A mass of affluent and well-educated people gather to protest the tyranny of government. They are still shaken by the election of a president who has formed a coalition against them that is likely to provide his party many victories in future elections. In response, they settle into morally and politically purified communities, and create a parallel reality with paranoid fantasies, attempting to separate themselves from a society that has supposedly gone crazy.

Tea Party protestors against President Obama? Nope. These are the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s against Richard Nixon. However, the description could apply to both movements. The Tea Partiers are today’s hippies, just older and on the other side.
The Republican Party is acting like it’s on top of the world, and that America is rejecting the Obama agenda. Yes, they are likely to win seats in November because of the economy, but the idea that they have no long-term troubles is laughable.

As shown at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Republican Party has become a shell of its former self, without a prominent leader or any true ideas beyond ideological platitudes, tax cuts, support for torture and blinding, irrational hatred of liberalism. They have become the right-wing version of the 1960s counter-culture that brought conservatism to modern prominence. They have become trapped in an ideological bubble, defined by its fringes.

They have tons of street theater with their colorful and odd protests over nothing based in reality. They threaten to isolate themselves from society, just like the hippies did with their ‘subcultural communities.” They regard their predecessors whom they once lauded as traitors to the cause. Hippies considered FDR and LBJ to be corporatist whores who were insufficiently liberal, and Tea Partiers consider George W. Bush to be a free-spending maniac who was insufficiently conservative. However, they practically salivate over Ronald Reagan, who was more liberal on several issues than Obama. And even so, some of them say Reagan was insufficiently conservative they even attack Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The Tea Party has threatened to overthrow the science of stem-cell research and global warming, just like the hippies rebelled against science and technology. The precision of this mirror image is fascinating.

Republicans say that this movement will help them, but there are signs that mainstream Republicans are worried. The chance of the Tea Party movement forming a third party is increasing, and according to polls, their candidates would be spoilers for the GOP, allowing for much easier Democratic victories. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) warned of this possibility very specifically at a town hall meeting, and the Tea Partiers were furious. Also, Tea Party candidates are competing in Republican primaries, attempting to defeat popular establishment candidates who are far more electable.

The Republicans are practically bending over backward to appeal to these people, because they truly have no other plan. According to a poll, Tea Partiers are mostly all white, more male than female, overwhelmingly conservative, and mostly rural. First of all, that demographic has been the most fervent supporter of the GOP since Nixon, so reaching out to it will likely accomplish nothing. In any case, that demographic is shrinking. All the GOP is doing is doubling down on its shrinking base, hoping that it can tap into a conservative majority that seems pretty tapped out.

The modern Republican Party came to prominence in the late 1960s by neglecting its northern liberals and becoming the conservative response to the changing social structure and fringy counter-culture. With the culturally divided baby boomers ascending to power, and the rise of white suburbia and the southern GOP, conservatism reigned supreme, with mostly Republican presidential hegemony. The Left was denounced as ideology of hippies and elitists.

But that was 40 years ago. The movement peaked in the 1980s, and now in 2010, with the baby boomers nearing retirement and the rise of diversity, social tolerance and financial instability, conservatism starts to look outdated. Most of the intellectualism of Irving Kristol and Bill Buckley has been replaced by vicious attacks and baseless emotional stress from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Dominated by southern white men (ironically once the most staunch supporters of the Democratic Party), the GOP tries to distance itself from George Bush, even though it agreed with him, and still does.

A counter-culture arises when a political movement doesn’t accept that it has lost. Republicans have fit this role perfectly. If the economy today was better, and people didn’t have such a great view of the ugliness of politics, Republicans would be buried so far into the ground that it would be pathetic. Republicans feel that their conservative utopia, which never actually existed, is slipping away from them and it is. Modern conservatism in its current shape does not have a bright future. If someone has to dress up like a soldier from the American Revolution and call someone a fascist, a Nazi, a communist and a socialist (all at once), that is bad enough. But when a political party considers that to be a viable political strategy, it has already lost.

Dawidowicz is a member of
the class of 2012.

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