By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Over the weekend, Ron Paul won the CPAC straw poll for president. Many pundits immediately dismissed the win, for a lot of reasons. (The Atlantic did a roundup of all the "he's irrelevant" comments.) My take on Ron Paul is this: He says a lot of off-the-wall stuff, but his bottom line is that he's a limited-government libertarian. And he's not Mitt Romney, the establishment GOP choice. I think that's why he won.
Joe Scarborough likes to say that if you look at where Ross Perot did well in 1992, those are the same places that tea party candidates are doing well. That may be, but I think there's some overlap between Ron Paul supporters and the tea partiers, at least some of the younger ones. Ross Perot has a website, PerotCharts, that illustrates the government's fiscal responsibility; but Ron Paul supporters have an interactive site for those who want to meet up at campaign rallies (with over 100,000 people either already members or interested), and according to the timeline posted, it looks like many of them have joined in the last two years.
I came across a bit of a tea party manifesto, if you want to call it that, in Politics Daily on Sunday: "A Grassroots View of the Tea Party," written by Roy Nix, a golf pro in Florida. Here's how he describes the average tea partier:
"They don't dream of power, and they don't dream of telling their neighbors how to worship, how to spend their money, what kind of car to buy, what kind of food to eat and how to save the environment. They expect their neighbors to decide all of those things for their own families.
"They don't want big government, they don't want socialistic policies and they don't want to spend more money for things they don't need. They don't see Washington as Robin Hood, robbing the rich to help the poor, but as the Sheriff of Nottingham--taking their tax money and giving it to big business while we starve.
"They don't want to have to march in the streets, and they don't want to be 'activists' in politics because they have lives to live.
"They don't hate immigrants, but they don't like lawbreakers who come here illegally. They don't mind helping people, but they are out of money and want to help those closest to home first until their bills are paid off ...
"These lawmakers have forgotten what 'representative' means, and they end up in Washington doing what their party tells them to do, rather than what their constituents tell them to do ... And that's what's motivating so many who've joined the Tea Party movement."
Nix hits the nail on the head, in terms of the anti-Nanny State, limited government message of the tea partiers, and how all incumbents, not just Democrats, are at risk: "The Tea Party is sending a genuine grass-roots message to both Democrats and Republicans. And they'd better listen up and learn fast," he concludes. A New York Times/CBS poll from earlier this month supports this: Only 8 percent of respondents think that most incumbent members of Congress deserve to be re-elected; a whopping 81 percent said it's time to "give new people a chance." That's putting it nicely--I think if the election were held today, it would be a tidal wave against incumbents.