Doug Schoen is the co-author, with Scott Rasmussen, of the new book — released Tuesday by HarperCollins – Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System. We’ve chatted about last night’s results, the book, and November:
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Is this phenomenon of people being as mad as hell the explanation for why Mike Castle just went down?
DOUG SCHOEN: There is deep-seated frustration with the political system, with political elites, and the way Washington works. Voters, especially on the Republican side, want smaller government, lower taxes, and less spending. This explains why voters are Mad As Hell and why Christine O’Donnell pulled an upset in Delaware.
LOPEZ: How do you read Tuesday night’s primary results through the prism of your book’s thesis, that the tea-party movement is fundamentally remaking our two-party system?
SCHOEN: The election results demonstrate fundamentally and clearly that the tea-party movement is as powerful as the Republican party — the Grand Old Party — and the now-weakened Democratic party. The results in Delaware, New Hampshire, and New York prove it as clearly as anything could.
LOPEZ: Who is the tea-party movement? Has that been an evolving thing?
SCHOEN: This is a bottom-up, grassroots movement that has been growing steadily since March of 2009 and it stands for core principles regarding fiscal conservatism and a desire to return to constitutional principles and smaller government.
LOPEZ: Is there a different kind of populism at play here than in the past?
SCHOEN: In 1992, Ross Perot provided leadership and people spontaneously responded to a message that was for its time very similar to the tea-party movement’s. But notwithstanding what the press has said, the tea-party movement is an authentic grassroots movement.
LOPEZ: How is left-wing populism different than right-wing populism? Can they ever meet?
SCHOEN: Both left- and right-wing populism share distrust of the way the political system works and responds. The Left wants more government involvement, the Right wants less government.
LOPEZ: If you had to bet your reputations on it: What is the likelihood this remaking gives birth to a third party?
SCHOEN: I don’t think the tea-party movement will ever become a third party if they continue to demonstrate the kind of success they had tonight and over the past six months or so.
LOPEZ: Do we effectively have a third party when one looks at the Delaware Republican primary results — among others?
SCHOEN: Well, we do have a third force in American politics. It is not organized, and it has many variants and different forms. But it is as powerful as any third party could possibly be at this point in time.
LOPEZ: How much of these primary wins and losses have been about 2010 proxy wars?
SCHOEN: This is not a proxy war. It is an authentic grassroots movement.
LOPEZ: How does Sarah Palin play into all of this?
SCHOEN: Sarah Palin has proven this year without a doubt she is the frontrunner for the 2012 nomination — regardless of what the pundits and polls show.
LOPEZ: Is the GOP the natural home for the tea-party movement?
SCHOEN: Democrats made a profound mistake pushing away the tea-party movement. Bill Clinton won a substantial share of the 1992 Perot vote in 1996. Hence their home by default is the Republican party.
LOPEZ: Despite his win Tuesday night, is there a Mad as Hell message for Charlie Rangel?
SCHOEN: Charlie Rangel is very lucky he has one of the safest Democratic seats in the country.
LOPEZ: Nancy Pelosi Tuesday said she’s confident Democrats will retain control of the House? How in the heck would that happen?
SCHOEN: Nancy Pelosi has no reason to be optimistic. Ask Robert Gibbs!
LOPEZ: Is everyone mad? Are some people simply sad or worried about the future of the country? Are they reached differently?
SCHOEN: Everyone is mad, angry, frustrated, and nervous, regardless of party.
LOPEZ: You both are prolific. Are you simply political animals in need of outlets? What drives you?
SCHOEN: We tell the truth as we know it. Different perspectives sometimes, but absolutely the same perspective about the importance of the tea-party movement.
LOPEZ: Does tea-party movement change at all how we — well, you — poll and read polls?
SCHOEN: Yes the presumption in polls that incumbents will prevail has been stood on its head.
LOPEZ: Are either of you Mad as Hell?
SCHOEN: Scott believes — and he can certainly speak for himself — that the tea-party movement is driven in substantial measure by the disconnect between political elites and the political mainstream. I agree with that and would add that the absolute dysfunctionality of D.C. adds substantially to the appeal of outsider-based movements like the tea-party movement.