Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Vox News

On display at raucous Republican debate Monday night was the tea party itself

The Republican debate, which was co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express and seemed at times like a sporting event, got out the tea party message: It's a force to be reckoned with.

By Staff writer / September 13, 2011

Members of the Tea Party watch during a Republican presidential debate Monday, in Tampa, Fla. Being compared to a sporting event, Monday's Tea Party Express debate was more raucous than previous Republican debates..

Mike Carlson/AP


Los Angeles

Monday night’s GOP candidate debate, co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express, may have been political in its focus but it was “Sports Night” at heart – pure primetime storytelling.

Skip to next paragraph

Recent posts

Producers took a page from the playbook of its time-slot competition, “Monday Night Football” ­– from the raucous crowd warm-up act to the pop-singer-wobbly rendition of the national anthem and the booming shout-outs of each player’s, er, participant’s, moniker (the Libertarian! The Businessman! etc).

The subtext of this political soap: A tale about the tea party itself.

“What other splinter party has ever had its own debate on prime-time television?” says Richard Laermer, author of “2011: Trendspotting.” While he knocks the candidates for seeming unprepared for the rough-and-tumble of the questions, he says, “the tea party is telling its story” – that it is a force to be reckoned with – “loud and clear.”

“That CNN would partner with them” sent a broad message of legitimacy, adds Clyde Frazier, professor of political science at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., saying, “clearly, it also sends a message of influence.”

Monday night underlined what most political observers have understood ever since the midterm elections in 2010, says Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta.

Watch video of Bloomberg's Al Hunt discuss Monday's debate:

The tea party is “a reflection of the long-term growth of polarization on both ends of the political spectrum, especially in the increased conservatism of the activist base in the Republican Party, and will be a factor in whoever is nominated,” he says, noting that in the most recent Gallup poll, more than half of all Republican voters say they support tea party values.


Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story