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FP: Can Progressives and Tea Partiers Find Love Across the Aisle?

Author: John Norris
November 2, 2010

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Five foreign-policy ideas these natural enemies can both get behind.

With the first shock waves of Tuesday's election reverberating across Washington and the country, armchair pundits are taking it as gospel that the results will inevitably mean gridlock as progressives and newly elected Tea Partiers lock horns in mortal combat. This may be true on a number of issues, but there might also be several surprising areas of convergence, including on some aspects of foreign-policy. For many people, the Tea Party's foreign policy agenda has been largely a cipher. As Kate Zernike noted, "Tea Partiers say they want to focus on economic conservatism, meaning that they don't spend a lot of time talking about other topics -- foreign policy, or social issues like gay marriage and abortion." But it is not so difficult to predict where the Tea Party impulse lies on a number of issues.

As always, the toughest test for Tea Party novices in Congress -- beyond learning that nothing is really ever off the record in this town -- will be sticking to the ideals championed in their candidacies. Many of them will quickly be tested by whether their loyalty lies with the Republican leadership or the platforms on which they ran. Washington has seen many self-proclaimed outsiders come and go.

Progressives face their own set of challenges. Some pundits will be quick to point to the election results as a repudiation of a progressive agenda rather than the natural fallout from the slow job growth after a devastating economic downturn. There will be the usual bout of finger-pointing that follows a hard loss. Progressives will need to ask hard questions about what they could have done better and figure out whether they want to work across the aisle and make incremental progress or simply try to portray the Tea Party as out of the mainstream.

Those obvious tensions within both the Tea Party and progressive politics aside, here are some areas where these two natural enemies might actually find common cause -- while still sticking to their core beliefs.

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