This was going to be the season of the Tea Party. They were going to bring their anti-government sensibility to bear and clean house. These weren’t merely Republicans who were disgruntled because their team was out of power. No, no! These were people of principal, damn it! They were dormant but growing disgruntled during the Bush administration’s big government, big spending. It was just a coincidence that the straw that broke the camel’s back came right when President Obama took office.
This primary has taught us that, if the Tea Party is a movement of people who are principled warriors against the Establishment, they are toothless and the media coverage they received wildly exceeds their power. In Indiana, the old guard seems to be coming through the primary unscathed. The Once & Future Senator, North Carolinian/D.C. lobbyist Dan Coats has been ushered from moth balls to the Republican nomination. Todd Rokita is coming from 8 years in the Secretary of State’s Office to Indiana’s Fourth District. Dan Burton will return for his millionth term as will Mark Souder.
Incumbent Democrats may very well lose seats in November. But, if they do, this primary tells us that it’s not some sort of sign that people are fed up with business as usual in Washington – it’s just going to be a good old fashioned power struggle between Republicans and Democrats.
Kevin Knuth says
Agreed. A recent poll by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics showed a plurality of Tea Party members supported Coats and Souder. You know Souder, the guy who voted FOR the bailouts. I thought the Tea Party was against that?
Ok.. so they have NO discipline.. but even the party regulars don’t. They coulda defeated a** Burton, if they could have arranged themselves behind ONE opponent.. but NO…. they all had their egos. and let the idiot continue to represent Indiana in the Idiot Range.
I can’t wait to see Ellsworth v. Coats.
Roger Bennett says
Media hyping something? Unprecedented! Toothless? If not being able to settle on a single candidate in a crowded field is toothless, then I guess the Tea Partiers qualify.
Well, I think the Tea Party’s inability to organize behind one candidate is intertwined with who they are. (My sense of this is based on media coverage of same and subject to a recognition that the group is composed of individuals from a wide spectrum; so there are huge caveats involved.) But personal sacrifice for a common good is emphatically not what this movement is about. Mostly, I get the indication that its adherents feel like there has been too much sacrificing for the common good.
More like tired of sacrificing for the common bad, and/or for the particular good – especially when we’re not part of the particular.
‘Sacrifice for the common good’ I can get behind, depending on the details.
‘Sacrifice so we can reward our political supporters and continue to stumble along cluelessly on important issues’ is a little bit of a harder sell…
Mike Kole says
Doug- the inability to organize is entirely it, as far as I can tell. There’s a reason political machines become entrenched- so they can continue to win elections. Ideology or anger is completely useless if it isn’t channelled into effective action. Look at the rhetoric of tea partiers: “leave me alone”, Gadsden flags.. this is herding cats at its finest.
As for media coverage, sign waving, 1000 angry people is far better imagery/copy than 3 people at a phone bank offering to direct drivers for voters so they can get to the polls. This latter, though unexciting, wins elections however.
There were some good demos of what a slim percentage is needed to grab a nomination. Pardon that my numbers are rough, but it’s still worth thinking about.
Dan Burton won the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District with about 30% of the vote.
But that’s 30% of the people who turned up yesterday to vote in the Republican primary. It looks like generally less than 20% of the registered voters voted in the primary. Let’s say about 55% of those are Republicans (in Burton’s district). So about 11% of the registered voters voted in the Republican primary.
If Burton received 30% of that 11%, that adds up to about 3.3% of registered voters. In a heavily Republican district he’s probably a shoo-in. 3.3%!
Maybe somebody can point out where my math is wrong. I guess I kinda’ hope so. But this is my problem with selecting candidates by primary.
Hoosier 1 says
Primaries are for party members to select the people they want to represent them. We forget that — these are just the people who are going to be nominated by each party. There is nothing – execpt a LOT of hard work with signatures and fundraising– to keep people off the fall ballot WITHOUT a party.
No, Hoosier 1, I didn’t forget that primaries are party business (though I can see why that was your reaction). Perhaps I was a bit cryptic, but my point is that I’ve begun to doubt whether primaries are a good way to conduct party business. The Democrats opted out of the system for the Senatorial nomination for tactical reasons. And I wonder if Rep. Burton would have won the Republican party candidacy in a convention or a ‘smoke-filled room’ (to use an anachronistic cliche) despite being an incumbent. Getting on the ballot isn’t the goal of party business. The goal of party business is winning elections. Very few elections in Indiana are won by candidates who are not affiliated with one of the two institutionalized parties.
Kimbal Binder says
Wrong. Grassroots 60%, Coats 40%. Coats got the herd cattle mentality vote from the people who went to the primaries for the local races and then went “Oh, yeah” for the Senate race. If the RNC had been smart enough to let grassroots come up with the candidate they would have a shiny new penny with momentum instead of an old Washington insider guy who has to be rehabilitated.
Mike Kole says
Hooser1, Marty- The points you make illustrate that the parties should just spare the taxpayers the cost burden of their private business. There’s no good reason that the candidates can’t be selected at conventions. The R’s & Ds already select some of their candidates at conventions, so the argument that it cuts out voters doesn’t wash. If that argument did hold, then why not all candidates from all parties in the Primary?
Best solution I can think of: Move local partisan candidate selection to countywide conventions. Move legislative and statewide candidate selection to statewide conventions. Move non-partisan school board races to the general election when turnout is better anyway.
I believe School Board elections have been moved to general elections starting soon. Can’t find the legislation at the moment, but I think that is the case.
Don Sherfick says
I’ve long wondered why what’s been called “party business” is conducted using taxpayer funds and government electoral resources. I assume there have been constitutional challanges, but to no avail. Anybody have any thoughts on why, other than maybe because no specific constitutional prohibition can be found?
“The most surprising single piece of data in the poll was Coats strong standing among likely voters who “identify with the Tea Party movement”. In that group…Coats got 30%…Stutzman 23%…Hostettler 21%…Undecided 11%…Bates 9% and Behney 4%.”
maybe 30% of those tea partiers have a herd cattle mentality.