In case you missed it, Friday’s Anderson Cooper 360 featured professional chef Anthony Bourdain comparing the Tea Party to supporters of George Wallace – the infamous 1968 presidential candidate – and those responsible for the Martin Luther King assassination. “You’re looking at, I think, basically the same demographic: a bunch of marginal, angry white people,” Bourdain said.
What happened to protesting being patriotic?
Bourdain’s irresponsible equation of Tea Partiers, clearly a significant American voting bloc, with racially motivated assassins would be offensive if it weren’t so ludicrous. His fear of anyone both angry and white says more about Bourdain’s paralyzing political correctness than campaign dynamics.
Bourdain goes on to say that he is “pretty happy about the Tea Party, because I think they’re ensuring that no reasonable electable Republican will be — will be president.” This idea has the double virtue of being topical and interesting.
In fact, a Saturday interview with the Wall Street Journal reveals that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell – much savvier as a politician than Bourdain – has a similar thought on this cycle, believing “the tea party movement is a godsend” for Democrats. Case in point: Rand Paul has already demonstrated his inexperience as a politician. “He basically imploded in 30 minutes after two days as the nominee,” Rendell said.
There’s no lack of opportunity for a candidates like Paul to scuttle their own campaigns with a faux pas, but Rendell and Bourdain suffer from the same myopic perception of voter reaction against the prevailing liberal policies of the current administration.
If the Tea Party movement were just a bunch of dumb white people who voted against Obama anyway, then maybe Democrats could ignore them. Then again, if they are the same people who voted and lost last time, why are they winning now? About sixty percent Republican, Gallup reported in April that the other forty percent comes from a few Democrats and the Independents so critical to Obama’s huge victory in 2008.
In other words, the people so recently excited about a historic Obama in the White House are looking for a new movement.
Energetic swing voters and young people have buyers’ remorse after giving Democrats huge gains in 2008. Worried about the deficit, irritated by partisan government health care plans – the Tea Party is the most dramatic example of an electoral turn right that could be called conservative, which is not to say Republican.
To have a big year in 2010 – or an even bigger one in 2012 – Republicans must have a platform attractive to these independents and unaffiliated conservatives who are temporarily content voting against Democrat agendas.