Basically, the idea here is that Tea Party candidates do not seem to putting Republican pick ups at risk, as was the conventional wisdom during the primaries. Basically, 33 Tea Party candidates seem likely to pick up House seats, and 8 could win Senate seats-- this would be enough for the Tea Part to exert a real influence within the Republican caucus.
The Tea Party has one good idea, in my opinion, though one only. They correctly note that our government cannot keep spending money as it has this past decade. Pretty much everything else they're for ranges from impractical to-- yes, I'll say it, both for fun and for accuracy-- stupid. (To me, in a year when my side is going to get its clocked cleaned, it is quite satisfying in a booby prize sort of way to savor the profound and particular stupidities of our opponents.) Continuing the tax cuts, eliminating the estate tax, repealing financial regulation and health care are non starters because the president won't sign such bills unless perhaps one of them becomes a concession made for a compromise in which Obama exacted much from them.
That's okay, though, because the Tea Party becomes interesting and amusing to consider once economic policies are tabled and we move on to culture. Their racial and cultural prejudices are no laughing matter but to be fair, Emily Ekins, a graduate student at UCLA, conducted the survey at the 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washingtonlast month by scouring the crowd, row by row and hour by hour, and taking a picture of every sign she passed. Ekins photographed about 250 signs and found very little evidence of racism. Whether this is evidence of their learning from past mistakes or, as they would like to suggest, evidence of extraordinary tolerance, which has been shrouded by a liberal cabal slandering it as flash mob of racists and hicks, as someone named Allahpundit blogs. My money is on its having realized its bigotry, when openly expressed, became the story surrounding its events.
I'm sorry to have to acknowledge that from a tactical standpoint, they display the odd brilliance of the idiot savant-- twice, they've managed to avoid two errors which would have been fatal: they eschewed a third party effort and they have put a lid on their racism. This latter is especially shrewd of them because they had largely been getting away with it for most of this year, in so far as the electorate showed no sign of supporting Obama in the wake of their bigoted rallies-- they foresaw, I'd guess, that in the final weeks of the campaign too strong a display of racial hatreds could cost it dearly, and they put the bigotry in the closet.
What is a fair assessment of the movement's overall racist character? This is near impossible to measure accurately, so I'll throw out my own wild guess. Broadly speaking, I believe there is more virulent, red necked and unabashed racism in its ranks than its leaders will concede-- this type-- say, maybe 20-25% of its membership, but there is also a greater percentage of non-bigoted whites within its ranks than most liberals allow-- probably 25-30% of it. I'm not prepared to call this faction "tolerant," but I accept that conscious racial bigotry is not a factor in such people. The same breakdown of racism probably holds throughout the broader right wing of America. In my opinion, there's a broader streak of racism in the movement that characterizes a good majority of these people, but most of it is the unconscious type which, though it can have a powerful and hurtful effect, is the sort which it becomes difficult to hold individuals accountable for.
But then there's the final, harmless Tea Party stuff which it's nice to save for the end. Here we go to Founding Fathers and the Tea Party's sanctimonious but harmless nonsense, stuff about Founding Fathers and returning to the pure Constitution. There's all kinds of individual interpretations of what this would mean, in the Times article a dentist is quoted as defining it as abolishing seven or eight government agencies including Education, Interior, and even poor old Agriculture. Or, as the GOP put it in a particularly asinine part of its recent Pledge, a constitutional court would be established in congress to ensure every act of Congress is vetted for its constitutionality. This stuff is a political equivalent to what women mean when they call an action of a kind man "sweet--" something several parts saccharine yet still sort of disarmingly nice. But these are middle aged white men, not 19 year old nice guys, and it recalls so many other reactionary movements in history, where conservatives have raised a fantasy notion of an idealized past up for worship while decrying the corruption of its own generation, probably never realizing, as it imagines itself ushering in a golden age, that many other such movements have taken place in past generations, and unaware that they were snickered at by their contemporaries as it is today.