Shortly after the success of the Tea Parties, while away from my computer, I pondered the alacrity of so many on the left and in the MSM to smear our movement, calling it Astroturf and dismissing our concerns. I had an insight on why these protests made so many so hysterical, so I picked up a pen to scribble some notes, but ended up writing a mini-essay which I transcribe here.
Barack Obama wants his grassroots movement to define a generation. But, in the end, it may end up just defining an election. Like Jimmy Carter in 1980, President Obama in 2012 will not be able to run for re-election in the same manner he made his first bid for national office as an outsider determined to shaek up the establishment. Barely three months into office, he has come to define the Washington establishment as have none of his predecessors since George H.W. Bush.
In 2008, he ran on “change,” (a theme which captured the spirit of the times), but after four years in office, he won’t be able to run again on such an amorphous slogan. Ronald Reagan, by contrast, in election after election successful as well as unsuccessful (failed bids for the GOP nomination in 1968 and 1976), ran on the same ideas. Since he started to act on those ideas shortly after his inauguration, the Gipper could run on the same ideas in his reelection campaign as he had run on in all first successful bid for national office.
But, when the animating idea of your campaign is the amorphous call for “change,” you’re going to have to run on the changes you implemented. And big government doesn’t go over well with the American people.
Thirty years hence will we see an abundance of T-shirts and signs sporting Obama’s image at rallies protesting the policies on a future Repubilcan president as we saw such imagery of the Gipper at the Tea Parties? I doubt it. Those sporting the image or name (as I did) of Ronald Reagan did so to remind others of the ideas he promoted as an antidote to the policies of the incumbent president.
Yes, people today sport Obama’s image in their homes, on their T-shirts and cars. But, when your appeal is your ability to advance their hopes in an era where they despised the then-incumbent Administration, as memories of that Administration fade, your image will being to disappear as do most fads when they no longer fit the current zeitgest.
Barack Obama built a movement around his image and his supposed ability to transcend politics we knew them and build a new consensus, a new kind of politics. But, as he provided the same old kind of politics, his appeal begins to diminish and his potential to turn that movement into something larger decreases with each passing day. The movement built around his candidacy becomes just that, a movement built around his candidacy and not a political movement which reshapes America.
As I type those remarks out, making a few changes here and there, I realize that many who slur the Tea parties are invested in the idea of Obama as a transformational figure. They want his grassroots movement to define a generation and fear that perhaps this movement could supplant theirs.