Archive for the ‘Tea Party’ Category

The Tea Party Takeover of the Republican Party

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Since the advent of the Tea Party, my conservative uncle has consistently been sending me info on how the only way for Republicans to regain and maintain power is to embrace the movement’s agenda wholeheartedly.

Based on the events of the past year, we may see that idea tested. Over the past months, Tea Party candidates have forced out an increasing number of  “establishment” GOP candidates (many of whom were nationally known) in favor of candidates whose support came in large part from the Tea Party.

The list is impressive: Robert Bennet in Utah, Trey Grayson in Kentucky, Sue Lowden in Nevada, Jane Norton in Colorado, both Charlie Crist and Bill McCollum in Florida, Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania (who was pushed out of the Republican party by Pat Toomey and the Club for Growth and then kicked out of the Democratic party by Sestak and the voters of PA),  and finally and most dramatically, Rick Lazio in New York and Mike Castle in Delaware (the only Republican that could have taken the Senate seat for the Republicans).

In other cases politicians have completely revamped their personalities, becoming more rigid and dogmatic to save themselves from Tea Party challengers. John McCain, who faced a Tea Party influenced J.D. Hayworth is the most egregious example of this. Faced with losing his seat, this American hero who prided himself on being independent and putting “Country First” is almost totally unrecognizable from the John McCain that the country knew and loved three years ago.

While McCain’s rightward shift looked like overkill, the defeat of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska by Joe Miller, shows the perils of complacency. Murkowski’s defeat by Joe Miller in Alaska seemed to come out of nowhere. While polls has shown the race tightening, not a single poll  had shown Miller even within striking distance of Murkowski and she overspent him by a 10 to 1 margin. Miller’s win was propelled by a number of influences, but what made the difference on election day was a huge increase in turnout by social conservatives who were motivated in part by a ballot measure on parental consent for abortion. These kind of unpredictable results are the kind of things that keep politicians up at night, and while it’s tempting to say that keeping politicians feet to the fire is a good thing, that’s more difficult to claim when we’re talking about the beliefs of a small minority of increasingly paranoid people (which is what Republican  primary voters have become in many states). 

There’s a debate raging around the country about whether the Tea Party Tumult will be good or bad for the Republican party’s electoral fortunes this year and going forward. It’s somewhat of a mixed bag this year, but the Tea Party has been able to take advantage of the unpopularity of the Democrats to field a slate of candidates (especially in Senate races) who seem to be faring well despite their extreme views. In other cases, the Tea Party has taken seats that were almost guaranteed Republican pickups and turned them into either dead heats (in the case of Nevada) or heavily favored Democratic seats (like Delaware).

In House races, the Tea Party should also help the Republicans since an influx of new (or newly energized) voters can swing a close election in House Districts (especially when the opposition party is as dispirited as Democratic voters have been this year).

Long term, I would be concerned about the Tea Party takeover of the party if I were a  Republican.  The country is generally center right, but there is strong support for a safety net. The Tea Party people are hard free market libertarians and many have spoken out in favor of dismantling the safety net. The country is becoming increasingly diverse and more open minded. The Tea Party led Republicans are becoming whiter, more nativist and idealize the 1950′s (a time that wasn’t always great if you were a minority or a woman).

Scapegoating immigrants and Muslims might be good short term politics in a midterm year, but if you want to see the fruits of that kind of effort, just go talk to President Pete Wilson, who rode to the presidency on his scapegoating of immigrants in the early 90′s… Oh wait, the actual results were that he is now reviled in the state and his party has almost ceased to compete statewide and struggles to elect 1/3 of the legislature each year.

While it’s interesting to talk about how this helps the fortunes of the Democratic and Republican parties, I believe that the more corrosive effect of the Tea Party will be felt when it comes to governing. As we all know from Government 101, The American political system is built around trying to limit the things that government can do. In order for something to pass, the House, Senate and President have to agree on it, and Senators have added yet another hurdle by mandating 60 votes for any significant legislation. Since it is rare for any party to control 60 votes in the Senate, this means that almost nothing can pass unless it has at least some support from both sides of the aisle.

