There is little chance of a liberal wave election in 2018.
The parallel to the TEA Party uprising that is receiving the most attention right now is the sight of vocal groups at congressional town halls. Reporters gush at the sight of protesters shouting down Republican congressmen “even in places like Salt Lake City, Utah.” It is always jarring to hear about protests as if they are a sign of life on an alien planet. News flash: Democrats live in red counties too. A vocal minority does not constitute a voting majority. Besides, Salt Lake City isn’t solidly Republican and neither is Roseville, California, where Rep. Tom McClintock recently faced a hostile town hall audience. There is no doubt energy among aggrieved liberals, but Politico reports people in Vigo County, Indiana - America’s bellwether county - are “happy” with President Trump so far - “he’s doing what he said he would do.”
In 2009-10, Republican voters revolted against Democratic lawmakers that really had no business representing conservatives. The Democrats blame their problems on gerrymandering, drawing the boundaries of congressional districts to benefit a political party, but gerrymandering has no effect on gubernatorial and Senate races - no redistricting board has ever redrawn a state’s boundaries. Republicans didn’t just oust the Democrats from traditionally conservative states but forged victories in more moderate environments and progressive states. Moreover, the TEA Party was a mostly healthy infusion of constitutional conservatism that helped rehabilitate the Republican Party’s image as corrupt and out-of-touch. “We want our country back!” we’d proclaim, and not just from the Democrats, but from the corporate interests in both parties that have stolen our liberties and ignored our voices.
Republican voters began directing their anger not only toward President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader Harry Reid but also toward former President Bush, his father, and any element of the existing Republican Party that seemed stale. It wasn’t anti-Obama, but anti-Washington. It was about the comprehensive nature of unreadable legislation, and it took aim at the handouts, bailouts, and special favors traded regularly in Washington D.C.
Rather than a parallel to the TEA Party movement, the current protests instead bear a resemblance to the protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms for public employees in 2010. As they marched through the snow, the progressive movement was loud, infused with celebrity voices, and granted inordinate coverage, but it all amounted to nothing. They even found an establishment voice to lead the resistance - Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett - but he lost the recall election and progressives always clamored for one of their own, former Senator Russ Feingold. In 2016, he finally gave in to the pressure and ran for the Senate seat he lost to Ron Johnson in 2010, and he lost again. It all amounted to nothing.
There could be events that turn a majority of Americans against Trump and the Republicans, but it doesn’t appear likely it will be the attempted travel ban or cracking down on illegal immigrants. The TEA Party was motivated by concerns about the newly-elected president’s policies and the money that followed was predicated on delivering actual results, during elections and afterward. That meant pushing moderate Republicans where necessary but that meant compromise with progressives was impossible and unwise. Yes, the TEA Party helped further polarize the country, but only because it aimed to draw Republicans back to common sense conservatism. If the Democratic equivalent aims to draw Democrats toward progressive values, they will run head-first into political reality and geography.
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