Time Magazine Foresees Tea Party Breaking Up Like the Beatles

December 27th, 2010 9:05 AM

Time magazine's failure to choose the Tea Party as its Person or Persons of the Year surely reflects a desire that they will cease to be significant any day now. David Von Drehle's "runner-up" article in its Person of the Year issue concluded the Tea Party has already peaked and is well on its way to collapse: "The Tea Party is a hot brand, but there's no one in power to enforce the trademark. Now that the bailouts are history and Democratic hegemony is broken, what does it stand for? It's a sign of the incredible velocity of politics these days that the colossus of 2010, a movement not even two years old, is already facing an identity crisis."

Von Drehle tried to compare the Tea Party to Beatlemania -- which is a goofy analogy, considering they were rock's hottest band for six years. But he was wishing and hoping for a breakup:

In a sense, identifying with the Tea Party movement was like catching Beatlemania in the 1960s. People were drawn in for different reasons — the beat, the haircuts, the lyrics — and great gulfs of taste divided the John fans from the Paul fans, the George fans from the Ringo fans.

Smashing success broke the Beatles apart. As 2010 closes, there is no bigger question in U.S. politics than whether the Tea Party will go the same way. The pressures on this already divided movement will be enormous. As long as the far-flung elements of the Tea Party were shoulder to shoulder against Obama, it was easy to keep them together. But now, the party that argued so effectively for smaller government is headed to Washington, where so many other waves have broken and receded. Having remade Congress and with a GOP presidential nomination up for grabs, the Tea Party is about to learn that rallying against its enemies is easier than choosing among its allies.

The most bizarre paragraph was this one:

Congress will have to decide whether to raise the federal debt ceiling. Increasing it would gall a lot of Tea Party voters, but the alternative would likely involve a government shutdown like the one that proved disastrous for Republicans in 1995. Will GOP leaders find a way to keep government going without alienating Tea Party factions? Can Tea Party deficit hawks avoid a collision with Tea Party tax cutters? Can the rock-ribbed Republicans who have joined the Tea Party movement keep peace with the pox-on-both-parties purists? Or will the most orthodox elements move in anger toward a third-party candidate? (How many times can Michael Bloomberg say no?)

How out of touch can Time magazine be? To think that the leader of New York City's nanny state could ever be a Tea Party darling?

The other very questionable concept is that a government shutdown in 1995 "proved disastrous for Republicans." Let's review the overall congressional election results in 1996: the Republicans lost eight seats in the House and picked up two seats in the Senate. How was that, then, "disastrous"?  Yes, Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996, but would anyone want to place bets that Bob Dole was going to beat Clinton in 1996, if only Republicans had been more liberal?