Almost all of the great programs of the past that Americans take for granted passed in bi-partisan ways: Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights, Environmental Protection. The passage of Health Care Reform this year is a large anomaly, and as has been pointed out by Republican David Frum, was greatly impacted (in a negative way) by Republicans refusal to lend their votes to improve the bill. The legislative deal-making that the Democrats had to go through to pass this bill without a vote to spare was a disgrace and harmed the initial popularity of the reform significantly.

More importantly, America is at a crossroads right now. We face massive debt that is a result of a combination of runaway spending and 3o years of tax cuts. As has been noted previously, taxes are now at the lowest level they have been in 5 years and spending is at it’s highest. Politicians from both sides agree that this is unsustainable. What they disagree about (or more candidly, just refuse to talk about) is how to make the changes to get us closer to balancing the budget.   In two separate articles  written this year by right-leaning economist Robert Samuleson and Obama’s former Director of OMB, Peter Orzag, both look at the consequences of trying to cut deficits by focusing solely on tax increases or by focusing solely on cutting government.    They both reach the similar conclusions: any plan that focuses solely on either revenues or spending would entail either massive tax increases or massive cuts in popular programs such as Medicare, Social Security and national defense, none of which the American people will accept.

With a deficit commission soon to report its recommendations for meaningful deficit reductions, we need pragmatic centrists that are willing to compromise and do what is good for the country more than ever. The last thing we need is a bunch of Tea Partiers who will dig their heels in and refuse to compromise, either because they want tax cuts more than they want deficit reduction, or because they have to constantly look over their shoulder at the possibility that a Tea Party challenger will defeat them in the primary election because they weren’t dogmatic enough. The Tea Party has brought energy to the Republican party, but their lasting legacy may be to bring even more gridlock to our political system.

Newt’s Cynical Calculation

Monday, September 20th, 2010

A few years ago, my conservative uncle signed me up to receive newsletters from the conservative website, Human Events. I used to read them for entertainment and to know what the enemy was thinking, but this got old fast, so I requested that they not send me any more e-mails. I guess they still have my info because last week they sent me this Newt Gingrich plug for his new movie.

I don’t want to dismiss the entire article since I think he makes some valid points about the need to be clearer about the danger of violent Islamic extremism, but the whole “stealth, Radical Islamist” thing is obviously another way to increase paranoia among people who are already paranoid. Apparently Newt is trying to win the 2010 award for the politician who most uses 9-11 as a way to gain political advantage (which I’m pretty sure Rudy Giuliani has won every year for the last 9–with the exception of 2002-3 when Bush & Cheney made it seem like Saddam & Bin Laden were in a coalition government together). To this end, Newt debuted his 9-11 exploitation movie on September 11th this year. The movie is intended to scare the shit out of you and make it look like Obama is in league with the terrorists. As discussed before, Newt has also been the leading Republican voice in the campaign to distort the truth and rile everyone up about the  Not at Ground Zero Mosque.

Lisa Miller had a good piece in Newsweek about the “stealth jihad” construction and the way that Newt and his allies have used it to distort the truth and generally try to gin up the Islamophobia for political gain.

Just to put a cherry on top of his disgraceful demagoguery around 9-11 and the Not at Ground Zero Mosque,  Newt followed up by commenting (at his movie premiere) that he agreed with right wing pseudo-intellectual Dinesh De Souza’s idea that Obama was channeling the ambitions of his absentee father that he never knew:

What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]…. That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.

This a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.

Instead of an extended comment, I’ll just point out the obvious. As Robert Gibbs noted a few days after Newt’s comments, this is just a see through attempt to take advantage of the ignorance of Birther Republicans who think the President of the United States is a secret foreign agent. Maureen Dowd had a great piece on this,  and I’m also glad to see the White House finally pushing back (start at around the 7 minute mark of the clip). Colin Powell also took on Newt and all of the Birther BS point-by-point on Meet the Press yesterday.

