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. It would not be a trivial split off, possibly being as much as 20% of the electorate, about 50% of the Republican party. But, the Democratic Party wouldn't come out inscathed. The New GOP would be able to justifiably advertise itself as 'Free of Tea'. so, that 20% of the electorate would gain about about 10 to 15% from the Democrats to become a substantial second party. It would make the Democratic party actually a Liberal party (though not quite as far to the left as the Tea Party would be to the right).

It doesn't happen that quickly. From the Bull Moose party of the early 20th century to Ross Perot's Reform Party to any other in the modern era, those kinds of changes take time. Heck, Johnson passed the Civil Rights bill in the early 60's and knew it would lose the South for the Democrats, and yet Republicans didn't make significant progress until Reagan in the 1980's. (And yes, there were attempts to start third parties along the way: Strom Thurmond, John Andersen, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan and more.

I agree that the Tea Party has a firmer foothold, but thinking 15% of Democrats are suddenly going to switch to the "mid-GOP" party because the fruitcakes have walked would seem to argue that the Democrats are already better by 15%, and I see no indication of that.

If so, we are possibly seeing the emergence of a period of three party rule.

It's only happened with the greatest rarity in 240 years, and never in the modern, mass communication era. Our system is stacked against it, and if the Tea Party cleaves it will decimate Republicans for a full cycle, perhaps two. Not that that would bother me, of course.
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