Yesterday’s Room for Debate included a number of interesting perspectives on the evolving role of the conservative lawmakers who identify with the Tea Party movement.
My Economics 21 colleague Christopher Papagianis offered a measured take, arguing that while Tea Party members had advanced many of their core goals, they needed to appreciate that efforts to retrench the welfare stake will take years rather than months:
While the Tea Party may not like the current pace of this change movement, it’s important to keep in mind that big philosophical battles — about the size of government and the scope of our social safety net — can take about a decade. Welfare reform is perhaps the most recent example. The intellectual underpinnings of the effort emerged in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the political culture had changed such that real reform could be achieved.
This August 2011 budget deal ensures that fiscal consolidation will be front and center on the national agenda for the rest of the year — and also through the 2012 election. At the same time, steady near-term progress was achieved. This is exactly what the Tea Party supporters should want. Sure, they will be required to hold the members they helped elect accountable for a longer period of time than they would have been if everything had been magically included in this deal. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still winning on the direction of policy.
Glenn Greenwald, known for his hostility to Republicans, the subject of his most recent book, wrote a surprisingly generous appraisal of the Tea Party movement:
There is much criticism that can be, should be and has been directed at the Tea Party. But one virtue that must be acknowledged is that elected Tea Party officials have largely stayed faithful to the promises they made to those who sent them to Washington. Those candidates emphatically vowed to block spending and tax increases, avoid business-as-usual compromises, and — echoing the 2008 version of Obama — change the culture in Washington. Destructive though they are, they are succeeding. And many progressives — infuriated yet again by the Democrats’ so-called “capitulation” — are likely wallowing in an envious daydream: What is it like to have representatives in Washington actually adhering to their vows and fighting for the principles they claim during elections to embrace?
That said, intransigence is always easier in opposition than it is when governing.
Greenwald goes on to argue that the Tea Party movement will clash with hawks and the “Wall Street corporatist faction that finances and controls both parties.”
And Dan Schnur, a veteran Republican political operative now based at USC, offers a cautionary note for Mitt Romney.