This posting is about politics in the USA. Please realise that it is a simplification, what mathematicians call a first approximation, more true than false, and sufficiently true to be worth saying so that it may perhaps then be modified and qualified towards the actual truth.
I ought also to admit that I have never set foot in the USA, and that I got the notions that follow from the Internet, and before that from watching (as I still now watch) USA television shows (mostly comedy and cop shows). We here in Britain get lots of those. I freely admit that distance, instead of lending clarity to my eye, could merely have lent and be lending bullshit to it. In fact, I do admit it. But the bullshit it has lent includes the kind of bullshit that wins and loses USA elections. First approximation truth about what is being perceived, about what big bullshit picture is being believed in, is often sufficient to win or lose an election. For as we all know, a big part of reality in politics is perception. Voters in the USA get a lot of their ideas about politics in the USA from the Internet and from television shows, or so it says on the Internet and on television.
So here goes.
In political USA now, there are now four important groups of people. There are Democrats, Old School Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Voters. Political outcomes were determined by what the Voters decided about the first two. They are now determined by what the Voters decide about the other three.
Voters used to think that Democrats were good people with bad ideas, clever, but mostly only at excusing their bad ideas. Democrats sincerely believed in bloating the government, taxing, regulating and generally screwing things up. But they applied these bad ideas to all, without fear or favour. Personally, they had blue collars and were honest hardworking folks. They did not lie or cheat. They looked you in the eye and treated you right.
Voters used to think that Old School Republicans were bad people with good ideas. Republicans believed in business success, low taxes, less regulation, and generally getting the US economy motoring along. Trouble is that they were also rich and nasty snobs, and corrupt. They used their grasp of economics mostly to get rich themselves. Politically, they applied their ideas only in ways that suited them. If a tax or a regulation happened to suit them or their huge country club network of rich and nasty and snobbish friends, then they would, on the quiet, be for it. For them, business-friendly government meant a government friendly to their own businesses. If, on the other hand, your collar was blue, they’d deregulate and tax-cut the hell out of you, for the good of all, and for the good of themselves especially.
Hard to choose, wasn’t it? No wonder it was a dead heat, decade after decade. Good but stupid idiots versus clever but sneaky bastards.
It still is a dead heat, between Democrats and Old School Republicans, but this is because things are now moving towards Voters thinking that Democrats are bad people with bad ideas, and that Old School Republicans are bad people with bad ideas. Democrats now look like (or are being revealed as always having been) greedy and malevolent bastards with the same old bad ideas as ever. Old School Republicans are the same rich and greedy snobbish bastards they always were, but are now seen to be infected by (or revealed as always having believed in) bad ideas much like those of their opponents.
Enter the Tea Party.
The Tea Partiers started out as people whom the Voters regarded as dubious people with dubious ideas, and are moving towards being people whom the Voters believe to be …
I need some way to emphasise this next bit. Pay careful attention. I know, I’ll put the next five words into the title of this posting.
… good people with good ideas. The Tea Partiers have good ideas, which they sincerely want to apply to all without fear or favour. They are good people who work or worked for their living, will look you in the eye and treat you right, no matter what colour your collar, or anything else about you.
The Tea Partiers thus threaten to destroy both the Democrats and the Old School Republicans. They threaten to destroy the Democrats by destroying them, and to destroy the Old School Republicans by replacing them with different Republicans, Tea Party Republicans.
The Democrats say that the Tea Partiers are “extreme” Republicans, Republicans who are even nastier. They wish. The Tea Partiers are indeed creating a new sort of Republican, but not an even nastier Republican. They are creating nice Republicans. Electorally, the Tea Partiers are cleansing the selfish richness and snobbishness and nastiness out of the Republican brand, leaving the ideas that the Republicans appeared once to believe in untouched, and renewed in strength and quality. If the Republican brand resists too much, the Tea Partiers will destroy it and make another.
The recent financial melt-down is, of course, crucial to all of the above. In a crisis, ideas matter. And the Internet, the new idea spreader, is also crucial. USA citizens need no longer submit to being told what they think about bad times, by the bad people with bad ideas who are to blame for these bad times. Democrats are being revealed as nasty, by the melt-down and the Internet. Old School Republicans are being revealed as stupid, by the melt-down and the Internet. The Tea Partiers are being revealed as being good people with good ideas, by the melt-down and the Internet. No melt-down and no Internet, and you are back to the old dead heat between nice idiot Democrats and sneaky bastard Old School Republicans. And the Tea Party? Without the melt-down and the Internet, there is no Tea Party. (According to television, there is, still, no Tea Party, only criminals.)
No wonder the Democrats and the Old School Republicans hate and fear the Tea Party and are trying anything and everything they can think of to make it seem like bad people with bad ideas. Trouble is, all that the critics of the Tea Party can now think of to say about the Tea Party just adds to the impression that such critics are nasty and stupid bastards.
This is a snapshot of now, not a prophecy about the next century. This is how USA politics is now and the direction that USA politics is moving in now. I don’t say that things will continue this way indefinitely. In particular, how will the Tea Partiers take to being part of the government, to having to grapple face-to-face with the melt-down? The continuing melt-down and the Internet might then turn round and reveal the Tea Partiers to be just another bunch of good idiots or nasty bastards, or just nasty idiots. But, the melt-down and the Internet are not doing that now. They are doing the exact opposite of that.