The real midterms result: Neo-conservatism is dead

Posted on November 11, 2010

The media are now engaged in a frantic exercise in tail-chasing over what the result of the midterms really means.

It’s certain that the Democrats took quite a drubbing – particularly in the massive swing in the House of Representatives and the strong swing to the Republicans in many gubernatorial races, though less so in the Senate.

It was also a good night for the Tea Party both electorally and reputationally.

Electorally, the real posterboys of the movement – Rand Paul and Marco Rubio (whom I drew attention to back in September) romped home. The movement’s detractors claim these two don’t count, because they were fighting for seats with Republican incumbents, but that misses the point. Yes, they beat the Democrats but more crucially they beat the Republican establishment. These were victories for the Tea Party over the whole political establishment – that is why they matter so much.

Reputationally, the candidates that the media and the Tea Party’s critics wanted to be the face of the movement – people like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell – lost. There are some burned TPM fingers as a result, but that is a lesson learned: don’t pick weirdos. The ability of voters to be selective and sensible whilst still backing the Tea Party has been demonstrated.

The most important result of all, though, is that last night represents a crushing defeat – particularly on the fiscal front – for neoconservatism.

The British stereotype that neocons are all about foreign policy is mistaken; that was tacked on to a previously isolationist philosophy¬† after 9/11. In reality, the neocons’ most distinguishing ideological feature was a rejection of fiscal conservatism (opposition to deficits and support for balanced books, low tax and low spending) in favour of big spending, big debt and hang the consequences. That is why they and Obama are viewed as much of a muchness by most Tea Party activists and why the Tea Party began rolling in the Bush years, well before Obama’s election.

The Tea Party is an earthquake, and it is the neocons’ house that has come crashing down. The people have rejected big spending, government debt and deficit finance wholesale in favour of low taxes, spending cuts and an end to deficits.

The Republican establishment took a long time to realise this. Those who stuck to their deficit-financed guns have been swept away, and those who adapted are scrabbling to join the new consensus. Neoconservatism is dead – long live the Tea Party.

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Categories: Economics, Opinion, Politics, Public spending

16 Responses

  1. Michael Heaver:

    Great to see the Neo-Cons finished. Now, Rubio/Paul 2012? Maybe Trump? Anything that stops Sarah Palin will do..

    03.11.2010 13:05 Reply

  2. North Briton 45:

    I’m reassured to see the TPA so eager to jump on the Tea Party’s bandwagon. While its clear success in the mid-term elections may have killed the discredited notion of neo-conservatism, to think the Tea Party are going to be a success, or indeed emulate their electoral victories over here, is absurd.

    The Tory and neo-Libertarian right like to paint those on the left as deficit-deniers, when in fact all parties recognise the need to tackle the deficit, they just simply disagree about the means and pace.

    But the Tea Party are reality deniers. Their candidates have not run on policies, they have run on soundbites, exploiting lies, encouraged fear and the stereotype is frankly justified.

    Simply labelling the Tea Party as a low-tax, small government organisation, as a means to justify the TPA’s love in, is ridiculous. They are anti-abortion – in Rand Paul’s case even in cases of rape and incest, they deny global warming, though I imagine the TPA would agree with such idiocy, are frequently anti gay marriage and want strict immigration laws. All these things require a rather active, involved government. By simply saying these decisions should be left to individual states doesn’t alter the fact they would need federal legislation.

    The Tea Party also are denying the economic realities of what faces the US. Obama had a horrendous legacy and has spent two years trying to fix things. People might disagree with his legislation on the economy, or on the healthcare reforms, but the Tea Party have simply shouting ‘No’. They haven’t put forward any alternative solutions. The problems left by Bush won’t simply go away. The Tea Party solution seems to be to grab a couple of shotguns, get a pick-up truck to a wood cabin and wait for the Rapture.

    So if the TPA wants to ally itself with this bunch of loons, I for one will be very grateful.

    03.11.2010 13:13 Reply

    • Hollando:

      Socialist much?
      You sound like a Grauniad drone

      03.11.2010 16:28 Reply

    • libertarian:

      North Britain 45

      I guess you “know” all this because the voices told you.? By the way if Labour aren’t deficit deniers how come they ran it up in the first place, wasn’t this endogenous growth theory ? Or is that one of the causes of climate variation or whatever you’ve renamed it this week

      03.11.2010 23:07 Reply

    • North Briton 45:

      @Hollando @libertarian Thanks for your healthy input. Yes you really addressed with the issues in a sensible and argued manner. At least with @mewallace one is able to enjoy a conversation and debate; that’s the fun of democracy.

