The Washington press corps has decided to respond to yesterday’s primaries by asking itself whether the Tea Parties have not turned out to be a Trojan horse for the right, or, as George Stephanopoulos put it this morning “more harm than good.” It’s a classic example of what happens when you only look at politics second-by-second.
Remember, what happened in Delaware may put in jeopardy the party’s chances of winning Joe Biden’s old senate seat, and perhaps of coming back from a 10-seat deficit in the senate to win control of the body. That these things—not to mention a Republican takeover of the House, and a large number of governorships, state legislatures, and local offices—are even imaginable two years after Obama’s election is simply and utterly staggering. And they are imaginable in large part because of the very mood and activity that have gone under the Tea Party label.
Has the Tea Party done more harm than good for Republicans? Um, no. It has done far more good for the Republican Party than anything Republicans could possibly have done on purpose.
It makes sense, of course, to argue about the implications of choosing one candidate or another in one race or another, and without a doubt there are some excesses worth correcting here and there, as always. But on the whole, as Bill Kristol notes, this has been a very good primary season for Republicans, and looks to be a very good election season. The changes forced on the party have mostly (though not entirely) been for the good, and the effect on its electoral prospects has been nothing short of stunning. The country’s response to two years of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid has been about as good for conservatives and Republicans as they could possibly have hoped given the circumstances, and may well give them the chance to meaningfully stand athwart the leftward march, and even turn it rightward some (though that may have to wait another two years). Obviously the tea partiers have not been a complicating factor in that process, but a primary moving force.