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Anti-incumbent, pro-party primaries

halterlincoln.JPG

Mike Allen notes that a Blanche Lincoln loss would make 2010 a banner year for sitting senators bumped off in primaries. We'd be at three -- Bob Bennett, Arlen Specter and Lincoln -- which is more than we've seen since 1980. Though the fact that three primary losses a year is noteworthy says, in some ways, more about the security of incumbents than it does about the passions of 2010.

Still, try to find an ideological through-line in those races. Bennett went down in part because he wasn't conservative enough, but even more because he wasn't partisan enough. Specter managed to effectively lose -- or in the case of the Republican primary, seem certain to lose -- both the Democratic and the Republican primaries because he seemed more loyal to himself than he was to either party. Lincoln is a conservative Democrat facing likely defeat at the hands of a somewhat more populist, and at least implicitly more party-loyal, challenger.

And in case you wanted to say that the American people clearly support populist insurgencies this year, consider that the tea parties are plummeting in popularity. Whatever populist impulse they represented has managed to alienate a majority of the population.

Part of the narrative that's emerged is that these primaries show an anti-incumbent, anti-Washington, year. That's right, but it's mixed, incoherently, with pro-party -- which is to say, pro-Washington establishment -- results. The different bases are eliminating politicians who've been insufficiently dedicated to holding their party's line. The result will be much more significant than merely the election of three new senators. Rather, surviving senators will upgrade the threat an unhappy base poses to their reelection and trim their independence accordingly. The moderates and compromisers who are left will stop acting like moderates and compromisers. This election looks, if nothing else, like it's going to be a big step forward in bringing strong party discipline to the Senate.

Photo credit: Danny Johnston/AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 8, 2010; 10:21 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Comments

"Whatever populist impulse they represented has managed to alienate a majority of the population."

If this small band of patriots is alienating a majority of the population, obviously, it's the majority that are nothing but a bunch of socialist traitors.

Posted by: leoklein | June 8, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Yes, we definitely don't have enough party discipline in the Senate when there are only ever five votes, or less, in play. My only hope is that higher party discipline will lead to eliminating the filibuster.

Posted by: MosBen | June 8, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Lincoln is a conservative Democrat facing likely defeat at the hands of a somewhat more populist, and at least implicitly more party-loyal, challenger.

Implicitly being the key word here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/us/politics/07halter.html

Word is that he's not quite as progressive as he's made out to be.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 8, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

@leoklien: "If this small band of patriots is alienating a majority of the population, obviously, it's the majority that are nothing but a bunch of socialist traitors."

The actual arguments would be inaccurate and biased coverage in the media (and unfair treatment at the hands of pundits and comedians) has unfairly tainted the tea party, and/or the polls methodology is flawed.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 8, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Kevin_willis, what happened to personal responsibility? The tea party is losing so it is the media, pundits, and comedians who are responsible? Those you blame are not going away. How will the tp survive if the only thing they can do when they lose is blame others? Perhaps the tp candidates simply lack the experience to run campaigns. They are running on being outsiders, after all. Then again, all that logic and thinking is just elitist. Whining about being victims is how "real" patriots roll.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | June 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

After looking directly at the data and checking to see who is answering these polls--yes,the sample has conventional and cell phone samples (but still not those of us with computer only phones); yes, the sample has increased in those under $50K earnings (but only by 4 percent); yes, the sample favors democrats and independents versus republicans (republicans are only 24 percent versus 39 percent independent and 32 percent--yes, I know this doesn't add up but it's their numbers); this favoring though has been mostly consistent throughout the sample period, in recent years; and yes there are only 17 percent who favor the Tea party movement versus 21 percent when last sampled (but within the 4 percent margin of error).

However, all that said--the plus up in unfavorable column for the tea party is from undecided to unfavorable not actually from favorable to unfavorable showing that those in who favor the Tea party remained the same group. So it's not a "plummet" in favorablity but rather a decision to understand whether or not the person liked the TEA party--and I would say that the 10 percent plus up to dislike side (which could be much smaller with margin of error and a lean toward less wealthy, less republican-leaning callers) may not mean as much as you think.

I would also be interested to know when the calling on these questions is done--it actually has way more influence on the results of you call say, during the basketball playoffs or Sunday afternoons....yes, even professional poll taker make these kinds of "errors".

Posted by: mil1 | June 8, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Jugding from the comments, perhaps the Tea Party should change its name to the Sour Grapes Party...

