Genuflecting to the Tea Party
August 16, 2011, 8:00am

By CHARLES M. BLOW – New York Times.

I must confess that every time Representative Michele Bachmann uttered the phrase “as president of the United States” during Thursday’s Republican presidential debate I blacked out a little bit, so I’m sure that I missed some things.

But one thing that I didn’t miss was the moment when all the candidates raised their hands, confirming that they felt so strongly about not raising taxes that they would all walk away from a hypothetical deficit-reduction deal that was as extreme as 10 parts spending cuts to one part tax increases.

That moment should tell every voter in America everything about this current crop of Know-Nothings — no person who would take such a stance is fit to be president of the United States or any developed country.

Good governance in a democratic society is about the art of the deal, not fiats and dictum. You want leaders who stand up for principles but not in the way of progress.

And it is truly telling that the word “bipartisan” was only used twice, once each by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, whose campaigns evoke the phrase “dead men walking.”

At least Jon Huntsman tried to act like an adult toward the end with this statement: “I’m the only one on this stage who stood up for a deal, for the Boehner deal, against this nation defaulting. I know I’m a little different than everybody else in that regard.” But he’s getting about as much traction as a tire stuck in the mud on a Mississippi dirt road.

What we are witnessing is an extension and acceleration of the G.O.P.’s obscene genuflection to Tea Party tenets: give no ground; take no prisoners; accept no deal.

Luckily for the rest of us, a rash of recent polling suggests that more Americans, at least for the moment, seem to be coming around to seeing the Tea Party for what it is — not mechanics come to fix the machine, but the proverbial monkeys willing to throw a wrench into it.

One of those polls was a New York Times/CBS News poll released last week. It found that the percent of people with an unfavorable view of the Tea Party increased by more than a third from the last time the question was asked. Furthermore, the percent of people who considered themselves part of the Tea Party dropped to 18 percent from 26 percent and the percentage who said that the Tea Party had too much influence over the Republican Party increased by more than half, crossing 40 percent for the first time.

David Axelrod, the Obama campaign strategist, said the candidates at the debate were “essentially pledging allegiance to the Tea Party, instead of resolving the problems of this country.”

I’m not always a fan of the administration’s messaging. But, on this, I completely agree.