Tea Partier

The new senator from South Carolina has a knack for being everything to everyone.

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Florida Rep. Allen West, the Tea Partier notable for being one of two African-American Republicans in the House freshman class, is making headlines today for his dead-serious assertion that “about 78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party.” But I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more said about another recent comment with a historical tinge—the declaration by Richard Mourdock, the conservative challenging Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary, that Barack Obama and today’s Democrats are the true heirs to the Confederacy.

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For the last three months, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have been repeating the same argument against Mitt Romney: He’s a moderate, and a moderate Republican can’t win the White House. Naturally, given Gingrich’s stature as a historian, the critique dredges up memories of campaigns past. “We tried a moderate in 1996, and he couldn’t debate Bill Clinton effectively,” Gingrich said in January. “We tried a moderate in 2008. He couldn’t debate Barack Obama effectively and lost.” Santorum, too, has invoked the gruesome specters of Bob Dole and John McCain.

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[Guest post by Simon van Zuylen-Wood] Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Newt Gingrich’s highly puzzling ascendance is his popularity among Tea Party voters. As of December 6 he was the overwhelming Tea Party favorite, with 47% of their support. (This enthusiasm may have flagged amid the targeted attacks Newt’s opponents have been deploying this week.) Gingrich’s lead could be a passing fad, but while it lasts, he’s got the Tea Party to thank. His numbers among “moderates/liberals” and “Tea Party nonsupporters” are virtually identical to Romney’s.

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With all the hullabaloo surrounding Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller during the midterms, it was easy to lose track of some equally conservative, but less flamboyant, candidates. And it seems safe to say that no Tea Partier had more success while garnering less national attention than Mike Lee. While running for Senate, the 39-year-old Utah Republican proposed dismantling the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Mile-High Meltdown

 The Republican Party is campaigning with a stiff wind at its back this year, thanks to a terrible economy, ripe targets created by two straight heavily Democratic cycles, favorable midterm turnout demographics, and the famous “enthusiasm gap.” But, in Colorado, it seems as if the Republicans are conducting a meteorological experiment to test the strength of that wind, as they stumble disarrayed into today's primary. The race for the Republican Senate nomination is ugly: Candidates Jane Norton and Ken Buck are locked in a klutzy and tasteless competition to see who will screw up least.

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Michelle Cottle’s piece on Sarah Palin’s media strategy (“Media Maven,” July 22) is a fine dissection of p.r. craftswomanship, one any magazine or website would be proud to run. But like too much reporting about the media, it scants the message that attracts so many people to a particular messenger. Palin is the most dangerous politician in America today. Her stated views are on the wildest fringe of conservative thinking. She opposes even the mildest forms of corporate regulation, thinks the New Deal made the Depression worse, believes the U.S.

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About 2-1/2 years ago I wrote an essay for TNR in which I criticized the so-called new atheists (primarily Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens). A few months later, I followed up with a critical take on Bill Maher’s Religulous. In both cases, my focus was politics. There was, I argued, something deeply illiberal about the new atheists’ intolerant hostility to the spiritual beliefs of their fellow citizens. I still believe that, as readers of my forthcoming book will discover.

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