Few on the center-right grasp the politics of polarization. The idea is to always have someone more extreme than you making your position closer to the relative center and moving the ball further in your direction.
The Democrats and the left have known this for years. Look at all the real crazies they have accumulated over time and molded into an almost groupthink legion. Then note that barely a word of chastisement comes from them when they say wild and crazy stuff or do wild and crazy things.
Try the counterpart to the Tea Party - the Occupy Movement. Both are ad hoc groups with a certain amount of outside financial support, some covert. Both are loosely knit and can be established almost momentarily. Some Tea Party “organizations” are three guys sitting in a bar, while others are one guy with a fund raising donor list. I would imagine their Occupier equivalents hang around in head shops.
The comparison ends there. The Tea Party types clean up the trash after their own rallies. The occupiers destroy other people’s cars and smash a stranger’s store windows. Yet you never hear the left or any leading Democrat condemn the Occupiers, just the Tea Party types who are by demeanor alone far more mainstream America.
Take the at least perceived equivalent of recent extremes in the two major parties, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Cruz is wrongfully accused of “closing down the government.” Huh? How he do that?
By encouraging House Republicans to try to get something more out of a budget deal on which the Democrats in the Senate and the President were totally unyielding on everything. Some of us perceived that made it at least as much Harry and the Democrats fault as the GOP’s. Try a Virginia exit poll from its recent election in which those voters split almost 50-50 on whose fault the “Shutdown” was.
Those numbers would have been a lot different if many Republicans hadn’t immediately fallen for the media hype that the “shutdown” was the GOP’s fault. Some Republicans are so afraid of being tagged as extremists that they immediately confessed to what they hadn’t done. Part of that came from the Senate “old bulls” who thought Cruz too uppity for not putting on the freshman political beanie.
What those “old bulls” don’t recognize is that the presence and high visibility of Ted Cruz and folks like Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, are what has pretty much stifled talk of a third party. While none of them will probably be the 2016 presidential nominee, they will have enough clout to exert influence by affecting who is, thereby pushing the center of the party in their direction. That is the result of the politics of polarization.
That’s also how the Democrats could have an extremist like Harry Reid not only as a United States Senator, but as Majority Leader. Think about it - a man who calls cancer patients and people with dying children liars and his opponents like the Koch Brothers “un-American” while he sucks up every campaign buck he can from people much richer and far seedier than the Kochs are even accused of. Now that’s extreme.
Have you heard ANY Democrat of any stature condemn Reid’s outrageous remarks? No, because they have become so successful at moving their base to neo-liberalism that they are no longer a center-left party having moved way beyond the relative middle.
And while they won’t trash those Occupier types, you can bet when the time comes no Occupiers will be allowed near the real decision making process.
The center moves. All the polls show on a variety of issues it tilts right. Depending on how well the GOP plays it they can gain in the next two elections, not by quelling dissent as the Democrats have done (note which party still believes in open primaries) but by absorbing it. Third parties don’t work under our system simply because any movement big enough to make one gets assimilated, often involuntarily, by a major party.
Which is why folks like Ted Cruz are necessary to ultimate GOP and center-right success.
Listen to Emil Franzi’s “Inside Track” Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 1030 AM.