Jonathan Chait

The Non-Civil Libertarian Tea Party, Cont'd

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Here's more evidence that Tea Party Republicans are no more likely than other Republicans to fret about the Patriot Act -- i.e., not likely at all:

Much of the reaction to Tuesday's vote not to fast-track some provisions of the Patriot Act has painted it as a victory for the Tea Party (e.g., hereherehere, andhere). Tea Partiers, the story goes, were central to a group of Republicans bolting their party and preventing the measure from passing.

The problem is that the numbers don't suggest the Tea Party had anything to do with it.

Pinning down the role of the Tea Party can be tricky, because the exact membership of the new "Tea Party Caucus" in the 112th Congress is not yet known, although we do know the membership in the 111th. Michelle Bachmann's office says the new list will be released Feb. 17. But we can look at who was endorsed by a Tea Party organization or identified as a Tea Party candidate by a major news outlet in the 2010 midterms. And those members were not really less likely to support the Republican leadership on this vote than members who were not:

The Tea Party is many things, but a generalized and principled opposition to government power is not one of them. Primarily, the movement is an intensification of recent trends within the Republican Party,

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