THE GOP BASE WITH A DIFFERENT NAME IS STILL THE GOP BASE…. The latest Pew Forum national survey includes a comparison of the opinions of self-identified Republicans and self-identified Tea Partiers. Not surprisingly, on a variety of issues, the results were nearly identical.
It prompted Jon Chait to raise a point that comes up from time to time, but which is too often forgotten.
[I]t’s clear once again that the movement is nothing more or less than conservative Republicans….
The Tea Party is essentially a re-branding campaign for the GOP base. It’s a successful effort, and one that springs largely though not entirely from the grassroots itself. Conservatives like to imagine that the Tea Party is some incarnation of the popular will, asleep for many years and finally awakened under Obama, and bristle at any analysis that diminishes the world-historical import of the phenomenon. So let me be clear. The Tea Party represents a significant minority of Americans. It’s influential. (It allowed conservatives to disown the failures of the Bush administration and to lend them a populist imprimatur.) But it’s not anything more than an organizing rubric for the GOP base.
I’m not sure why the political establishment insists on pretending otherwise.
For many pundits, the Tea Party is something new — a group of angry and disaffected voters who disapprove of both parties, and have no use for the political establishment or the failed “system.” They’re political free agents, the argument goes, willing to vote for those who speak to their fears. It even leads some to refer to these folks as a “movement.”
The data to the contrary is overwhelming. Tea Partiers may not have any real affinity for the Republican establishment — note these voters’ habits in last year’s GOP primaries — but they’re still just Republicans, with priorities indistinguishable from the party.
E.J. Dionne argued last year, “For some months now, I have been battling against the idea that the Tea Party movement is some brand-new thing in American politics, an independent movement akin to the rebellion led by Ross Perot in the 1990s. Tea Party people, I have been arguing, are simply right-wing Republicans organized under a new banner.”
The GOP base with a different name is still the GOP base.