      04.11.2010 08:57 Reply

      • Hollando:

        Sorry, I don’t argue with socialists

        As the joke goes; it’s like trying to teach a pig to sing; wastes your time, and annoys the pig

        04.11.2010 12:46 Reply

        • North Briton 45:

          Wow, are you really that narrow minded and tribal? Astonishing.

          04.11.2010 15:19 Reply

          • Hollando:

            I guess so
            I don’t argue with children, madmen or inanimate objects either

            04.11.2010 15:45

  3. thedissenter:

    Not sure the Tea Party challenged neo-Cons as much as Bush era ‘compassionate’ Conservatism which essentially turned into no less big government than what Democrats would naturally embrace. Political Parties tend to piggyback on what is considered electorally advantageous – whatever the trend, whatever they agenda they can adopt/control to gain votes. That the Tea Party in itself is a non-constituted movement of angry people means if cannot be controlled and hence resistance from the Republican Party and bile from the Democrats. The Tea Party is saying it is our government and our taxes and we want less of both and the ability to make our own decisions, spend our own money. That it has no set agenda means it is not neo-Con, but not without some of the fundamentals that the neo-Cons once stood for before being ignored by Bush and subsumed by Party interest.

    03.11.2010 13:25 Reply

  4. Woodsy42:

    “long live the Tea Party.”

    Please can we have one in our country too?

    03.11.2010 15:14 Reply

  5. RK:

    Disagree Mark – NeoCons come in many shapes and sizes. Let’s remember that while Bush expanded the state and spent big, he also cut taxes. Now let’s just cut out that first part… apart from on defence of course… and we’re set.


    03.11.2010 19:35 Reply

  6. Stephen Hoffman:

    I have to disagree with your assertion that Neo-conservatives are all a bunch of people who love spending the taxpayer’s money. People like Reagan were the first Neo-Conservatives. They were anti big government, and pro tax cuts and balanced budgets. Equally if you read the writings of Irwin Stelzer in the times, this is not someone who is a fan of large spending. Futherrmore if you look into the intellectual heartland of the neo-conservative movement by reading Douglas Murray’s excellent book on neo-conservativism you see in principle a group who were fed up of so-called conservatives who were happy with a bloated welfare state and a lack of personal responsibility.

    For me whilst he was given the label Bush and his band of evangelist moralisers were not neo-conservatives. For a start the way they gave money to there pet causes, expanded the welfare state and spent like socialists had nothing to do with neo-conservative theory even though they claimed the name. They claimed the name because the ideals of the neo-conservative movement represented by Reagan were popular with voters. Its rather like Cameron claiming he’s a Thatcherite.

    I personally think if you look at tea party candidates like Rand Paul and Marc Rubio on the libertarian side of the movement, they are returning to Reaganite rhetoric and in my opinion true neo-conservative values. In other words they are trying to reclaim the brand from those who have tarnished it.

    03.11.2010 22:59 Reply

  7. London Calling:

    Spot on Wallacew. And first two comments are the usual Gruaniad-bots spouting usual received wisdom of the left. Stop Palin, Bush problem, yawn

    04.11.2010 07:27 Reply

  8. BenSix:

    …that was tacked on to a previously isolationist philosophy after 9/11…

    Eh? PNAC – stacked to the rafters with Bush’s compadres – had been demanding invasions since the 1990s. As for the Tea Party opposing future wars, well, plenty of its supporters would but their backers and representatives are a different matter. Look up “Tea Party Express” and “Move America Forwards”.

    04.11.2010 12:30 Reply

  9. Krystle Lawrey:

    I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more often.

    28.11.2010 02:41 Reply

  10. bop nam:

    When Ronald Reagan was changing the world with Mikhail Gorbachev, there were the neoconservatives, uttering their sneering contempt for Reagan, comparing his talks with Gorbachev to Pearl Harbor, comparing his diplomacy to Neville Chamberlain.

    26.10.2011 07:52 Reply

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