Karl Rove and the Tea Parties

Thanks for the kind comments on my thoughts on Delaware. But I wanted to add a brief note about the views of Karl Rove, who blasted away at Christine O’Donnell before the votes were even all counted. It’s an instructive moment about how the old guard is failing to adapt to this new environment.


It’s been a rough cycle for Rove. He’s provided behind-the-scenes consulting, and in some cases public backing, for a number of losing candidates — Tiarht in Kansas, Castle in Delaware, Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas — and he’s seemed out of his depth on radio and television appearances. Rove’s disappointingly bland memoir, released earlier this year, depicts a builder who was successful more because of his ability to identify the priority of grassroots targeting than any grand political strategy. Perhaps Rove was always better at understanding how to target and motivate people from the top down, rather than understanding why they would choose to motivate themselves from the ground up.

In any case, Rove is still a voracious reader and a self-taught master of political history — so it’s puzzling why he’s having such difficulty identifying the trends of the moment. The similarly history-obsessed Newt Gingrich can still claim credit for the most prescient statement about the Tea Party movement when he spoke at CPAC in February, comparing the new wave to Poland’s solidarity movement. “We stood in the streets, and looked around, and realized — there are more of us than there are of them.”


It’s just that instead of Gingrich’s “media elites” being the target, the group on the other side is the right’s own establishment. As Jonah Goldberg says this morning: “The message coming out of Delaware to everyone in the tea parties’ way, Republican and Democrat alike, is: Watch out.”

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