Archive for the ‘Tea Party’ Category

4 People Died

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Well, after 3 months off, I had hoped to start with something more positive, but inspiration often comes from outrage, so I want to rant a little about what Joe Klein dubbed the Benghazi Circus back in November, and which any close viewer of politics can tell you is apparently still parked in Washington DC.

Last week, Senate Republicans bestowed on themselves the dubious distinction of being the first Congress ever to filibuster a Secretary of Defense nominee. The reasons for this vary (the main reason was to see if they could dig up a little more dirt on Chuck Hagel), but one cited by both Senators McCain and Graham is that they wanted the White House to release more information on the Benghazi attacks. This latest stunt is just one in a series dating back to the campaign, with the most prominent being Senator Ron Johnson’s ill advised attack on Hillary Clinton and the gentle smackdown provided by John Kerry the following day.

In order to understand the reasons that Republicans have wasted so much energy on the Benghazi attacks, you don’t have to look far. As Kevin Drum pointed out months ago, it’s the same thing that makes Republicans think that it would be good politics to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress over the “Fast and Furious” scandal that no one who doesn’t watch Fox had ever heard of, or that our electoral system has been severely compromised by Acorn and the six guys in the New Black Panther Party: Fox News. Even after the rest of the country had moved on, many Republicans continued to “very closely” monitor the story of “who knew what, when” after the Benghazi attacks. Why? Because it was on their TV every night.

Just to be clear, I’m not someone who thinks that there was no issue here. Clearly the White House soft pedaled the attack carried out on the anniversary of 9-11. While Susan Rice’s mentions of the “spontaneous response” to an anti-muslim video can be explained with reference to the talking points she was given by the intelligence agencies and the evolving reports from Benghazi,  President Obama’s repetitions of this incorrect narrative are harder to justify. In addition, there are lessons to be learned about how we protect our embassies in distant lands, many of which were detailed in the a State Department commissioned  report on the incident.

But let’s put this incident in historical perspective. President Obama shades the truth about four dead Americans and it’s a national tragedy that deserves months of media coverage, multiple hearings and the filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee who wasn’t even in the Obama Administration at the time. On the other hand, President Bush and his cronies lie our country into a war which results in the death of over a 100,000 people, including the death of 4,000 Americans and the maiming of tens of thousands of others, and there is nary a peep from those same Republicans. Where is the sense of proportion here?

Rand Paul, during the final Senate testimony of Hillary Clinton, said that if he were president he would have fired Secretary Clinton, and that the death of 4 Americans in Benghazi was the “worst tragedy since 9/11.”

First of all, Senator Paul, you’re not president, nor will you ever be president. And second of all, “the worst tragedy since 9/11″?! Were you sleeping through the entire eight years from 2000 to 2008? Again, 4 People Died. That’s a tragedy, and we mourn all Americans who die in service to this country, but were talking about 4 people, not the tens of thousands wounded in Iraq, not to mention the deaths of almost 2,000 Americans during Hurricane Katrina, or the many others who have died in mass shootings that could have been mitigated (if not stopped) if the GOP wasn’t completely in hock to the NRA.

Proportion, Republicans…

Proportion.

Whiner of the Month

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

 

This guy has to be the consensus choice for whiner of the month.

Shocking that some people in Washington might condone “the pitting of Americans against Americans.”

Man these guys have short memories. As soon as Bush got on that helicopter and headed back to Texas they forgot about all of the debt he ran up over the previous 8 years, and now they seem to have forgotten that they spent the last two years vehemently supporting a movement that was all about “pitting Americans against Americans.”

It makes me so mad that I want to go out to a rally and paint a Hitler moustache on my John Boehner sign.

The GOP’s Politics of Extortion

Monday, August 15th, 2011

One of the things that I thought of in the midst of all the debt ceiling BS was: what of the shoe was on the other foot?

In other words, what if Democrats held the Full Faith and Credit of the United States hostage in order to pass an unpopular bill against the will of the people? Remember, the Democrats were elected to 3/5 of the seats in both houses of the legislature and controlled the Presidency in 2008. But when they tried to enact their agenda on health care, it was “tyranny” and Republicans couldn’t wait to go to their local park carrying Obama-with-a-Hitler-moustache signs.

