In his post below, Dr. Schaff draws attention to David Brooks’ argument that “if the existing leadership class doesn’t redefine `normal’ behavior, some pungent and colorful movement will sweep in and do it for them.” But in a recent article, The Economist’s G.I. suggests that Brooks may be wrong. Here are the relevant bits of that article:
My colleague at Democracy in America imputes from Mitt Romney’s surge into the lead among presidential contenders the beginning of the end of the Tea Party’s influence in the GOP. Now, the latest WSJ-NBC opinion poll contains clues that the movement’s broader appeal may also be waning. As my chart shows, after a brief reversal, Americans are once again getting comfortable with more government in their lives.
The bail-outs are receding from memory (and turning a profit), Mr Obama has tacked to the centre, and the economy continues to disappoint. Republicans overreached with Paul Ryan’s budget, thinking the population ready for a draconian restructuring of Medicare to deal with a looming debt crisis. Apparently, it isn’t.
I agree that Romney’s surge is bad news for The Tea Party. Romney is almost the antithesis of The Tea Party. He is an establishment candidate who signed into law a healthcare bill that largely inspired “Obamacare.” The fact that Romney is polling ahead of Bachmann may, indeed, be a sign that The Tea Party is losing momentum. Perhaps it means that Tea Party values no longer resound with Americans.
On the other hand, perhaps Romney’s surge has more to do with the individual candidates. Perhaps Romney is ahead of Bachman in the polls because people find it easier to take him seriously. Bachman has been portrayed as a second Sarah Palin. She has been portrayed as unintelligent and inexperienced and her gaffes have not helped her cause. Romney has had gaffes of his own (including the Taliban gaffe from the last debate), but he is portrayed as intelligent and experienced. Some of this is because he has handled his gaffes better. He corrected himself almost immediately after making his Taliban gaffe. But some of it is press. Perhaps The Tea Party would fare better if it ran stronger candidates or even candidates who were harder to mock.
Or perhaps G.I. is right. Perhaps Americans really are becoming comfortable with more government in their lives. Brooks doesn't seem to think so. I hope he's right.