What hath Republicans wrought?
Sure, they believed, as John noted the other day, that when they were unleashing what Bill Kristol likes to call "guided populism", they were in fact opening the gates for right-wing populism. And now they're looking not only at a a phenomenon much more popular than the standard Republican brand, but a movement that is about to swallow them whole.
And the Tea Party organizers -- notably the Astroturf outfits that originated the Parties, such as FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity -- are making that perfectly clear. Two spokesmen for those groups -- Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks and the AFP's Tim Phillips, went on Hardball yesterday and made this explicit:
MATTHEWS: Matt, how about third party? What about the Tea Party? Sarah Palin is kind of hard to read. She is fascinating. Let‘s face it, we‘re all fascinated with her, because she‘s exciting as a political figure right now. But she‘s talking third party. I mean, she answered the question of Lars Larson. Maybe it just came to mind, but she said, yeah, I might go third party, something like that. Would you guys knock off an incumbent Republican by going third party? You know how the vote splits. Split the right, the Dem wins.
KIBBE: The better way to do it is to take over the Republican party. Frankly, that‘s what our goal is. We need to replace the Republican establishment with fiscal conservatives that are actually willing to cut spending.
All this talk about a "third party" is just so much smokescreen. What's actually happening is that the GOP is fast becoming a full-fledged right-wing-populist entity. Which means that the latent extremism lurking out on the right's fringes for so many years is becoming its new lifeblood, such as it is.
Funny thing is, as Matthews managed to point out early in the segment, not even the Tea Partiers' supposed hero -- Ronald Reagan -- can live up to their standards:
MATTHEWS: Has there ever been a strong conservative president, for example, in your lifetime or anybody—your grandfather‘s lifetime? Who do you look to as a good role model for the tea party people?
KIBBE: Well, obviously, Ronald Reagan is the closest thing we have.
MATTHEWS: What did he do in terms of fiscal policy?
KIBBE: Oh, he—he said that we shouldn't spend money we don‘t have, and he said that the government shouldn't get involved in things that it‘s not very good at doing.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Have you ever checked the numbers with Reagan?
KIBBE: Well, I understand. I understand...
MATTHEWS: The national debt went from under $1 trillion to $3 trillion. He did more to increase exponentially the size of the debt of any president in history.
And he's your role model.
KIBBE: Well, President Obama is...
MATTHEWS: No, I'm asking you. I have asked you one president that you can look up to who was good at tea party politics and ideology.
KIBBE: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: If it's not Reagan, because he clearly didn't do it, who do you look to? Coolidge? How far do you have to look back?
KIBBE: I think we need to find somebody that can meet that standard.
MATTHEWS: So, nobody has recently?
KIBBE: No, certainly not.
Ah well. Blowing off cognitive dissonance is a special teabagger trait. It just adds to their "insane" mystique.
Republicans may have thought these guys had their backs. But now they're looking with increasing worry back over their shoulders. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind, dudes.