The bottom line is that this guy is a cretin: an extremely intelligent man who is preying on a small segment of Americans’ fears and paranoia in order to advance his own political career. Hopefully his recent comments about Obama’s “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior” will show Republicans what a huckster he is and how he will spare no opportunity to use the same cynical, opportunistic arguments for his own political gain. 

If Newt rides to the Republican nomination with this fear, ignorance and paranoia based strategy, then the country and the Republican party are in worse shape than I thought they were (and that’s sayin something).

O’Donnell Loose Ends

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Here’s a few updates on the O’Donnell situation:

PPP’s much anticipated general election poll is out. The survey (taken before the election) gives Chris Coons a 16 point lead over O’Donnell, whereas Castle would have led Coons by 10 points. PPP’s blogger said that it was “the best thing that has happened to the Democrats electorally since 2008.”

Pretty sad when the best thing to happen electorally in two years is an unforced error on the part of an opponent, but like I said before, we’ll take any good news we can get at this point. 

Here’s Steve Kornacki on the impact of the O’Donnell win.

Meanwhile, the most aggressive Tea Party guy in the Senate, South Carolina Senator Jim De Mint confirmed today what we already knew: that he would rather lose the seat than have a moderate Republican take it.

And Politico has now compiled a list of all the baggage that O’Donnell brings to the race. Having it all there in one place is pretty dramatic. Thank You Sarah!

More later on what the de-facto takeover of the Republican party by the Tea Party means for all parties, as well as the dramatic impact it could have on our national politics, but that’s it for tonight.

Lovin the Tea Party Tonight

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Wow. When I posted about Delaware’s Senate Race last night, I didn’t actually think that Delaware Republicans would send their previous governor (who was given a 94% chance of winning the Senate Seat vs. the Democratic nominee) packing for a tea party also-ran who doesn’t seem to have a real job, lied about her eduation, has been accused of using campaign funds to pay her rent and thinks that lots of people are out to get her.

America, meet the new Sharron Angle.

May be too early to say right now, but by taking a sure winner out and replacing him with someone who is running a good 26 points behind, the Republicans sure look like they may have blown their chances at taking the Senate.

Assuming that Delaware doesn’t flip, the Republicans will need to pull an inside straight, winning all of the close races as well as taking seats from incumbents in normally reliably blue states like Washington, California and Wisconsin.

The possibilities that the party would quikly coalesce around O’Donnell seems to have faded, with Mike Castle saying that he did not plan to endorse her and Karl Rove basically ripping her a new one on Fox (much to Hannity’s chagrin). As Rove noted, Republicans  were looking at 8-9 pickups in the Senate, now it looks more like 7-8 seats.

In addition to the O’Donnell fiasco, New York Republicans also nominated a teabagger for Governor who floated a plan to convert some prisons to dorms for welfare recipients who could then be taught hygiene at the prisons. Also, a veritable treasure trove of racist and pornographic e-mails that he apparently sent to close to his entire mailbox is now available for public perusal (warning–not for modest eyes).

In a funny sidenote, I actually recognized some of those e-mails, but in my defense, I was the forwardee, not the forwarder…and I’m not asking for your vote for New York Governor as the nominee of the “family values party.”

Anyway, many more layers of this onion to peel, but in all a pretty good night for the Dems in what is turning out to be an increasingly bizzare election year.

Christine O’ Donnell for Senate!

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Democrats are heartened by a new poll that came out this weekend showing Tea Party Favorite Christine O’ Donnell leading Mike Castle in the Republican primary for Joe Biden’s old Delaware Senate seat by a 3 point margin. 

Castle is a moderate GOP Congressman and former Governor of Delaware who was generally considered a shoe-in for the Senate seat. O’ Donnell is an also-ran whose previous occupations have included conservative issue advocacy, lobbying Congress on moral issues and marketing for Christian movies such as the Passion of the Christ. However, she is probably best known for her public statements in opposition to mastrubation during the 1990′s.

Oh, and she also has a number of reports of financial improprieties in previous campaigns, owes a significant amount of back taxes and apparently has a pretty strong sense of paranoia about people out to get her.

