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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Three Tea Parties And The 2016 Republican Race

The Obama-admiring and allegedly George Soros-financed Occupy Wall Street movement seemed to be efficient, effective and highly centralized when it publicly emerged in 2011.

Occupy quickly accomplished the same effect on the Democratic Party as its perhaps-polar-opposite on the Right, the "Tea Party," is credited (or disparaged) for doing to Republicans: causing its target to lurch sharply from the center towards the political fringe.

The Tea Party movement is different. The movement is largely characterized by its adherents in elected office who advance the causes of fiscal restraint and, to a lesser degree, constitutional and lega restraint. As such it is less a reform movement than a restraint movement. Yet the Occupy comparison is apt. The Tea Party's true target is not its ideological antithesis nor its obvious political opponents, but rather the GOP establishment.

This classic view is somewhat at odds with the activist view, which supports the theory that the movement consists of three competing camps which do not often move in tandem or even in a coherent direction.

The first camp is an establishment co-option of the movement. This camp does not consist of elected officials like Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, who are outsiders on Capitol Hill. It consists of the Washington political, business and media establishment insofar as they see how using the movement to both make money and divert resources (e.g., activist contributions) away from the second or third camps.

The second camp consists of the populists. These are the people who "feel" their positions. This camp is described as more psychological than ideological. They have energy but rarely a coherent strategy that they can execute. Also lacking in tactics and often the barest of campaign materials, this camp can get primary challengers and even the occasional general election challenger like Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, but they cannot win and have not yet won a race of major significance.

The third and smallest camp consists of those intellectuals and professionals who understand both the ideological basis for policy reform and the mechanics of a successful campaign. They are not necessarily activists altogether they work just as hard; they may be described as working smart to make up for the lack of sheer numbers. They are most often found in or around businesses and campaigns and do not need to use the tea party label. They do, however, act as opinion leaders and, crucially, they don't just talk and scream and wave signs. These are the dependable voters who are self-motivated.

They also write checks.

So which camp is dominant? The clues lie not in what is said, but what is done. That is, it's all in the behavior.

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