The Biggest Political Problem of All
By Staff News & Analysis - June 13, 2014

The New Nihilism Threatens GOP's Growth …Cantor's defeat signals deep problems for a party being pushed further to the right by the antigovernment wing. Before nonagenarian Rep. Ralph Hall lost his seat in a Republican primary in Texas, no incumbent had been defeated in primaries this year, leading to the dominant press and pundit narrative: The Republican Empire Strikes Back. Oops. Now with the stunning defeat of Eric Cantor, we have narrative whiplash: The Return of the Tea Party … The main lesson here may be the populist one. The tea-party movement is not a Republican movement, or a conservative movement. It is radical, anti-institutional, anti-leadership, antigovernment. It is driven by suspicion of the motives and actions of all leaders, including those in the Republican Party. – National Review

Dominant Social Theme: The Tea Party does not represent the way forward. In fact, it is already over.

Free-Market Analysis: We didn't intend to comment on the Cantor defeat again, having just written about it yesterday. But our attention was drawn to this article in the National Review because of the description of the Tea Party as "radical, anti-institutional, anti-leadership, antigovernment … driven by suspicion of the motives and actions of all leaders, including those in the Republican Party."

This is a great description that actually presents the Tea Party as it is rather than as its opponents would like it to be. Far too many on the left and even in the mainstream media characterize the Tea Party as "conservative" or "radical conservative," as if those involved want to use government as a tool for social change.

The author of this article, Norm Ornstein, understands the truth about the Tea Party: it is a radical one. And that is a very important point. It certainly IS nihilistic, if one considers nihilism to be a non-belief in government solutions or "government as an agent of change."

We like the analysis because it is one we've been proposing for several years now. Of course, we make a distinction between the formal Tea Party movement, one which has been co-opted by the establishment GOP, and the informal, inchoate Tea Party – which in our view cannot easily be co-opted by the establishment since it is essentially anti-establishment.

Astonishingly, Ornstein seems to understand this as well, else he would not characterize the Tea Party as anti-leadership and anti-government. He is actually discussing the "real" Tea Party movement in the US, not the co-opted faux-movement.

Who is Ornstein? Here, from his bio:

Norm Ornstein is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal. His weekly columns also appear on He spent 30 years as an election-eve analyst for CBS News, until he moved to be the on-air analyst for BBC News in 2012. For two decades, prior to joining National Journal, he wrote a weekly column called "Congress Inside Out" for Roll Call. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other major publications, and regularly appears on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. At the 30th Anniversary party for The NewsHour, he was recognized as the most frequent guest over the thirty years.

We can see that Ornstein sits at the heart of the establishment press, and yet he has managed to "think outside the box," when it comes to the Tea Party. Here's more:

Narratives are nice, clean, and easy, but the world is far messier. Cantor's defeat is huge … There are serious and real reverberations here. For one thing, politicians are more moved by vivid example than overall statistics. All it took was one Bob Bennett in Utah to move Senate Republicans significantly to the right in attitude, agenda, and rhetoric.

The assault on Cantor as a supporter of amnesty may not have been the main reason for his defeat, but we can be sure that the word "legalization" will not cross the lips of Republicans of many stripes in the months to come, except as an epithet.

… Cantor's glaringly obvious personal ambition fed those suspicions, but his defeat was a defeat for the broader establishment, which compromises too readily and feeds its own interests first. That attitude, by the way, also is embodied in many of the big donors to candidates and outside groups, meaning it represents an ongoing serious headache for party leaders.

… That Cantor voted to reopen the government led by Obama, and voted to raise the debt ceiling during Obama's term, was Exhibit A for radicals.

The second and more-significant component, seen most vividly recently not in Virginia but at the Republican Convention in Texas, is the almost nihilistic attitude that all government is bad—that any attempt to find "solutions" to problems that in any way involve government is wrong and almost evil, unless it focuses monomaniacally on cutting spending and cutting government.

… If anything, Cantor's defeat will make leaders even more gun-shy about moving to real solutions or new approaches … Given the current dynamics of the Republican Party, my guess is that the likelihood of a Bush nomination or presidency is slim …


Very good! We don't believe that Jeb Bush is going to win the GOP nomination, either. We think there's a very good chance it could be Rand Paul, so long as he doesn't stumble via self-inflicted gaffes.

We also don't think Hillary is going to win. There's likely a new group of politicians being pushed to the forefront. Rand Paul is important because larger powers behind the throne want someone who will enunciate the growing conservative-libertarian viewpoint.

The last time this viewpoint had a spokesman was when Ronald Reagan was president. He had a knack for enunciating the concerns of his sprawling movement and was even able to sound anti-establishment while sitting in the Oval Office.

Reagan was important because democratic politics must resonate with the concerns of the citizens or it risks becoming irrelevant. And if democracy is seen as irrelevant, then something will come along to take its place. By enunciating the concerns of those who voted for him, Reagan defused a good deal of the political tension of the time. No doubt, the power elite wishes to try this trick again. But we wonder if it will be so effective today, during this Era of the Internet.

But let's take a moment to analyze why Ornstein is accurate concerning the Tea Party: It is probably because of a larger journalist formula he wishes to pursue. He is making a living these days proposing that the Tea Party's governmental nihilism needs to be strongly confronted by pro-government forces, and he aims to lead the charge.

This is the approach he takes in a recent book he co-authored, entitled, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism." Ornstein calls for a return to the "vital center" of US politics, which he seems to believe is the progressive socialism espoused by Democrats from FDR to Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama.

Ornstein, as we can see, has a reason to be realistic about the Tea Party movement. Unlike others in similar positions, he has constructed a professional dialectic that allows him to provide "common-sense" solutions that can, in his view, salvage the republic. Using this approach, he can generate innumerable editorials and probably gain sizeable speakers' fees as well.

Ornstein suggests that only a determined return to big-government politics can salvage the modern US political dialogue but this analysis is ultimately a parochial one. The Western power elite that must struggle with the Tea Party and its ramifications likely have a broader grasp of how to counteract what's taking place. The use of the dialectic is the most important part of social control – and this is what's being employed not just in the US but overseas as well. All mainstream politics is likely controlled in the modern era. How could it not be?

Nonetheless, Ornstein's main point remains a valid one: The real Tea Party is a libertarian, even anarchical, movement fueled by the merciless reality of the West's unraveling economic and political systems.

Elite damage control that worked so well in the 20th century doesn't work nearly as well in the 21st. In the 20th century, the power elite controlled most of the mainstream media that mattered. In the 21st century, they've lost control of a sizeable chunk of it – the part that resides on the 'Net.

This has proven disastrous in numerous ways. Most importantly, it has denied internationalists the ability to do effective damage control. These days when an elite dominant social theme is punctured – global warming, central banking or the war on terror – the pushback festers and expands. There is no way to apply the 20th century's "cordon sanitaire."

Instead, elite efforts at censoring or otherwise removing the offending material become fodder for yet further reporting. The damage control itself becomes evidence that the initial objections are credible because strenuous efforts are being made to remove it.

After Thoughts

Top elites understand the problem just as Ornstein does. But they don't have any better ideas of how to fix it. That's probably the biggest political problem of all.

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