James Traub on “The Tea Party’s Path to Irrelevance”

Dear Commons Community,

James Traub, author and a columnist at foreignpolicy.com, has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today comparing the Tea Party to the Federalist movement of the early Republic.  The major issue is the Tea Party’s crusade against any amnesty and to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining citizenship. Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, recently told Politico that his members were “more upset about the amnesty bill than they were about Obamacare.”

In comparing the Tea Party to the Federalists, Traub comments that:

“Fearing that Irish, English and German newcomers would vote for the Jeffersonian Republicans, the Federalists argued — unsuccessfully — for excluding immigrants from voting or holding office, and pushed to extend the period of naturalization from 5 to 14 years…

…in the fall of 1814, the Federalists convened the Hartford Convention to vote on whether to stay in or out of the Union. By then even the hotheads realized how little support they had, and the movement collapsed. And the Federalists, now scorned as an anti-national party, collapsed as well.”

Traub’s conclusion:

“Today’s Republicans are not likely to disappear completely, like the Federalists did. But Republican leaders like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham understand that a party that seeks to defy demography, relying on white resentment toward a rising tide of nonwhite newcomers, dooms itself to permanent minority status. Opposing big government is squarely in the American grain; trying to hold back the demographic tide is quixotic. The problem is that the Tea Party is not a party, and its members are quite prepared to ride their hobbyhorse into a dead end. And many Republicans, at least in the House, seem fully prepared to join them there, and may end up dragging the rest of the party with them.”

So be it!


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