Why did the Tea Party take down a doctrinaire conservative?

The holy crusade that movement conservatives undertook against Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst concluded with Tuesday’s Senate runoff, producing his once-unlikely defeat at the hands of his much-celebrated Tea Party challenger, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz.* What makes the election so interesting is that Dewhurst, who has been denounced from one end of the conservative blogosphere to the other as a “RINO” and as “Dewcrist,” can’t really be accused of any specific ideological heresies. Unlike Indiana’s Dick Lugar, he hasn’t supported any arms control treaties or gun control measures or “earmarks.” Unlike many of 2010’s Tea Party targets, he can’t be accused of social-issues moderation; he was staunchly supported by Texas’ main anti-abortion groups. And unlike Orrin Hatch of Utah, he hasn’t thumbed his nose at ultra-conservatives; he calls himself a “constitutional conservative,” says he supported Tea Party policies before there was a Tea Party, and heavily identifies himself with his most important backer, Gov. Rick Perry, who can snarl and rant at godless liberals with the best of them.

This did not keep Cruz’s backers from calling Dewhurst names, of course. But when challenged, they always seemed to find some objection to Dewhurst that did not involve any actual issues. RedState’s Erick Erickson scoffed at the very idea that Dewhurst was a real conservative, but relied mainly on the two candidates’ lists of supporters to establish some distinction between them. National Review’s editors focused on Dewhurst’s negative ads against Cruz, another non-ideological factor.

Ed Kilgore — The Senate Gets a Little More Hispanic and a Lot More Conservative

The Tea Party is losing interest. Will the rest of the GOP write off Rick Perry?

"There is abundant evidence that Perry’s problem is less a matter of style than of substance, and more a matter of ideology than of electability. To put it simply, the man who announced his candidacy with a fiery right-wing speech at a gathering of the fiery right-wing RedState community is rapidly alienating his hyper-conservative base, and may have real trouble getting back his wingnut mojo."

-Ed Kilgore, “Why the Tea Party Turned on Perry.”

Photo courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor.

Is “Occupy Wall Street” the next Tea Party…for the Left?
"The Tea Party, too, started in incoherence and blind rage, disconnected from other conservative activism, and featuring an unappealing, self-indulgent cast of characters who, like the young activists on Wall Street, represented only a tiny faction of the people they claimed to speak for. "
-Mark Schmitt. “Why Did Liberals Embrace ‘Occupy Wall Street’? (Hint: They’re Obsessed With the Tea Party.)”
Photo courtesy of MSNBC and Conservative Daily News.
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Is “Occupy Wall Street” the next Tea Party…for the Left?
"The Tea Party, too, started in incoherence and blind rage, disconnected from other conservative activism, and featuring an unappealing, self-indulgent cast of characters who, like the young activists on Wall Street, represented only a tiny faction of the people they claimed to speak for. "
-Mark Schmitt. “Why Did Liberals Embrace ‘Occupy Wall Street’? (Hint: They’re Obsessed With the Tea Party.)”
Photo courtesy of MSNBC and Conservative Daily News.
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Is “Occupy Wall Street” the next Tea Party…for the Left?

"The Tea Party, too, started in incoherence and blind rage, disconnected from other conservative activism, and featuring an unappealing, self-indulgent cast of characters who, like the young activists on Wall Street, represented only a tiny faction of the people they claimed to speak for. "

-Mark Schmitt. “Why Did Liberals Embrace ‘Occupy Wall Street’? (Hint: They’re Obsessed With the Tea Party.)”

Photo courtesy of MSNBC and Conservative Daily News.


The newest issue of TNR is out!

In our cover story, What’s Driving Rick Perry?" (sub. req.) TNR Senior Editor Alec MacGillis describes what makes the Texas Governor a permanent candidate.

Excerpts from the piece include:

We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But, if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.” - Governor Rick Perry, April 2009

"What the hell did I just do?” - Governor Rick Perry, after announcing his switch to the GOP in 1989. 

“He understood where the state of Texas was going.” - Greg Hartman, former strategist 

To read this article and more, including Timothy Noah’s TRB column on migrant teachers, Eliza Gray on super committee anxiety, and Leon Wieseltier on death penalty debates, make sure to check out the October 20th issue of The New Republic.

Subscribe to TNR Society and get 20 issues/year, access to our archives, and TNR events invitations for only $2.25/issue by clicking here.

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Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

GOP defector Mike Lofgren quotes TNR’s John B. Judis in his “Dear John” letter to the Republican Party:

"Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”

Read his letter at Truthout.com.

The big debt limit vote in Congress, it is increasingly obvious, is just an appetizer for the divisive, voter-alienating struggles it has built into the schedule at key points during the 2012 presidential campaign, making an eventual GOP presidential nominee’s efforts to “pivot to the center” an athletic feat, at best.

Ed Kilgore, “The Debt Deal Makes It Nearly Impossible for the GOP Nominee to Pivot to the Center”