Friday, September 17, 2010

George Bush and the Tea Party Movement

Listening to the radio today while driving, I heard one commenter asserting that the odd events of this election season were all due to the poor state of the economy. There is some truth to that view, but not as much as he thinks. The other reason for what is happening is George Bush.

Bush is responsible for the Republican insurrection and the Tea Party Movement twice over. To begin with, he spent eight years demonstrating that Republicans were at least as willing to increase the size of government, and to do it with borrowed money, as Democrats—indeed, more willing than the most recent Democratic administration. That was a good reason for Republicans who believe in the sorts of things Bush said he believed in to conclude that electing Republicans was no great improvement over electing Democrats, hence that renominating current incumbents would mean the wrong people being elected—whoever won. From there it is a short step to nominating someone else, even at the risk of losing the subsequent election.

Second, and I think equally important, Bush made himself massively unpopular with the electorate, with the result that the Democrats did much better in the 2008 election than they had any business doing, given the distribution of political views in the electorate. Having been handed the White House and large majorities in both houses, along with the excuse of an unusually bad recession and related problems, they proceeded to enact a lengthy wish list of Democratic priorities paid for with borrowed money on an enormous scale. The result, as best I can judge from my very limited political expertise, was that they positioned themselves well to the left of the voters. That set up the current situation.

I will prudently refrain from predictions. It is possible that the Tea Party victories in the primaries will be repeated in the elections. It is also possible, as quite a lot of people have argued, that the Tea Party will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party, the one thing capable of saving them in the midterm elections.

We will have to wait and see.

7 Comments:

At 7:08 AM, September 17, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Democratic policies may be well to the left of you, but they aren't really to the left of the country as a whole. Healthcare reform may or may not eventually be a killer for them once it starts actually coming into effect, but it polls slightly below 50%, and less than 30% want to repeal. And this is after non-stop demonization for almost two years by the (R) pros, doing what they do best. Ditto with other policies.

What's funny is that (R)s aren't really working hard to demonize things where the (D)s are pretty horrid - the divine right of the executive, for instance. But that's because of some combination of can't and don't want to.

I see the tea party folks as nothing more than the core of the (R) movement conservatives, plus some interested others brought in by the combination of good marketing and a crappy economy. But look at the numbers. The core group is made up of the 19%ers.

 
At 8:19 AM, September 17, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous #5 said...

1. According to the NYT/CBS poll of Tea Party demographics from this April, 57% of Tea Party supporters have a favorable impression of George W. Bush.

2. The federal government also grew dramatically under Ronald Reagan, and this growth was financed by budget deficits. And yet Reagan is surely even more revered among Tea Partiers than Bush is.

3. The Tea Partiers' principled opposition to big government and socialized medicine seems to break down considerably when we start talking about Medicare recipients. Socialized medicine may be evil but apparently so is cutting Medicare benefits. Abstract principles start to look a lot more like grandiose representations of self-interest.

 
At 7:24 PM, September 17, 2010, OpenID hudebnik said...

(R)s aren't really working hard to demonize things where the (D)s are pretty horrid - the divine right of the executive, for instance.

I'm not sure I'm reading this correctly. GWB struck me as the epitome of the "divine right of the executive" (and "l'etat c'est moi", for that matter); Obama hasn't backed away from it as rapidly as I would have liked, but he certainly hasn't added to the "divine rights" GWB asserted.

The federal government also grew dramatically under Ronald Reagan, and this growth was financed by budget deficits.

Reagan oversaw an increase in deficits about 1/8 as large as GWB did (after adjusting for inflation).

But the actual debt doesn't matter as much as the public perception: the R's have persuaded the American people that they stand for fiscal discipline, so if you polled a bunch of Americans today, I suspect most R's and a significant number of D's would think that both Reagan and GWB oversaw decreases in the deficit. (In fact, they rank third and first in how much they increased the deficit. Second place is FDR, who had more years to do it.)

See this page for details on the deficits.

 
At 5:37 PM, September 19, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous #5 said...

hudebnik, why do the tables look at the change in the deficit? Isn't the deficit a completely meaningful figure in and of itself? The difference between Bush and Reagan is a lot smaller by that measure.

 
At 10:12 PM, September 25, 2010, Anonymous Andrew said...

You've missed the demographics of the tea party, which is that they are largely composed of blue collar, white, non-college-educated, rural, older voters. These are folks who were hurt most by GWBs poor economic policies, but never vote democratic because they hate "hippies" and "colored folk", and tend to vote in a way that disfavors their personal interest.

The tea party is driven by the poor state of the economy and the rise of fox news.

 
At 10:16 AM, September 27, 2010, Anonymous Mercy Vetsel said...

"indeed, more willing than the most recent Democratic administration. "

Presumably, this is a comparison to Clinton/Gingrich and not Obama/Pelosi.

Clearly, the difference between Democrats and Republicans on taxing and spending that has been clearly visible in the voting record for decades has manifested itself unambiguously of late as spending increased after the Democrats took over in 2006 and then surged to historic levels when Democrats took over entirely.

Of course this is not surprise to many of us, including yours truly who noted Obama's horrible track record on economic issues on this very blog back in May of 2008:

http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2008/05/thoughts-on-obama.html

-Mercy

 
At 7:04 AM, September 28, 2010, Blogger Vicioussss said...

"You've missed the demographics of the tea party, which is that they are largely composed of blue collar, white, non-college-educated, rural, older voters."

Proof? Everything I've seen indicated Tea Party = anyone associated with small business (owners included) who's getting screwed by the lurch to corporatism.

"It is also possible, as quite a lot of people have argued, that the Tea Party will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party, the one thing capable of saving them in the midterm elections."

The people who suggest this are out of touch with reality. All one needs to do is look at the polls regarding the Democrats' signature legislation.

In 2008 the Democrats were given enough rope to hang themselves. That they did. The sleeping giant has been awakened. The types of people who make up the Tea Party (and its sympathizers) are going to wreak havoc on the statists in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

 

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