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Why the Tea Party Energizes Both Parties' Bases

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There has been a lot of talk lately about a Tea Party "surge." Namely, the primary wins of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Carl Paladino in New York. The wins have sparked, justifiably, a lot of talk about the Tea Party's relevance in the GOP and whether its initial estimates of being a flash in the pan were too conservative.

While I personally believe that the Tea Party will go the way of Ross Perot's Reform Party, which made big splashes in the 90s before retreating into political obscurity, it is still a force that requires some type of reckoning. New numbers coming from a Quinnipiac Poll show Carl Paladino only six points behind New York gubernatorial favorite (and up until these numbers, assumed gubernatorial successor) Andrew Cuomo. Only one month ago Cuomo enjoyed a cushy margin of about 30 points. This may explain the desperate campaign posters put out by the New York State Democrats.

But for all of the talk about energizing the Republican far-right base, the Tea Party may also be inadvertently energizing the left. We have to remember that the Tea Party is based on an extreme disapproval of the current Democratic administration and Democratic control of both houses of Congress. Could a counter-Tea Party movement work in much the same way? In other words, could progressives on the left galvanize around an anti-Tea Party movement?

The main rebuttal to this question might be: if an anti-Tea Party movement were to arrive on the political scene, it would have much sooner. This may be true, but I know a lot of people who might consider themselves centrist or on the left who, up until now, did not believe the Tea Party capable of winning any serious elections. With the primary victories of O'Donnell and Paladino, this may change and it may spur action against the Tea Party by those who felt the best course of action at the time was to allow the movement to die on its own. It is now clear that the Tea Party has much more momentum than originally thought.

And this surge in momentum will do little for the Tea Party itself; everyone who wants in on it has already put their chips in. What this will do is wake up those on the left and some of those in the center who do not want to implement such things as eminent domain to stop the Cordoba House, religious-based morality legislation, and the abolition of the right to abortion (even in cases of rape and incest).

I spoke last week about Michael Steele and how he may be good for Democrats. Combine his steady failure as leader of the Republican party with the surge in the far-right wing Tea Party and Democrats will have no choice but to wake up and vote for their candidates. Unfortunately it will not be because of anything spectacular the Democrats have done (though it is impressive, in a sad way, the manner in which they have gotten nothing of high value accomplished), but it will simply be a vote against reactionary politics. As Michael Bloomberg said in his endorsement of Andrew Cuomo for governor of New York, "Anger is not a governing strategy." And so far, the only strategy I've seen out of the Tea Party camp is anger.