One of the potentially most seismic mid-term elections in living memory is rushing towards us with breathtaking speed. Not even the staunchest Democrat is asking “Will the Republicans be able to pick up any seats?” Republicans picking up seats is a given for both parties. The Democrats only question is how many, and will the number of seats that change party give the Republicans a majority in the House? Republicans take for granted that they will have a majority in the House, but are not as certain about the Senate, although there, too, they are certain that they will gain seats.
Oddly, the punditocracy, print media columnists from the “educated class” and television talking heads have blithely ignored the potential impact of the Tea Party backed candidates. These candidates are not utterly in thrall to the Republican establishment. After all, many, if not most, of the Tea Party backed candidates who win will do so in spite of the Republican establishment, not because of it. If the GOP’s leadership feels that they will be able to instruct the Tea Party candidates to “sit down, shut up and vote the way we tell you to vote”, they might just be misreading reality a tiny bit.
For the next two years, at a minimum, the Tea Party candidates will be like proverbial loose cannons, careening down the halls of Congress and occasionally shooting themselves in the foot with their mouths. Part of that will be because they are fiercely independent people. Wimps don’t buck the party hierarchy and win very often. Sarah Palin is a splendid example of a non-wimp.
Part of it is that these people will be something that Washington hasn’t seen in decades, if not longer – citizen legislators. They are not professional politicians who started training to win elections (as opposed to actually governing) about they same time that they started eating food that wasn’t prepared by Gerber. So they will appear to be a little rough around the edges, and not given to speaking the usual empty phrases that we have all grown to despise. The may appear to members of the “ruling class” to be unlettered hayseeds who have crashed the party and really don’t belong.
The final element that these folks will add to the peculiarities associated with our Congress is that they are, almost universally, idealists. Not ideologues. Idealists.
These people believe in the Constitution as originally written down to the very core of their being. They are not open to any compromise on that particular document.
They do not believe that bigger is better, particularly in governance.
And they have the outlandish idea that those who earn a living should be able to keep a lot more of what they’ve earned.
Since their ideals are so strong, their party discipline so weak, and the existence of a media which occasionally enjoys writing about something that actually is “new”, these people will, starting November 3rd , be making news. They will have disproportionately large megaphones when compared to their seniority. They will be able to bring dissident views to the national debate on a wide range of topics, and heaven help the first Republican who backslides on the so-called Pledge to America.
They will also question, and vigorously resist vigorously, the usual “go-along-to-get-along” behavior of the majority party, regardless of which party is the majority.
Democrats, particularly President Obama, and the Republican establishment should keep in mind that the Tea Party backed candidates will have a “bully pulpit” nearly equal to the president’s. And they aren’t the kind of people who will read ringing phrases off a teleprompter. The average American watching them from home will be able to tell the difference.
That being said, these candidates, or perhaps these congress members-elect, should also keep a few things in mind. On November 3rd, the electorate will have voted them in to office for the benefit of the voters, not the benefit of the candidate or the candidate’s political party. Starting immediately after the polls close, their performance in office will be watched. The Tea Parties can not, and hopefully will not, relax and rest on their successes.
For the past eighteen months, ever since February 19, 2009 when Rick Santelli went into what has been called the “rant heard round the world” on CNBC, the Tea Parties have been focused on the November 2010 midterm election. On November 3rd that focus will end, one way or another. It should be replaced by a new focus on two related events. One will be on the performance of the incoming Congress, and the other should be preparation for November 6, 2012 and the election of even more Tea Party activists, either by defeating slow learning Democrats in the general election, or RINOs in the primaries. Either way there is an opportunity for more “citizen-legislators” on the horizon.
Those who support that idea and feel it will reinvigorate the Republic and set it back on the right path need to do more than contribute to campaigns and show up at the polls. They must be willing to offer constructive criticism to these new elected “loose cannons” to help them become effective in their new roles, or blistering criticism when they stray toward the old, tired and failed methods of governance we’ve labored under for 50 years, regardless of the majority party.