Now, the Republicans control 1/3 of the three institutions that make laws in the United States and they are holding the US economy hostage to force the Senate and President to bend to their will? A rough Democratic equivalent would have been if Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats didn’t take the Senate in 2006, but refused to raise the debt ceiling until the Republican Senate and President capitulated and passed a national health care law.

We know what would happen in that case: Republicans would have been screaming bloody murder, and rightfully so.

As Steve Benen points out, the Republicans have made “extortion politics” the new norm in Washington. They only control one branch of the legislature, but they have managed to force enactment of policies that they couldn’t get passed through legitimate political processes. They have manage to keep not only repeal of Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy off the table but alltax increases off the table, and they have kept the Consumer Financial Regulation Agency effectively neutered, even though none of these positions are popular with the American people. Benen’s take is worth extended quotation:

I think this is arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics….

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.

Awesome.

Remind me again why these guys are the patriotic ones?

The Tea Party Downgrade

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

In a recent flurry of e-mails with my conservative uncle, we have been arguing about who is responsible for the S&P downgrade of US debt. While it should be obvious to everyone but the Fox News addled that Congressional Republicans are responsible, the back and forth with my uncle has convinced me that this apparently needs some more explanation.

First of all, let’s stipulate that the idea of a debt ceiling doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Congress and the President are responsible for appropriating money and (much to the chagrin of the Tea Baggers) borrowing money is a part of running a government. A separate debate and vote on whether the government can borrow money to spend funds that have already been approved is superfluous. Not to mention the fact that the most reactionary budget that has come out of the House of Representatives in recent memory, the Ryan Plan, assumes a deficit for this year (and indeed a deficit for over ten years). Furthermore (although the Tea Party Constitutional fetishists have been adept at ignoring it) the Constitution is pretty clear on this. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment reads:

the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for service in suppressing insurrection or rebellion shall not be questioned.

In my opinion, Obama took this Constitutional arrow out of his quiver too soon. While it would set a bad precedent to just ignore a practice that has been in place for decades, he should have reserved his ability to invoke this power in the time of a crisis.

The debt ceiling has been raised 106 times since 1940 and the historical precedent is that the “out party” (who doesn’t control the presidency) votes against it as soon as they know that there are enough votes to pass it. Again, Republicans are shocked (shocked, I say!) that there might be politics in Washington DC and point to the fact that Obama and Biden both voted against it during the Bush Administration. In return, Democrats saw their Barack Obama and raised them a Ronald Reagan, who raised the debt ceiling 18 times in 8 years and in 1987, in a speech that could have been given by Barack Obama, publicly called on the Democratic Congress to stop acting irresponsibly and raise the debt ceiling. 

But this time was different. It was different because the 2010 elections brought to power a bunch of Tea Party Congresmen who cared more about their extreme policy prescriptions than they did about the fragile economic recovery of the United States. The US Government’s much vaunted “checks and balances” are basically a way to insure compromise in lawmaking. But the opposite is true as well: checks and balances also provide an easy way for one faction to grind the system to a halt by refusing to compromise. And this is exactly what the Tea Party has been intent on doing.

Just as they forced a crisis when the Bush Tax cuts were set to expire in 2010, and then again earlier this year when the remaining money from last year was to be appropriated, the Tea Party was set on using the Full Faith and Credit of the United States as a political weapon. The initial Republican plan was to tie the US Government in knots over the debt ceiling to force spending cuts, while only extending the debt ceiling for another 6 months, thereby creating another opportunity to tie the government in knots 6 months later. This is from the same people who talk about the “uncertainty” caused by Democrat’s attempts to regulate the economy or raise enough money to finance the meager social programs we have in this country. What could lead to more uncertainty than questioning whether the largest economy in the world would pay the debts it had run up?

As if that wasn’t enough, the Republicans added the demand that not only did the deficit have to be cut, it had to be cut without raising taxes at a time where taxes are lower than they have been in 60 years.

