Count Michael Barone as a dissenter from the group of pundits who want to declare an end to the Tea Party’s influence on American politics. Barone explains in his latest column why he believes the Tea Party movement could have a lasting impact.
Today the conventional wisdom is that the tea-party movement is exhausted. Polls are cited showing that only one-quarter of Americans express approval of the Tea Party. Democrats run ads claiming their opponents are tea-party radicals.
Many Republicans argue that tea-party candidates have lost winnable Senate races, cementing the Democratic majority there rather than overturning it.
There is something to these lines of attack, but it misses a larger picture.
I have likened the contemporary tea-party movement to the peace movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Both began as critics of the more like-minded party: Peaceniks excoriated Lyndon Johnson; the Tea Party decried George W. Bush. Both targeted politicians of both parties. …
… [T]he tea-party movement also supported some politically gifted challengers — some with considerable political experience (Marco Rubio in Florida, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania), some with none at all (Ron Johnson in Wisconsin), and some with insider connections among conservatives (Mike Lee in Utah, Ted Cruz in Texas).
On policy, the tea-party movement has had a significant impact as well. It contributed to Republican unanimity against Obamacare and against tax-rate increases.
President Obama predicted that his reelection would “break this fever” of Republican opposition to his policies. Republicans would acquiesce in what Obama seems to regard as commonsense expansions of government.
That hasn’t happened. Instead, policy has moved in the other direction.