Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

Summary: This week in ZDNet Government, we begin our in-depth political coverage of the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections.

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This week in ZDNet Government, we begin our in-depth political coverage of the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections. We're diving into more pure politics than is normally seen in this column and we'll be looking at issues of interest to every American. Given ZDNet's diverse, politically-aware audience, we're sure these articles will be fodder for fascinating discussion.

Last week, New York Times reported that members of the Democratic party and some Obama aides are considering an advertising blitz linking the burgeoning Tea Party to the Republican Party. CNN's Ed Henry quickly debunked those claims, reporting that a top White House official said the story was "simply not true."

The theory, as described in the Times, is that if the Republicans are portrayed as all but taken over by Tea Party wackos, then rank-and-file Democrats will be more inclined to go to the polls and vote against the insurgents.

Even though it's highly unlikely that this was ever considered by Democratic party heavy hitters, it's worth exploring why it would have been a major strategic mistake. In fact, it's worth exploring the issue of the Tea Party and why it seems to have caught on among certain Americans and caught officials of both political parties so off-guard.

Why the Tea Party?

The Tea Party has grown legs for one reason and one reason only: anger. Anger at the failing economy. Anger at the loss of jobs. Anger at big business. Anger at the banks. Anger at oil companies like BP. And anger at those in power for letting it all happen.

Tea Party members -- not the organizers, but the real people out there who are hurting and scared -- are a dangerous, unfocused, and unpredictable voting bloc.

Although the mainstream media has often portrayed Tea Partiers as white, racist, and haters, the fact is that the Tea Party is attracting disenchanted and terrified middle class Americans across the board.

Yes, they may seem a little more strident than your average buttoned-down Republican sporting a pants suit and Republican hair. And yes, many of them seem more Christ-y than many Democrats are particularly comfortable with. And yes, it seems like mob violence could erupt at any time.

In other words, because the people participating in the great American dialog of politics are not, this time, the well-behaved political drones we've all come to expect, the Tea Partiers seem a little more nuts than the norm.

The Dems could go all out and portray these people as fully batty and try to play to the discomfort rank-and-file Democrats feel towards this new movement.

But here's the thing. The cries for smaller government, better management, an improved economy, more jobs, and less kowtowing to the banks are almost universal desires among all Americans.

If the Democrats were to go all out to paint the Tea Party people as crazy, they'll -- by extension -- be alienating those very middle class Americans they're supposed to be serving.

If the Democrats were to try to poo-poo the worries over huge deficits that is a central Tea Party theme, they'll be dismissing worries we all have. Yes, we probably need to spend up to fight the economic doldrums, but that doesn't mean we all shouldn't hold the government accountable for how it spends trillions it doesn't have.

I'll be honest. I'm not entirely sure I'd like to go to a Tea Party rally. It seems like it'd be noisy and frenetic and more uncontrolled than I'd like.

But that's what the American political system is supposed to be all about. If the people are upset, the people should have their voices heard.

In 2010, the Tea Party is that voice.

The Tea Party is also the canary in the coal mine. It's squawking because it senses something ain't right.

Something ain't right. For the Democrats and the White House to dismiss the warning that the Tea Party is sharing with us all is (to horribly mix metaphors) living with your head in the sand.

The Democrats may not win in November. In fact, it's relatively unlikely they'll hold both houses. But if they attack the Tea Party directly, especially from the White House, they might empower a movement that could well turn around and bite them back in 2012.

The same is actually true for the Republicans. Some, like Michele Bachmann, are looking at how the Tea Party movement might merge with the Republican Party. Others, like Representative Darrell Issa are quick to draw distinctions between the GOP and the Tea Party. Republicans are, to some degree, competing against the Tea Party movement just as much as Democrats.

For both mainstream parties, the lesson is clear. Listen to the Tea Party. Underneath all that bluster is a canary with a message. Heed it.

It's TalkBack time. We're opening this up to discuss pure political issues, so opinions will be strong and tempers may run hot. Please try to keep this to a civil discussion and I'm sure we'll all be able to share some fascinating insights. As always, if you're from outside the U.S., please identify your country so we know where you're coming from. Your opinions are particularly interesting.

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government US

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

143 comments
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  • I have seen their rallies

    Although I have not attended, I have seen them. They always seemed civil to me. Some of their ideal make sense, some of the people seem a little weird, but none I saw seemed dangerous.

    Very unlike the rallies in the '60's. Those were dangerous.
    grant22
    • Are you kidding?

      @grant@... Are you kidding? They're electing people like Christine O'Donnell, that's pretty freakin' dangerous.
      olePigeon
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @olePigeon Are YOU kidding?! The people of Delaware chose the candidate they wanted in an ELECTION (that's how we do it in a representative republic nation). Are you implying that "the peasants" shouldn't be allowed to choose their own representation?
        sdrinkard
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @olePigeon

        I would rather see her in office that the likes of Pelosi, Ried, and Obama. That is the true triangle of danger.

        Obama = I have a plan. Just not going to tell anyone about it.
        Pelosi = Nope, you can't find out what is in this bill until after it passes. Then we will all find out.
        Reid = America is not for Americans. It is for the illegals.
        Test Subject
      • What's the Plan of the Tea Party?

        @Test Subject What is the plan of this beloved Tea Party? How are they any different? Right now they are out of power and talking promises and new ideas, but who is to say that once they get a taste of congress that they won't pull the same line of misrepresentation.

        Anymore I come to accept that a politician is just a great liar. The party that wins is the party that lies the best and tells the people what they want to hear.

