During the campaign, I predicted that the Tea Party would begin to fade away in 2011, as it got successfully co-opted by congressional Republicans, then divided by the 2012 Republican presidential primary (with its members split among the contenders). But now I'm starting to wonder. Any political movement is invigorated by its conflicts, and there will be some opportunities for the Tea Party to keep its anger train running. In fact, the best opportunity may be the 2012 Senate races.
Republican apostate David Frum makes an interesting argument: By committing not to compromise with Democrats, Republicans have assured that all they'll be engaged in is theater, particularly when it comes to health-care reform. As an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, Frum thinks it stinks:
They'll schedule a vote to repeal the "cuts" in Medicare under health care reform. (Not really cuts -- restrictions on future growth.)
They'll refuse to appropriate funds to implement aspects of health care reform.
They'll call hearings to publicize problems with the law and complaints from those negatively affected.
As a big-state governor who just got re-elected, Rick Perry -- whom the great Molly Ivins used to call "Governor Goodhair" -- would seem to be a natural for a presidential run. And he's even taken the first step, "writing" a silly book outlining his ideas about how to make America awesome again (channeling the moment, his is called Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington). And as he goes around promoting it, Perry is telling everyone that Washington is getting way too involved in our lives, down to telling us "how much salt we should put on our food." He repeats this over and over again, wherever he goes.
The first real test of the new Republican House majority will be coming around February, when Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling to allow the Treasury to continue borrowing money to pay for all the things government does. Republicans are now figuring out what they want to demand in exchange for going along, and both sides are trying to determine just how this is going to play out politically. One thing we can anticipate is that Republicans will get very indignant when Democrats charge that this is a "hostage" situation.
Since Nancy Pelosi announced over the weekend that she'll be seeking to retain her leadership of House Democrats, we've seen multiple articles quoting anonymous Democrats saying it's a bad idea. We've even had the reasonably liberal New York Times editorial page call for her to step aside. Republicans are saying much the same thing. Among the reasons are that Democrats need new blood, Democrats need to compromise with Republicans and she's a serious partisan, and if she stays around, she'll continue to be vilified by the right.