Faced with this extraordinary economic extortion, Obama called the Republicans’ bluff. He unilaterally put the two most popular social programs in the country on the table and began to push for a deal that would cut the deficit $3-4 trillion over the next 10 years. The catch was that the Republicans would have to agree to tax increases in order to get these cuts. To be sure, this was political gamesmanship too, but it was about time. Obama has been pummeled by Republican political gamesmanship for the past 3 years, and in this case, the right political position also happened to be the right position for the country (not to mention supported by over 2/3 of the American people).

Republicans counter that Obama wasn’t serious about deficit reduction since he never submitted a detailed proposal, but (for better or worse) that’s the same thing he did during the Health Care debate and no one can question his commitment to that policy after witnessing his determination to push it through. Ultimately, Obama was expecting the usual rules to apply here: The Republican House comes out with something reactionary, the Senate moderates it, cooler heads prevail and the President signs the compromise. That is how the system is supposed to work.

But the Tea Partiers aren’t interested in how the system works. They insisted on getting 95% of what they wanted and were ready to risk the position of United States as the economic leader in the world to get that 95%. Ultimately, the deal that was struck produced a lower deficit reduction than S&P said would be necessary to avoid a downgrade and put in place an unwieldy process where a super committee is charged with finding the savings. If they don’t materialize, automatic cuts in domestic and military spending will be enacted.

While this deal took the immediate threat of a default off the table, it provided less debt reduction than S&P had said it would take as a meaningful down-payment on the debt and provided yet another choke point for the Republicans to hold the country hostage to their extreme demands.

My conservative uncle makes the argument that the downgrade was caused by President Obama’s lack of seriousness when it came to tackling the debt, but that ignores the fact that the debt is a long term problem and that the only thing that made the debt problem a “debt crisis”  was the threat of the Republicans not to raise the debt ceiling and their insistence that any deficit reduction not include any additional “revenues,” no matter how small and insignificant they were.

But don’t take my word for it. Read S&P’s statement that accompanied the downgrade (italics added):

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policy making becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

In other words, if debt ceiling and threat of default weren’t used as “political bargaining chips” or if  the “Grand Bargain” of $3-4 trillion in debt reduction from spending cuts and new revenues that Obama was pushing for  was agreed to, the downgrade wouldn’t have happened.

In the aftermath of the downgrade, many attacked the S&P, noting that they and other ratings agencies that graded risky derivatives as AAA were in large part responsible for the economic crash that we are currently in. While this is clearly true, Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon points out that, in this case, S&P was really just doing it’s job:

Any student of sovereign default knows that it is born of precisely the kind of failures of governance that we saw during the debt-ceiling debate. That is why the US cannot hold a triple-A rating from S&P: the chance of having a dysfunctional Congress in future is 100%, and a dysfunctional Congress, armed with a statutory debt ceiling, is an extremely dangerous thing, and very far from risk-free…We saw the values of Congress during the debt-ceiling debate, including various members of the House who said with genuine sincerity that they’d actually welcome a default. In that context, S&P’s judgment is hard to fault.

Indeed.

S&P Downgrades US Debt Rating

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Awesome Job Tea Baggers.

You guys are real patriots.

A Bad Day for America

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Buried with work now, so no time for a long manifesto on how the Tea Party’s taking this country down the tubes.

Instead, here’s James Fallows:

the major steering decisions in national policy make a difference in the long term. It made a difference, for the good, that the United States adopted the GI Bill, and set up the Land-Grant Universities. It made a difference, for the bad, that California passed Proposition 13. In the short run, the “bargain” just agreed to offers worse than no hope for addressing the really urgent problem of the moment, harmfully high unemployment. And in the long run, this has been as sobering a case study of a great nation misusing its resources, distracting itself from real problems, and discrediting its political system in the world’s eyes as… as I can remember. No “foreign threat” has been involved here. Not a “rising power,” like China. Not a “non-state menace,” like some terrorist. We did this all ourselves.

I hope things will look better tomorrow.

Me too.

US Kissing AAA Rating Goodbye?

Friday, July 29th, 2011

I’m learning all kinds of new things from the Republican’s debt ceiling shenanigans. Here is Howard Gold on how avoiding a technical default might not be enough to prevent a downgrade of US Treasury bond ratings. The ratings agencies have warned that they “may lower the long-term rating on the U.S. by one or more notches into the ‘AA’ category in the next three months, if we conclude that Congress and the administration have not achieved a credible solution to the rising U.S. government debt burden and are not likely to achieve one in the foreseeable future.”

