Our liberal friends have a foolish habit of not taking conservatives seriously.
They can't help looking at the great sprawling conservative movement and seeing a train wreck about to happen. (Conservatives, by contrast, are always afraid that liberals are about to take over the world.)
Take the latest political head-scratching from Dan Eggen and Perry Bacon Jr. at the Washington Post.
Buoyed by their success in capsizing a moderate Republican candidate this fall in Upstate New York, tea party activists and affiliated groups are unveiling new political action committees and tactics aimed at capitalizing on conservative opposition to health-care reform, financial bailouts and other Obama administration policies.
So what is the upshot?
The strategy poses both an opportunity and a risk for the beleaguered Republican Party, which is seeking to take advantage of conservative discontent while still fielding candidates who appeal to independent voters.
Well, yes, sort of. But it kinda misses the point. After all, the problem with the NY-23 election was that the Republican Party in New York selected a candidate who did not appeal to independent voters. She was designed to appeal to moderates that voted for Obama in 2008. But those moderates are history.
Look. The NY Republicans made what seemed, in the spring of 2009, to be a canny choice. But the ground was already shifting under their feet.
The takeaway from NY-23 is that, if the Republican Party bigwigs knew then what they know now, they would never have chosen Dede Scozzafava. The sweet spot has moved decisively to the right.
What we are seeing right now is a healthy, vigorous debate in the conservative world about where conservativism goes next, what its issues will be, and what political vehicle will transport the movement into the future.
It's true that it is just possible that a new political party will emerge out of the process. And it might replace the Republican Party. But it is not likely. The Republican Party is not split. It is not in the situation of the Whig Party where it couldn't decide what to do about slavery.
If anything, the conservative world is in a fantastic place right now. All the disaffected voters that deserted the Republicans in the 2000s have been energized into activism by the leftward lurch of the Obama administration. And there is nothing like a common enemy to unify the quarreling factions of a big sprawling movement.
Then there's this. The Tea Party movement is planning a convention in February, the National Tea Party Convention. It is sponsored by Tea Party Nation, American Majority, National Taxpayers Union, Smart Girl Politics, and SurgeUSA. It is scheduled for February 4-6, 2010.
Who do you suppose the featured speakers are? Republicans Sarah Palin (R-AK) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN). What does that tell you?
And let us not forget that Sarah Palin is the antithesis of a party workhorse. A major source of her popularity in Alaska was that she took on the corrupt establishment of her Republican Party when she ran for election as Governor. And that was after establishing a reputation as an anti-corruption reformer.
Sarah Palin is clearly aligning with the new independent conservative force that the tea party movement represents. She will appear, as she builds political strength over the next two years, as a new broom looking to sweep out the musty establishment of the Republican Party.
The opportunity is great, and the strategic situation is ideal. We have a Democratic Party lurching well to the left of the American people and pushing unpopular policies on health care, environment, and bailouts with party-line votes in Congress.
You couldn't do a better job of doing everything possible to unite the opposition if you tried. Thanks, fellahs!