What makes the tea party different
I've been of the camp that says the tea party is mostly new branding for the conservative base of the Republican Party. Jon Bernstein says I'm wrong, and I think he's right about that:
Yes, Tea Partiers are almost always going to be the same group that opposed Clinton in the 1990s. But organizationally, they may well be different in important ways this time around. In particular, their eagerness to contest primary elections really does seem to matter. Granted, a few high-profile successes doesn't really mean that Members of Congress are in grave danger if they cast one bad vote. Politicians, however, are notoriously risk-averse when it comes to elections, and frequently overstate such dangers.
The consistent and effective use of primary challenges not only seems like something new, but like something that might really prove meaningful in the coming years.
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