Does anyone watching the news this week think that Congress and the administration will have a “credible solution” to the US debt problem any time soon?

While I was writing this, my cousin that works on Wall Street called, all drunked up from a night with his boys on the town. He says that the backlash on the ratings agencies would be so intense that they wouldn’t dare downgrade the US credit ratings…but do the teabaggers really want to take that chance?

Ironically, one of the side effects of a US default would be increased borrowing costs…and by extension, a larger deficit.

Losing the AAA would probably hurt the economy through higher borrowing costs for the government, corporations and consumers, especially those who have adjustable-rate debt, and we’d likely see a stock market decline. But most of all it would be a terrible blow to our national pride and prestige, capping a decade of decline from the commanding heights we bestrode at the start of the millennium

In other words, higher national debt and a loss of international prestige brought to you by the people who came to power by complaining non-stop about the national debt and bemoaning the decline of America as a global power under Obama.

What a Country!

Conservative Uncle Demands Retraction (and Get’s One)

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

So My Conservative Uncle was outraged (outraged I say!) to hear my relatively mild comments about how rhetoric by prominent Fox News talking heads, certain Republican politicians, and some Tea Party “Patriots” might have contributed to an atmosphere that encourages (or at least condones) political violence in this country. According to My Conservative Uncle, the teabaggers can do no wrong and occasionally pointing out the racist, violent and over the top language that has been known to come out of their rallies is outrageous.

To that end, he sent me this Michelle Malkin “Democrats have also been mean to Republicans” collection that is supposed to minimize the teabaggers hate speech. Parroting O’Reilly, he claims that the Democrats are just looking to quiet the Republicans “now that they lost the political debate.”

Of course I reminded him that I was talking about the Republican climate of hate during the 2008 election cycle when Sister Sarah turned up the rhetoric about how “Obama paaaallls around with terrorists” and soon after, angry white people outside her rallies started yelling “Obama’s a terrorist!” It didn’t take long until the face of the Birthers materialized and this disheveled lady gave the fateful “Obama’s an Arab” comment at John MCain’s town hall meeting. I’ll never forget the mix of horror and anger on McCain’s face when he realized that he couldn’t control the monster his campaign had released.

Actually, my uncle sent me a similar Michelle Malkin moral relativism parade of horribles at that time as well (I remember, since it is difficult to get the image of a monkey shitting on John McCain’s head out of your mind), and of course I pointed out to him that this discussion all occurred before the Republicans “lost the political debate” in 2008…and continued in 2009 when his favorite patriots broke windows (including Gabby Gifford’s) and carved swastikas in black congressmen’s signs because they had voted to give health care to Americans.

So of course, this starts the conversation about whether there’s a double standard for conservatives vs. liberals when it comes to over the top/hateful political rhetoric and whether there should be. I struggle with this one, because on the one hand, there shouldn’t be; but on the other hand, given that many Republicans in general and teabaggers especially are gun fetishists and there hasn’t been any significant left wing political violence in this country since the 1970′s, there is clearly a different consequence to Republican hate speech than to Democrats’ hate speech.

By way of citation, I point to Oklahoma City, the dude who flew his plane into the IRS building in Texas, the dude who watched too much Glenn Beck and was on his way to shoot up an obscure liberal orgainzation when he was pulled over for drunk driving and it took 10 CHP officers to take him down….and I also point to the often reported stat that death threats against President Obama have increased 400% over President Bush (which is where I get into trouble).

Doing some fact checking of his own, conservative uncle turns up a video of the Secret Service Director, Mark Sullivan, reporting to Congress in December ’09 that threats to President Obama were at the same level as Clinton and Bush II.

Oops…

Along with that e-mail comes a rant about how this information was published. I’ll spare you the details but the general idea is that it was pushed by racist black people who hate America and want to show how racist white America is (see what I have to deal with?)

