Tea Party Extremism

The extremism of our own age—Tea Party extremism—“contaminates the whole Republican brand,” as David Frum has written. And he’s right. But Tea Party extremism is not, as this implies, a betrayal of the party’s belief system. It is, instead, a crystallization, a highly potent concentrate, of the party’s belief system. The free-market dogmatism, the tax-cut catechism, the abhorrence of nuance and science and government and fact—these did not bubble up during town-hall meetings in 2010 but flow from the same deep well from which establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell (Goldwaterites, all) have long been drinking. Frum and other sensible conservatives yearn for a Tea Party exit—maybe even an expulsion—from the G.O.P. But it cannot be expelled, because in this case the parasite is a creation—in some ways a perfection—of the host organism itself. 1

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  1. This is nowhere as eloquent, but I always explain it this way: if the Democrats are marijuana and the Republicans are strychnine-lace methamphetamine, the Tea Party is really, really bad acid.

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