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Michael Gerson on Republicans’ Dangerous Embrace of the Tea Party

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There’s a must-read column in today’s Washington Post by conservative columnist Michael Gerson.  The main point is that the Republican Party is making a huge mistake in embracing and/or tolerating the “tea party.”  Gerson sites craziness like Sharron Angle, who “identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence.” According to Gerson, that’s “disqualifying for public office.” Gerson also blasts Rand Paul-style libertarianism for having “a rigorous ideological coldness at its core.” But the main point of Gerson’s column is to warn his Republican Party that trying to ride this tiger, or stay quiet and hope it goes away without eating them, is a huge mistake. Instead, Gerson believes:

Significant portions of the Republican coalition believe that it is a desirable strategy to talk of armed revolution, embrace libertarian purity and alienate Hispanic voters. With a major Republican victory in November, those who hold these views may well be elevated in profile and influence. And this could create durable, destructive perceptions of the Republican Party that would take decades to change. A party that is intimidated and silent in the face of its extremes is eventually defined by them.

This is the challenge of a political wave. It requires leaders who will turn its energy into a responsible, governing agenda. So far — in Congress, among conservative leaders, among prospective presidential candidates — that leadership has been lacking.

And so the Republican Party rides a massive wave toward a rocky shore.

Well said. Unfortunately for Republicans, there’s no sign that “leaders” like Eric Cantor and John Boehner actually disagree with the Angles and Pauls of the world. Even if they do, there’s no evidence that Cantor, Boehner, McConnell et al. grasp the problem they’re facing, know what to do about it, or have the ability to do so even if they want to. Thus, the “rocky shore” looms.