In actuality, this stat comes from a book about the Secret Serivce by Ronald Kessler. Far from being a liberal who “wants to show how racist America is,” Kesssler is the Chief Washington Correspondent of the conservative online publication newsmax.com. Included among his liberal screeds are a touching portrait of Laura Bush, a fawning look inside the Bush White House and a literary beatdown on Joseph Kennedy Sr. entitled “Sins of the Father.”

But back to the reason for this post (what was the reason for this post again?). Oh yes:

I retract the statement about the 400% increase in death threats to president Obama.

Whether there was an initial spike, but it went back to normal, or there was never any increase and Kessler’s source made it up is not clear. What is clear is that it can’t be considered a reliable stat. So I humbly apologize to my readers.

However, I do not apologize for the main thrust of my argument, which is that inciting an armed insurrection against the government, calling the president a “secret muslim” when there’s no evidence to support it, saying that the president (or presidential candidate at the time) “pals around with terrorists,” is corrosive and dangerous, especially when your main constituency includes a large number of gun nuts with a strong sense of victimhood and paranoia.

Not to mention that there’s a certain amount of dissonance one experiences hearing the defense of violent rhetoric against the elected government from a group of people who spent 2001-2008 talking about how unpatriotic liberals were for the political sin of disagreeing with the president.

It’s worth a reminder that, by that standard, the people who are unpatriotic now are the ones in colonial garb with bags of Lipton hanging from their tri-cornered hats.

Thoughts on the Giffords Shooting

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Here’s Joe Scarborough on the Gabbrielle Giffords shooting.

The discussion about civility is important, but I connect even more with the personal story of how he and his wife felt when they heard the news.

My response was similar. When I first heard the news, I thought to myself: the thing that we have feared for so long has come to fruition. Sharron Angle’s “2nd Amendment Remedies” have finally caught up with the nation. Watching the video of Giffords talking about how her office window was shattered after her vote on the health care bill  just reinforced that belief:

our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates and the rhetoric is incredibly heated. Not just the calls, but the e-mails, the slurs..things have really gotten spun up.

 

I watched Giffords talk in the interview about how Palin targeted her district with gun crosshairs. Her father was asked after her shooting if she had any enemies and responded “Yes, the entire Tea Party.” All of this just added to the sense that the shooting was a result of the overheated political climate we have seen in this country since Obama was elected. 

As more info came to light, it became clear that the truth was slightly more complicated than that: Jared Loughner had been obsessed with Giffords since 2007; he was not involved with any organized political movement, and the philosophies he espoused didn’t really fit neatly into any of our usual political debates.

Whether or not the overheated rhetoric created a climate that gave Loughner the go ahead in his demented brain to act on his long held feelings may never be known. What is clear, however, is that the discourse has become poisonous, and that we’re lucky that we only have a few broken windows, empty death threats and some swastikas on black congressmen’s signs to show for it.

While people on the left have tried to blame Sarah Palin for the Giffords shooting, others on the right have played the victim, protesting that they and the Tea Party have been falsely accused and that Democrats also used to say mean things about President Bush while he was president. While I understand the basic principle that it’s not nice to say mean things about national leaders, this is clearly a false equivalency. Consider the fact that death threats against Obama after his inauguration spiked by over 400 percent from George Bush levels; or the fact that the last time we had a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President, the doomsday rhetoric was also off the charts, and the result was that someone killed 168 people and blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City.

I don’t mind a good partisan fight, but when you have a whole group of people who believe that the President of the United States is a “secret muslim” Manchurian Candidate… and you have an even bigger group of people who can’t tell the difference between “tyranny” and losing two elections…and those same people have a tendency towards gun fetishes and a heightened sense of victimhood… and they are manipulated into believing that the biggest threat to their “freedom” is giving health care to people, this all adds up to a volatile mix. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to have community and political leaders fan the flames of that fire.

I’m not one to go on a big tirade against Sarah Palin for her ill advised gun crosshairs targeting map. It’s pretty outrageous, but I don’t think it’s worth spending too much time hyperventilating about it. Still, a few basic common sense rules might be in order here: It’s irresponsible to tweet to your supporters (many of whom are gun fetishists with an overwrought sense of victimhood): “Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: don’t retreat–Instead RELOAD,” as Sarah Palin did just after health care passed. It’s irresponsible to tell people to come to a rally against Obama’s policies “armed and dangerous” as Michelle Bachman did in 2010. It is way beyond the pale to suggest that if Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama aren’t thrown out of office, people on the Right might have to turn to an armed overthrow of the government, as the Republican’s best funded 2010 Senate candidate did, and if you are tempted to bring your semi-automatic weapon to the protest across the street from where the president’s speaking “because that’s your right,” you might just want to reconsider. 

