The first phase, of course, was to be recognized. And that they were. From a loose collection of small protests called the TEA Party to national acceptance as a real force, the first phase began in early 2009 and achieved full attention in early 2010.
The second phase was to eliminate the progressive liberals from government. So far, they are on track to achieve a majority of their goals. This began with an upset of Martha Coakley all the way to Christine O’Donnell, proving that whackjob Democrats were obvious targets but so were lazy Republican incumbents. Heck, even Barney Elected-for-Life Frank is considering swinging by the liquor store parking lot to pick up some boxes for his stuff. In a couple weeks, the second phase will manifest itself: polls say it will be big, but no one is able to prognosticate how big the Republican redemption will be. The point is that progressive liberals in both parties appear to reading want ads.
So what is next? 2012, right? Maybe, maybe not. The Tea Party, whatever its flock-like twists and turns are, does not sit around and wait.
Take a look this week and next—and immediately after the election. There seems to be a new phase developing: the one of “fiscal correction.” The Czar is already hearing rumblings that the new Congress needs to start making cuts in government. Warnings (subtle and not) are going out to the RNC that it ain’t enough to agree that spending is out of control: we need to see real action here. Quick: what are the top five things your favorite Republican candidate will do to cut spending and lower taxes? Unless your candidate is Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan or New Jersey’s Chris Christie, you will stammer for an answer. The mandates are being written already.
Some folks are going stronger, and the Czar is hearing numerous instances of people threatening the very survival of the GOP. You too? Basically the argument is this: the Democrats were given their second chance in 2008, and they tanked the country. The Tea Party says no more, and no more chances. The Republicans are being given a second chance, and if they fail to make it work (the threat goes), they will become extinct as a party. These folks are quite serious, and expect that a third party will appear by 2012 if the GOP does not start working miracles fast in 2011. Maybe that is good. Probably it isn’t.
Also, take a look at the increasingly frequent attention being paid to the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron. Starting this week, he has begun a full and intensive review of all British government spending, and he is being quite blunt that massive cuts are coming. So much so, that at the very least he will surpass Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher combined for cutting spending. He is expected to phase out, to a man, entire departments and ministries. This is big news anywhere, but the intense fascination by the American conservative media should serve as fair warning to Republicans: this is what we are expecting here.
Remember, the Tea Party has no specific manifesto, no rigid agenda, and no radical program. It is organic, and goes where it goes. But the signs that massive cutbacks in government programs will become the next rallying point are already present—and getting more clear each day.
Politicians would do well to take heed.