Posted by: js_edit | June 8, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"Kevin_willis, what happened to personal responsibility? The tea party is losing so it is the media, pundits, and comedians who are responsible?"

In the same sense that the clouds are responsible for the rain on your picnic. You clearly bear some responsibility for picnicking on a rainy day.

Or, comedians, the media, etc, are not doing anything different or unusual, so it should not be unexpected. And in any large gathering of similarly-minded individuals, you will end up with people who don't really make your case very well. Thus providing critics with ammunition. It's almost inevitable, and a predictable part of the process.

"Those you blame are not going away."

Blame is really too strong a word (I presented them as the actual excuses that will be given for Tea Partiers falling in the polls), rather than the one proposed by Leo Klein. And I do not expect them to go away; quite the opposite.

"How will the tp survive if the only thing they can do when they lose is blame others?"

Well, I don't speak for the Tea Partiers, but they do a lot more than "blame others" (although there is a healthy dose of that). And I don't expect the Tea Party movement to survive more than a few election cycles at most, just like The Reform Party.

"Whining about being victims is how 'real' patriots roll."

I didn't say that, nor did I mean to say anything to suggest that I sympathized with that position.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 8, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"The actual arguments would be inaccurate and biased coverage in the media (and unfair treatment at the hands of pundits and comedians) has unfairly tainted the tea party, and/or the polls methodology is flawed."

There's definitely biased coverage involved -- the only reason the tea party was ever considered a "movement" was because news outlets and pundits dubbed it so and gave its relatively small protests coverage while they routinely ignore much larger gatherings for liberal causes. Using accusations of "liberal bias" to bully the media into bending over backwards for conservatives is one of the most effective scams the modern conservative movement ever invented.

Posted by: jimeh | June 8, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_willis: "rather than the one proposed by Leo Klein."

So no one got the dripping-with-irony part?

Seriously, I think the poll is great because it breaks the media narrative that the teabaggers are some mainstream "populist" group -- instead of the obvious crazed rightwingers that they are.

Posted by: leoklein | June 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

leoklein,

personally i think that you can marginalize them if you like (conservatives used to do that to progressives and many still do) but to not take note of the anger of them is short-sighted. The question is will they come out and vote and in enough instances to get their individual elected or will they simply force Republicans slightly to the right (just like ironically Arkansans are trying to do with Halter but to the left).

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 8, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse


"the only reason the tea party was ever considered a 'movement' was because news outlets and pundits dubbed it so and gave its relatively small protests coverage while they routinely ignore much larger gatherings for liberal causes."

A conservatives make the same complaint about the media ignoring conservatives while trumpeting liberal causes. The truth is somewhere in the middle, I suspect.

@leo: "So no one got the dripping-with-irony part?"

Got that. Just saying what I thought would be the real-world excuses used, understand that, of course, Tea Partiers would not accuse regular Americans of being traitors, and that was a bit of irony.

"instead of the obvious crazed rightwingers that they are."

To each their own. I've seen a lot of the Tea Party stuff, and while I'm not motivated to "organize", I think they're more schmaltzy and nostalgic and prone to melodrama than "crazed". One guy complains about the government taking too much of his taxes, and then another stands up and sings the national anthem. Then a lot of folks spontaneously stand-up and put one hand over their hearts.

Ah, sorta like this:

http://michellemalkin.com/2010/06/05/rarely-heard-verse-of-the-star-spangled-banner-tea-party-edition/

Crazed? Yeah, maybe. But I can see the appeal.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 8, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

oh come on now Kevin. You know darn well that liberals image of tea partiers is the healthcare town halls. The same town halls that Democrats have been warned against doing this year and it seems like they're listening to their leadership on this point.

Wouldn't want to go out and see their constituents would they??

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/us/politics/07townhall.html?scp=1&sq=town%20hall&st=cse

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 8, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

It could bring greater party discipline.

OR the moderates could see the shot across the bow as what it is ... a declaration of war.

And all of them could decide to pull a Joe Liebermann ( and now Charlie Crist? )and run as independents if the progressives continue their primary challenges.
Essentially saying ...
"You fired a shot across our bow, now we are returning fire right into your midsection. If you wanna burn the party to the ground, just remember who fired the first shot!"

You see this "stong party discipline" ONLY works if the moderates go quietly in the night.

If they fight back and stake their willingness to destroy the entire party rather than meekly surrender?
It will be the progressive wing that finds itself isolated, sidelined and muzzled.

Posted by: chromenhawk | June 8, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

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