Herman Cain won a straw poll of Missouri Tea Party members last week. Ron Paul came in second, and Newt Gingrich third, with no other candidate even close.

If you read this blog regularly, nothing here will come as a surprise to you. But I am still trying to understand what principles the Tea Party espouses. Constitutionalism? Newt Gingrich is a constitutionalist? Herman Cain is a constitutionalist? What is the evidence for these claims? Both figures hold extremely conventional views on a wide array of issues. Neither one is any kind of maverick, except according to the media’s definition of the term.

Here’s what I wrote in Rollback about Newt the constitutionalist:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a reputation for being a right-wing ideologue. But it is surely a strange right-wing ideologue who credits Franklin Roosevelt with lifting the country out of the Great Depression, joins with John Kerry on “climate change,” and supports (among many other things) the Medicare prescription drug benefit, federal programs to pay for more teachers, Internet access for every American, and rewards to students who take challenging math and science courses — not to mention his sympathy for federal energy policy and Hillary Clinton’s proposed national health-care database, among other things….

[In 1994,] the GOP leadership made the [election] into a referendum on [Gingrich’s] “Contract with America,” a series of proposals the party pledged to champion if elected. Democrats and Republicans alike pretended it was a radical assault on government spending and activity — Democrats in order to frighten their base, and Republicans in order to energize theirs. The Contract was, in fact, a hodgepodge of trivial changes that both kept the basic structure of the American Leviathan intact and neutralized the more ambitious plans and proposals of freshman congressmen who may actually have wanted to change something. The center-left Brookings Institution had it right: “Viewed historically, the Contract represents the final consolidation of the bedrock domestic policies and programs of the New Deal, the Great Society, the post-Second World War defense establishment, and, most importantly, the deeply rooted national political culture that has grown up around them.”

Here’s more about Newt. Newt the constitutionalist, who will save the republic. That’s about what the American public deserves.

So what is the attraction of these men? They supported TARP, opposition to which is supposed to define the Tea Party. Thus on the key economic issue of our time, they sided with the establishment against the people. Nice.

I see no serious proposals for specific spending cuts from either of them, and opposition to high spending is supposed to define the Tea Party. Cain endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, the person the Tea Partiers claim to dislike.

Cain’s positions are a complete disaster, as I’ve shown again and again (see below), and the fact that he thought the economy was fine on September 1, 2008 shouldn’t fill Tea Partiers or anyone else for that matter with confidence that this is the man we need at a world-historic moment of economic crisis.

I wrote a post not long ago called ‘I Support Cain’ Means ‘The Country’s Fine Just as It Is.”And here’s my resource page on Cain, the alleged “outsider” who chaired the Federal Reserve of Kansas City.

Let me amend that blog post title, by the way. “I support Cain” or “I support Gingrich” means “I haven’t yet been exploited enough by the American political duopoly, so please keep looting me and holding me in contempt. Though while you’re doing it, have the decency to give pretty speeches about how much you side with me against big government.”

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