As Bill Clinton said on the 15th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or reduce our passion from the positions we hold – but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

So again, this isn’t an argument that all people who sympathise with the Tea Party are violent thugs, or that they shouldn’t fight for what they believe in. It is an argument that, in this charged political environment, leaders have a responsibility to think about the ramifications of what they say before they say it and make their case for a particular policy without resorting to incitement.

My sense of this is that, now that they got their way, some on the right will tone down the rhetoric. It’s my bet that, now that they’ve actually won a national election for the first time in 6 years, the government looks more like the elected representatives of the country than a “tyrannical regime” bent on imposing socialism on the country. But violent rhetoric is a tricky thing. Once you’ve taken that genie out of the bottle, it is hard to get it back in.

We all hope for the best here, but as the events of two weeks ago show, we need to prepare for the worst as well.

Matt Taibbi on the Tea Party

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Well, I have to say that it was more fun to make fun of the Teabaggers before they took over the Republican party and then the Republican party took over the House. Now it’s more tragic than funny, but I would be remiss if I didn’t post Matt Taibbi’s brilliant analysis of the Tea Party.

Writing in a style reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, Taibbi is one of the toughest, most insightful critics of American politics. This article is worth your time, but since most people won’t take the time to read the whole article, I’ll cut and paste my favorite parts.

On the hypocrisy that’s endemic to the movement:

At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them.

The big Republican establishment funding by Freedom Works and the Koch brothers:

a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations (that persuaded) a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street….A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

Taibbi notes that there is remarkable similarity in their arguments as well as their defense for why they were all silent when Republicans expanded government and ran up trillions of dollars in debt, as well as their insistence that race is not a factor in their worldview:

After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. (“Not me — I was protesting!” is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock….Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill “cracker babies,” support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Nothing infuriates Tea Party sympathizers more than being called racist, but Taibbi points out that most of them are not racist, they’re just narcissists:

…Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It’s not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It’s just that they’re shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid.

He goes on to argue that the Tea Party will be co-opted by the Republican party.

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will “take our country back” from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don’t realize is, there’s a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. (my emphasis)

This point is perhaps the most insightful part of the article and it’s worthy of a separate discussion, because it gets at the core of the American political system. Clearly, the Tea Party is not going to usher in some new era of Paul Ryan like efforts to dramatically shrink the Federal Safety net and privatize Social Security and Medicare. This is due in part to the fact that our electoral system was created to prevent any major changes in policy, but it’s also because the American people don’t support those policies and the Republican party would be out on their asses just as fast as the Democrats have been if they pushed for them (which is why only a handful of Republicans have signed onto Ryan’s Roadmap).

In fact, this idea gets at the core of the issue with the Tea Party, which is that their objectives are contradictory. At it’s heart, the Tea Party is a supposedly a protest against three things: taxation, the size of government and federal deficits. But most Tea Partiers are either benefiting from a single payer, government run health care system (Medicare) or they will be soon. They are also collecting Social Security, or will be soon. They feel (rightly so) that they’ve paid into these social welfare programs and they deserve to collect the benefits. They also (like the good Republicans they are) support American military supremacy and don’t want to cut military spending. But any look at the federal budget will show that you can’t have tax cuts while still maintaining the same levels of spending on Social Security, Medicare and defense.

Somethings got to give, and if the Tea Party doesn’t see this, then we’ve got to hope that the Country Club Republicans do. Because this country has big problems right now, and more than ever, we need leaders who are willing to compromise in order to do what’s good for the country, not dig their heels in and refuse to be part of the solution. If they’re willing to compromise and accept some tax increases in exchange for a deal to shrink the government, then their influence could be significant. Otherwise, they’ll just continue to be another loud, distracting minority that gets an out of proportion share of media coverage, continually complaining, but not offering any politically viable solutions.