With help from a fat cash infusion from the Tea Party and some magic pixie dust sprinkled by Sarah Palin, O’ Donnell has surged into a lead and made tomorrow’s race too close to call. To get a sense of the impact an O’ Donnell nomination might have on the general election, Nate Silver recently ranked this race as an 94% chance of a Republican pickup, assuming a matchup of Mike Castle and County Executive Chris Coons. If O’Donnel wins, that chance decreases ever so slightly to 16.3%. PPP hasn’t released their general election polling yet, but has indicated that Coons does about 26 points better against O’ Donnell than against Castle.

While some commentators have opined on what bad things this race says about both political parties and the country as a whole, Democrats will take the help wherever they can get it this year.

In the meantime, Delaware Republicans need to decide whether they would rather punish moderates or win elections. In this case, I’m all for the former. 

Sharron Angle has been such a joy to behold this year. Here’s hoping the Tea Party hands us another one tonight.

Bennet and Buck Win in Colorado

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Here’s MSNBC’s First Read on last nights election results and the GOP’s Gamble on the Tea Party.

Here They Come

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

This is kind of a cheeseball commercial, but the idea is solid.

They need to get the announcer from the Carly Fiorina demon sheep ad.

Reid Takes A Lead

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

A pair of polls now has Harry Reid leading in his matchup against Sharron Angle.

Last week Harry Reid jumped out to a lead against Sharron Angle in the Las Vegas Review Journal poll and yesterday’s Public Policy Polling survey (a well respected–but Democratic party affiliated–polling group) confirmed that lead.

I have been watching this race like a slow motion train wreck. I want to look away, but I just can’t.

Harry Reid’s numbers seem to pretty static and (with the exception of the PPP poll) he hasn’t been able to cross the 44% threshold, but many pundits have said that that he doesn’t necessarily need to since there are a number of third party candidates, one Tea Party of Nevada candidate and an option to vote “none of the above” in Nevada.

There are many indications that this is exactly what many Nevadans would like to do this election, with Harry Reid’s numbers in the toilet for more than a year and Sharrron Angle’s support cratering in the weeks since she has won the campaign and Nevadans have increasingly found out just how out of the mainstream her positions are.

There are so many interesting dynamics at play here. Reid was doing so badly that the Tea Party activists thought this would be a place to make a stand, dumping money into the race and boosting Angle’s candidacy in the hope that Nevadan’s were so sick of Harry Reid that they would be able to overlook Sharron Angle’s wacky past.

It’s a tactic that reminds me of the 2008 election when I was initially more than a little skittish about nominating a black man with the middle name of Hussein as the nominee, even though many believed that winning the Democratic nomination was tantamount to winning the presidency. Eventually Obama proved himself through the primaries, we all started to believe he could pull it off and the rest is history.

But Sharron Angle is no Barack Obama.

It’s not just the fringe libertarian views, but the fact that she doesn’t seem confident in espousing them to people who aren’t Harley riding Tea Party activists.

This one should be the most entertaining of the bunch this year.

We’re Sorry BP

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

A running theme of my writing for the past month or so had been what I call the obvious Democratic strategy of drawing distinctions between themselves and Republicans. To that end, Congressman Joe Barton’s statement last week played right into their hands. 

Thanks to the deal President Obama inked with BP last week, the victims of the BP oil spill won’t have to go through what people whose businesses were ruined by the Exxon Valdez spill did: 20 years of litigation that ended with the Republican Supreme Court slashing the amount of compensation paid to them.

To most people, this would seem to be an unalloyed positive development. But not to many Republicans.

At a hearing that was meant to grill BP’s CEO Tony Hayward on the causes and remedies for the oil spill, Congressman Joe Barton spoke of  a “tragedy of the first proportion.”

Okay, so far so good. Anyone looking at the oil washing up on Gulf Coast shores could agree with that.

Except that Barton wasn’t referring to the spill itself, but rather to the settlement that BP had agreed to under pressure from the White House. He wrapped up his remarks by saying to BP’s CEO:

“I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize.”

