Before the GOP establishment runs too far to the left on its evolutionary jog away from its base, it might want to take a look at this AEI study about the impact of the Tea Party on the midterm elections and what could have been if the Republican Party had run a populist 2012 campaign instead of working overtime to be centrist.
The researchers conclude that having a Tea Party protest on Tax Day, April 15, in 2009 increased the number of Republican votes in that area for the 2010 midterm elections and caused their representatives to vote more conservatively.
In fact, they estimate that the protests led to an additional:
25,000 to 46,000 local Tea Party organizers
170,000 to 310,000 protesters on Tax Day 2010
$840,000 to $1.54 million in donations to Our Country Deserves Better PAC
3.2 to 5.8 million votes in the 2010 House elections
The rallies also:
Increased the likelihood that incumbent Democratic representatives decided to retire prior to the elections
Caused Congressmen to vote more conservatively in Congress
Effects were driven by a persistent increase in the movement’s strength
Led to more grassroots organizing, to larger subsequent protests and monetary contributions, and to stronger conservative beliefs
Had significant multiplier effects: for every protester, Republican votes increased by seven to fourteen votes.
That, my friends, is a pretty stunning impact. This bit is worth quoting in full:
Our results suggest that political activism does not derive its usefulness solely from the provision of information or its consumption value, but that the interactions produced at rallies and protests can affect citizens’ social contexts in ways such that a movement for political change persists autonomously. This confirms the importance of social dynamics in networks of citizens for the realization of political change, and seems of relevance not only in the context of representative democracies, but also at the onset of revolutionary movements.
I had similar experiences in my older days of political activism where I found that even a rally that has seemingly little impact, helps consolidate the base while confronting the establishment. And the entire organizational phase of political activity prepares activists for making a bigger impact elsewhere.
The left has always known this and the right is only slowly catching up. Obama did not come out of nowhere. Neither did his campaigns. And building a viable opposition to them requires a populist movement that can mobilize people out in the streets.