of government, concern about the national debt, among others. It was a fair criticism, but it was ultimately moot. Most members of the Tea Party unified around the idea of staunchly opposing what that guy in the Oval Office is doing.

The Women’s March on Washington Saturday certainly had its own smorgasbord of concerns: abortion rights, racial profiling, gay rights, opposition to deporting illegal immigrants, opposition to Islamophobia, workers’ right to organize, concern over global warming . . . 

But as much as we on the right might chuckle at the contradictions – a lot of labor unions work in the industries that environmentalists would like to see shut down, and a lot of Muslims have views on gay rights that this movement would oppose – the people involved in Saturday’s marches will unify around the idea of staunchly opposing what that guy in the Oval Office is doing.

Fear is a powerful motivator; fear gets people’s butts up off their couches. When you have more people caring about what’s going on in Washington, you have more people who become interested in running for office. In 2010, Republicans suddenly had bushels of candidates – usually good ones – in places they rarely had one before: “After surpassing a goal to recruit 80 candidates in key races, Leader Boehner set a more ambitious objective of 100. At the end of the day, McCarthy and the team at the NRCC were able to help get a Republican on the ballot in 431 of the 435 House congressional districts.”

The Tea Party movement gift-wrapped a message for Republican candidates: Democrats in Congress had grown arrogant and out of touch, and were completely oblivious to the growing anger and dissatisfaction in their districts:

The townhall protests that erupted in August 2009 provided the first visible signs of the anger and frustration that Americans of all political parties were feeling. While Speaker Pelosi and other Democrat leaders criticized these citizens as “un-American,” the NRCC embraced the movement and highlighted the rude awakening that vulnerable Democrats were receiving with daily emails entitled “Recess Roastings.” Events held by Reps. Baron Hill (IN-09), Steve Driehaus (OH-01) and others became instant YouTube sensations and were proof that Democrats had a much bigger problem on their hands than they originally expected.

Throughout the Obama presidency, the Democrats desperately yearned for their own version of the Tea Party. They envied the crowds, the passion, the visible signs of grassroots opposition, cropping up across the country. You only demonize something if it matters.

It now appears that as the Trump presidency dawns, angry liberals are building something akin to the Tea Party movement. It will look different, it will be geographically concentrated in different areas, and of course, it will get much more sympathetic media coverage. But it will be there, and it could be a big factor in 2018 midterms.

It’s also worth remembering that the Tea Party was ultimately a mixed bag for the Republican party. Yes, it brought them Mike Lee, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Paul LePage, Trey Gowdy, Ron Johnson, etc., but it also brought Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Carl Paladino, and Richard Mourdock. An impassioned grassroots movement giveth, and an impassioned grassroots movement taketh away.

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