Well who cares what some Oil Patch Republican who is the largest recipient of oil money in the Congress says? Why is it relevant? Well, it’s relevant because this douchebag is the Ranking Republican on the Energy Committee. If the Republicans succeed in kicking out Nancy Pelosi, this guy will be the head of the committee that any legislation that involves energy needs to come out of.

In case anyone thought that he was an outlier, the “Republican Study Committee,” an organization whose membership includes 2/3 of the Republicans in the House, released a statement earlier in the day that called the pressure put on BP to create this fund “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

Surprise! Rush Limbaugh was reading from the same playbook. He called the escrow account a “slush fund” and said that the money would probably be given to “ACORN type people or union activists.”

Michele Bachman (in the running for Dumbest member of Congress) called the fund to pay victims a “redistribution-of-wealth fund” and said:

“If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”

Well fair enough, BP shouldn’t have to pay for illegitimate claims, but it makes you wonder about these people’s mindsets when they’re more worried about illegitimate claims than about the destruction of the ecosystem and the economy of the entire Gulf Coast for a period of years

But it’s all par for the course for Republicans. These people look at birds drowning in oil on our shores and shrug their shoulders, then they watch President Obama convince BP to voluntarily give up $5 billion a year for 4 years to compensate victims and call it “a tragedy of the first proportion.”

Like Tea Party Darling Rand Paul said (in an echo of Donald Rumsfeld), “accidents happen.”

Yeah, accidents happen when you work in an industry that has lax regulations and even more lax enforcement; accidents happen when you lead your competitors by a margin of 760 to 8, 2 or 1 on “egregious, willful” safety violations; and accidents happen when you’re behind on drilling a well and you encourage your employees to take shortcuts to save the company money.

Not to be outdone by Ron Paul in his defense of allowing corporations to abuse their power without the check of government, Sharron Angle, the Senate candidate in Nevada not only favors making Nevada the sole repository of nuclear waste in the country, but wants to abolish the Department of Energy, which regulates the storage of nuclear waste.

What could possibly go wrong?

If these guys have their way, the coastal waters of America would look like the coast of Nigeria, where some have estimated that they have endured the equivalant of the Exxon Valdeez oil spill every year for 50 years.

Like I said, there’s something to be said for drawing distinctions and the Republicans did a pretty good job at that this week. Americans would do well to think about this when they go to the ballot box this November. They might not like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, but would they rather have a guy who thinks we all owe BP an apology running the committee that sets the regulations for them? Would they rather have a guy who says that it’s un-American to hold BP accountable for their toxic oil spill? Would they rather replace Harry Reid with a woman who thinks, in the wake of the largest environmental history, that the EPA is unconstitutional?

The distinctions are out there. They’re just waiting for someone to make them. As Frank Rich wrote in this weeks NY Times:

While the greatest environmental disaster in our history is a trying juncture for Obama, it also provides him with a nearly unparalleled opening to make his and government’s case. The spill’s sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons. If this president can speak lucidly of race to America, he can certainly explain how the antigovernment crusaders are often the paid toadies of bad actors like BP. Such big corporations are only too glad to replace big government with governance of their own, by their own, and for their own profit — while the “small people” are left to eat cake at their tea parties.

Rahm Emmanuel has long been  pilloried by the Right for his statement that you should ”never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, this debate is long overdue. If the BP Oil Spill and the Casino-Capitalism-enabled Great Recession don’t provoke that debate, then the Democrats’ prospects for this years elections are even dimmer than originally expected. And we as a country will have succeeded in doing exactly that.

Bad News for Chuck Schumer

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The chances that he is going to suceed Harry Reid as Majority Leader next year just went down dramatically.

…Unless Nevadan’s want to send a woman to the Senate who wants to abolish Social Security,  the Education Department, the Energy Department and the EPA, withdraw the US from the UN, and make Nevada the nuclear waste storage capital of the US, it looks like Harry Reid now has a much better chance to return as the Senior Senator from Nevada. 

I’m no big fan of Harry Reid, but I’d sure rather have him than this lady in the Senate and I’m pretty sure most Nevadans will agree with me.

The Tea Party really screwed the Republican’s pooch on this one.