Debate Over Tea Party Protest Numbers Masks the Real History Made
I think it unfair for the media or the left to characterize this movement as "Republican." The fact that GOP politicians are seeking to hijack the movement for their own purposes should tell you that they themselves feel the separation and are drooling over the prospect of tapping the enthusiasm, the anger, and the commitment of the protestors for electoral gain.
It is definitely an opposition movement, however. Certainly there is mass unhappiness with President Obama and his policies. And there is opposition to the Democrats in Congress. But does this really translate into electoral strength for Republicans? I am going to go out on a limb and say no. The anger here is a reaction (reactionary?) against a growing government, higher taxes, and the sense that the country that they grew up in is slipping away right before their eyes.
This is all fed, of course, by the pop conservatives on talk radio who have ginned up outrage against Obama and the Democrats. I say "ginned up" because what the president and his party have already done doesn't need the added fear mongering being promoted by Beck, Hannity, Rush, and Savage in order for conservatives to rally. Raised taxes, cap and trade, health care reform, bailouts and takeovers, and other liberal agenda items should be sufficient to outrage anyone on the right and motivate them to protest these horrific policies. It is unnecessary to brand Obama a "communist" or even a "socialist" to realize that his policies spell disaster for individual liberty and the free market economy.
Getting caught up trying to guess the number of attendees at Saturday's protests (as I and many others are doing today and will continue to do) is irrelevant. This is history in the making, something the United States has never seen: a genuine grass-roots conservative mass movement, activated by the new technologies, communicating effectively using the new software and hardware -- and it is growing.
Could it morph into a new party? Not likely given the institutional roadblocks placed in any new political party's way by the Republicans and Democrats. And the moment it is co-opted by the Republicans, I predict a lot of steam will go out of it.
But for the moment, it is a force in American politics unto itself. And this is a remarkable and historical achievement for the right no matter how you slice it.