Is conservatism in style? The readings for this week focused on the topic of polarization. Mann and Ornstein (2012) discussed internal relationships among and between policymakers, McCarty (2007) highlighted factors and consequences surrounding escalated polarization, and Arceneaux and Nicholson (2012) touched on motives and values underlying the "who," "what," and "why" of the Tea Party movement.
Recall that Burstein (2003) stated, "Public opinion affects policy three-quarters of the times its impact is gauged; its effect is of substantial policy importance at least a third of the time, and probably a fair amount more" (p. 36). He further concluded that the impact of opinion is substantial with involvement of interest group activity. This coincides with data from Arceneaux and Nicholson, where less than two years after forming, the Tea Party endorsed several candidates and ultimately won 39 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives along with winning five seats in the Senate. Clearly, an increase in public opinion as well as voter share does matter, as exemplified by the newly formed Tea Party successfully electing politicians who represent their interests in areas of both fiscal and social concerns.
Though Arceneaux and Nicholson argue there is heterogeneity among Tea Party affiliates, the vast majority identify with strict conservative ideologies both on social and economic issues. These interests (e.g. limiting abortion rights, opposing gay marriage, decreasing social program spending, etc.) heavily correlate with that of the Republican party; thus, do you believe the Tea Party movement is indeed a rebranding of Republican interests? Moreover, Arceneaux and Nicholson stress that "Since the 2010 election, Tea Party-linked representatives wield a great deal of power in the Republican Caucus and have constrained the ability of House Republican leaders to compromise with Democrats." This polarization amongst Congressional party members relates to McCarty's claims emphasizing the importance and necessity of bipartisanship in passing policies. How do you believe the relative power of the Tea Party has or will impact democratic interests in Congress or elsewhere?