        We need a real choice and I think the place to look would be October 30th on the National Mall.
        nucrash
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @nucrash
        What we NEED is to regain control over the government and impose some constraints. Just for starters...
        Term Limits
        States Rights
        Balanced Budget
        Krisolsen
      • No...

        @sdrinkard I'm not afraid of the process, just the morons in charge of it.

        @Test Subject

        O'Donnell = Derp; evolution is a myth, masturbation is a sin, and apparently Wiccans are Satanic. The lady doesn't know her head from her *censored*.
        olePigeon
      • Electing MAObama makes it any less dangerous?

        I doubt it. I don't consider people voting for "I'm gonna spread your wealth / you've made enough money / Obama pays my mortgage" any better.
        LBiege
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @olePigeon Incompetents who vote no are a lot less dangerous than those who vote yes to see if it will work.
        hayneiii
      • Fox chose O'Donnell

        sdrinkard@...
        The people of Delaware didn't choose her, rich doners did. She got a huge sum of money ($1million almost instantly) in and she's an ex-Fox political commentator styled to look like Sarah Palin (who now also works for Fox).

        Fox markets her, the doners fund her, and yet again Fox tries to grab control of the Republican party.
        guihombre
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @olePigeon Drinking the cool aid, eh?
        notme403
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @nucrash

        Your first two paragraphs fit my sentiments to a tee. I don't believe you can trust a single one of these politicians. They tell you whatever you want to hear, then they do whatever best suits their wallets. Besides, they've got their special interest groups that paid their way to get there to look after.

        I think the only way we may have some real honest politicians that really want to make a difference is to have some true campaign finance reform, with realistic spending limits and full disclosure of contributions required. Eh, I'm sure the rotten ones would still find loopholes and find their way back into office.
        NetAdmin1178
    • Freedomworks

      If you're not familiar with this lot, they're the ones that kept Bush in power for 2 elections by marketing him as a 'small govt' man when the reverse was true.

      http://www.freedomworks.org/

      And if you visit their page, you'll see whose in mind to be the next GB. Same money backers too.
      You'll see their various 'projects' listed on the left, and you see their trainers at the rallys.
      guihombre
    • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

      @grant@...
      those who don't like tea party are not real Americans, but crazy liberals that want to doom this country.
      Linux Geek
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @Linux Geek times have changed you know. Today's radicals aren't the liberals - you're a decade or so behind. Today's radicals are the Tea Party, by definition. And we're all Americans. For me, the un-americans are the people who call others un-american....
        marksusan1
      • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

        @Linux Geek wrote, "those who don't like tea party are not real Americans, but crazy liberals that want to doom this country".

        Those who don't believe in god are crazy sinners doomed to burn for eternity in hell. You should ignore anything they have to say, no matter how logical it may be.

        My statement is just as retarded as yours is Linux Geek... I'm an American.... I don't like Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and especially those whack job Tea Baggers... In Fact, I really don't like politicians...

        Yet, I was born in America and have lived my entire life in the US. I care about my country and want to see America prosper. But I don't think our government is "OF" the people, "FOR" the people, nor "BY" the people. It's "OF" the corrupt, crooked, and selfish, "FOR" the corrupt, crooked, and selfish, and "BY" the corrupt, crooked, and selfish. And adding fresh meat (whack job tea baggers) to the political stew isn't going to do anything but make it worse.

        George W Bush and all the dumb arse Republicants (re-dumb-lick-ans) are the ones who are trying like hell to doom this country... And why is it that we have so many of the wannabe's running around??? 6% of the wealthiest Americans are the only ones who should be Republicants, the rest of the party is made up of wannabe losers lemmings. And the other parties suck almost as bad.

        This country doesn't need a political enema, we need a political colectomy.. The entire system is fatally flawed and stinks to high hell. The tea baggers are not going anywhere, those tards are fighting the wrong fight. All the power needs to be transferred back to the people, the internet makes this possible... We need a new system that is actually "BY" the people.
        i8thecat
  • RE: Attacking the Tea Party head-on would be a strategic mistake for both major parties

    Your list of topics that are causing the Tea Party anger (failing economy, loss of jobs, big business, banks. BP, and those in power for letting it all happen) are only the symptoms of what is causeing the anger - the catalyst of what sparked the Tea Party into a flame.

    The real root cause, at least to the Libertarian-driven members of the Tea Party movement, is the size, scope, cost, and inefficiency of the Federal Government. The government has become a Little Shop of Horrors - it's hunger will bnever be satisfied. It has ceased to serve the people.

    Attack it or ignore it, but neither Party will escape the wrath of a citizenry that has suddenly woken up to the realization that thay created this monster and now they need to trim it down to size.

    Kris
    Krisolsen
    • Well, attacking the size of government is the way that new candidates

      repeatedly try to attack the incumbents. That is a cheap shot that will always work to varying degrees. Intelligent people see through it.
      DonnieBoy
    • It's Fox vs America

      Lets not kid ourselves, the bailout (part one and part two) were initiated under Bush.

      Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was finalized before Obama came to power and part 2 may have come under his watch, but it was simply not blocked by him.

      Tea party is just an attempt to rewrite history, blame Obama on Bush's mess and then try to bring the Republican party back as Bush 2.

      Glenn Beck as the new George W, ready to spend till the $ collapses.

      Pitiful, they can't even admit the truth. Even now Glenn Beck won't condemn Bush's insane spending, even after he almost collapsed the US economy.
      guihombre
      • Clueless and ill informed

        @guihombre ...I have been watching Glenn Beck since his days on CNN, and he was very critical of Bush's wild spending habits, and continues to be to this day. Perhaps you should try actually becoming informed before spouting your nonsense.
        itpro_z