The results in last night’s primaries are being hailed as examples of the surging power of the “Tea Party,” as “Tea Party” candidates defeated establishment Republican candidates in a number of states. I think the results are as much attributable to frustration with establishment candidates as to endorsement of any specific “Tea Party” platform. The familiar names that were running in places like Delaware and New York have not gotten the job done in the past, so why not try somebody new?
The performance of “Tea Party” candidates in primaries may turn out to be a double-edged sword. Because you are reaching out to select a new face, by definition you are getting someone who has been less vetted and less tested by prior political experience. Who knows what skeletons may be found in the person’s closet, or what personality quirks may make the candidate less attractive in a general election? On the other hand, I think voters are fed up with know-it-alls telling them that some candidates cannot win and they should settle for a compromise candidate who is “electable.” I think many voters believe that, in this climate, no one really knows who is electable and who is not, and in any case they want their vote to send a message. President Obama’s 2008 campaign showed that an energized, ready-for-a-change electorate can lift a political novice to victory — and in many states 2010 will again be a year with an energized, ready-for-a-change electorate.