In the wake of Bob Bennet's defeat in the Utah primary, there's been a lot of talk about Tea Partiers claiming their first GOP "scalp," which is an odd thing to say since Bennett was rejected by conservative activists wholly within the GOP. This is yet another example of MSM confusion about the nature of the Tea Parties and the state of play within the GOP, two topics about which the average journalist is functionally illiterate. This report that appeared on CNN before the Utah GOP caucuses (or whatever they were doing) is typical (h/t Redstate):
Bennett and the CNN babe talk about his conservative bona fides and express confusion over why these are not enough for the GOP's conservative activists. Among other things, they name check some Inside-the-Beltway conservative lobbying groups that have endorsed Bennett. (normally, CNN would be chastising Bennett for associating with these sorts of right wing pressure groups...). What else do these crazy conservatives want? they seem to ask plaintively. Well, conservatives would like to see less of Bob Bennett where he has usually been found the last 10 years: sharing the podium with left-wing senators to announce bi-partisan "deals" that gives the Left 75% of what they want. The fact that Bennett voted a particular way on abortion becomes meaningless when he is a consistent vote in favor of the expansion of government.
The CNN babe then goes to talk to a "tea party leader" who says the following regarding the TARP vote that turned out to be Bennett's epitaph:
Yes, that one vote really did matter, CNN babe. Voters have gotten hip to the Senate vote dodge, where Senators explain away a bad vote by saying it was "procedural" or "one of thousands of votes in my _____ years in The Senate." Maybe it's because we've all read Master of the Senate, but we know that those "procedural" votes are often where the action is, and the place where, say, Olympia Snowe will vote a health care bill out of committee because "history is calling" and then vote against it when the voters come calling. Hey, how about just voting against the damn thing every chance you get, rather than clearing the way for its passage?
Anyway, the TARP vote was a rare chance for someone like Bennett to stand in the way of a stampede and instead he chose to go along to get along. The Tea Parties began specifically in response to over spending in Washington in the wake of the market crash. While Tea Partiers can credibly claim to be a movement distinct from Republicans and Democrats, a fair reading of the Tea Party movement has to conclude that it is a conservative/libertarian one. There may be some disaffected independents and maybe some conservative Democrats along for the ride, but most Tea Partiers have a history voting Republican and only became disaffected from the GOP because of guys like Bennett.
The media and political obtuseness on this score is really grating to listen to, and the CNN report about is a perfect example of how clueless our supposed elites are to the concerns of a large segment of the electorate. We hear that voters are "angry," "irrational," and that the Tea Parties are part of a "populist wave," sweeping all before its path. Supposedly voters want the incompatible: more government services and lower taxes. Guys like Bennett and news outlets like CNN love to shrug their shoulders as if to say, "how can we rectify that?"... and then go right back to calling for increased spending for the media emergency of the month. With the exception of the Gingrich/Clinton welfare reform of the Nineties, I can't think of a time when a majority in the Senate or Congress voted in favor of a reduction in spending. It's so much easier to talk fiscal restraint back home, and then convince yourself that obstreperous activist groups in DC represent some sort of popular groundswell for increased spending.
Bennett and others may be conservative, but they have also been useless because they have enabled the increase of the federal government to the point where its very sustainability is coming into doubt. Yet, he is baffled as to why people are so motivated to oppose him. I fear there are a lot of GOP representatives out there who are similarly obtuse.