The beginning of the end for the Tea Party?

Hey, remember a few months ago, when I wrote that, “the Tea Party’s influence on American foreign policy has peaked and will be on the downswing for quite some time.”?  How has time treated that statement?  Well, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, as Greg Ip notes over at the Economist‘s ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Hey, remember a few months ago, when I wrote that, "the Tea Party's influence on American foreign policy has peaked and will be on the downswing for quite some time."?  How has time treated that statement? 

Well, it's kind of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, as Greg Ip notes over at the Economist's Free Exchange blog, the distrust in government that is the fuel for Tea Party activism has waned considerably: 

My colleague at Democracy in America imputes from Mitt Romney’s surge into the lead among presidential contenders the beginning of the end of the Tea Party’s influence in the GOP. Now, the latest WSJ-NBC opinion poll contains clues that the movement’s broader appeal may also be waning. As my chart shows, after a brief reversal, Americans are once again getting comfortable with more government in their lives....

Hey, remember a few months ago, when I wrote that, “the Tea Party’s influence on American foreign policy has peaked and will be on the downswing for quite some time.”?  How has time treated that statement? 

Well, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, as Greg Ip notes over at the Economist‘s Free Exchange blog, the distrust in government that is the fuel for Tea Party activism has waned considerably: 

My colleague at Democracy in America imputes from Mitt Romney’s surge into the lead among presidential contenders the beginning of the end of the Tea Party’s influence in the GOP. Now, the latest WSJ-NBC opinion poll contains clues that the movement’s broader appeal may also be waning. As my chart shows, after a brief reversal, Americans are once again getting comfortable with more government in their lives.

[T]ime and events have cooled passions. The bail-outs are receding from memory (and turning a profit), Mr Obama has tacked to the centre, and the economy continues to disappoint. Republicans overreached with Paul Ryan’s budget, thinking the population ready for a draconian restructuring of Medicare to deal with a looming debt crisis. Apparently, it isn’t.

I read several lessons into these results. First, political leaders regularly get out over their ski tips when they think the population is shifting rapidly to the left or the right. Ronald Reagan learned that in 1982, Mr Obama did so in 2010, and it may soon be the turn of the Republican far right.

As Ip  also notes, Americans trust in government parallels a disturbing decline in trust in free markets.  Which is kinda consistent with my point on GOP trade policy.

While this suggests that the Tea Party’s animating force is waning, it’s possible that foreign policy proves to be the remaining policy dimension through which mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney appease the Tea Party wing of the party. 

At a minimum, John McCain ain’t pleased

US Senator John McCain on Sunday expressed concern about growing isolationism in the Republican party, particularly among those vying for the 2012 presidential nomination.

McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, said he was alarmed to hear various candidates at a campaign forum last Monday express opposition to US military involvement in the NATO military assault on Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi.

“There’s always been an isolation strain in the Republican party, that Pat Buchanan (a former Republican presidential contender) wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak,” he said.

I’m not entirely sure that this is isolationism talking, but the evolution of GOP foreign policy thinking is likely to move in a realpolitik direction.  Which, coincidentally enough, is a cheap way to satiate the Paulite wing of the Tea Partiers. 

Developing….

UPDATE:  Wow, I might have broken my personal typo record in one sentence.  Fixed now. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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