by Douglas Schoen Info Douglas Schoen is a political strategist and author of the upcoming book Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System to be published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins on September 14.Enter your email address:Enter the recipients' email addresses, separated by commas:Message:Enter your email address:Enter the recipients' email addresses, separated by commas:Message: Barack Obama delivers remarks to...
AP - Is the tea party the new Republican Party? The grass-roots network of fed-up conservative-libertarian voters displayed its power in its biggest triumph of the election year: the toppling of Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's GOP primary. Political novice Joe Miller is the fifth tea party insurgent to win a GOP Senate nominating contest, an upset that few, if any, saw coming.
(TeaParty.org) – Rujon Williams is the spokesman for the Tea Party and the Tea Party Vets. Rujon has been a guess on numerous radio shows and has represented the Tea Party in an honorable and professi…
(Gateway Pundit) – Rep. Russ Carnahan’s office was reportedly vandalized and “firebombed” at 2 AM in the morning. Hours later police arrested a suspect for the crime and held him for several hours….
Eric Smith has a second letter to go with the one he originally received from the East York Villas Homeowners Association on Aug. 9. That letter ordered him to remove his “Tea Party flag.” The second letter, dated Aug. 19, said the opposite.
Republicans and Tea Party activists say “The Tea Party” is a fake party controlled by Democrats aimed at drawing away votes from GOP candidates. They don’t want it on the ballot.
The Tea Party Express announced it would spend around $600,000 ahead of Delawares Sept. 14 primary on behalf of Christine ODonnell, who is trying to best Rep. Mike Castle, considered the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination.
Like it or not, the midterm election is shaping up as a referendum on President Obama. His dizzying descent from the stratosphere of popularity to the kind of middling job approval associated with lesser talents could cost Democrats their majority in the House as well as effective control of the Senate. The only saving grace for Democrats is the roster of fringe candidates the GOP has served up, and the hope that voters will reject the change these Tea Party insurgents represent.
Glenn Beck's rally this past weekend will undoubtedly be remembered as a strange episode in American political history as well as perhaps the single biggest act of egotism since Ross Perot ran for president in 1992. It is possible, however, that the event will be remembered more for the outlandish claims made by participants and the eccentricities, to be generous, of its leaders than for any lasting impact on American political life.
The Tea Party movement, as well as its leading snake oil salesmen like Glenn Beck, have taken on an almost larger than life place in contemporary politics. It is difficult to ignore the vitriol, noise, persistency and media attention generated by the Tea Party movement. They seem to be everywhere, in the media, the blogosphere and, of course, on Fox television. The Tea Party is also something of an unusual political animal marrying populist blue collar appeal, reactionary intolerance and the financial resources of various arms of corporate America. This makes for a heady right wing brew, which is further buoyed by strong relationships throughout the media and new media technology which Tea Party activist and their financial supporters have used well.
The unique political environment in which the Tea Party exists also makes it possible to overestimate the impact of the Tea Party movement and to mistake the noise and media attention it has generated for influence and broad based support. Supporters of the Tea Party, as well as many who are afraid of the Tea Party and the positions it has taken, envision the US evolving in the next decades into a theocratic country that is increasingly intolerant of immigrants and non-whites, where corporations face very little regulation and are politically empowered and where society devolves into some kind of Hobbesian free for all where collective action of any kind is impossible and gaps between the rich and poor continue to grow leaving no middle class at all.
This could, of course, happen, but there is also a good chance that it won't. The Tea Party movement is clearly the loudest and most visible social movement today, but it may not be the most important or the one to which the future belongs. The Tea Party movement exists in a context where more and more Americans, particularly young Americans, are looking towards a different future. The political and demographic momentum is not on the side of the Tea Party movement, but of those who see a diverse, multi-cultural America not with trepidation or fear, but as inevitable and positive. The relative silence from the right after the court decision in California in support of marriage equality indicates that with regards to that issue, for example, the bigots are the ones losing ground.
The Tea Party seems, ironically, to model itself somewhat on the anti-war left of the late 1960s and early 1970s by using compelling imagery, outrageous claims and various elements of street theatre. All of these could be found in the anti-war movement four decades ago. Similarly, the movement is somewhat leaderless with various local leaders, media figures and fringe national politicians all making legitimate claims to some leadership role. There are, of course, some real differences too, most obviously that the anti-war movement was based upon radically different ideas and views than the Tea Party movement.
Perhaps the most significant similarity is that both movements dominated the media obscuring other social movements and political trends that were, or are, very important. From the vantage of 2010, we now know that the nascent right wing and conservative Christian movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which never received the media attention which the anti-war movement received, were at least as important. The US in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as even today, reflect the enduring influence of those movements more than that of the anti-war movement.
A similar situation may be occurring now with regards to the Tea Party movement. As the noise the Tea Party activists make obscures the bigger reality that other movements and developments in American politics may be more important. Twenty years from now, it is possible that the Tea Party will not have had a major impact on what America looks like, but it is also very likely that it will be seen as something of a historical footnote, the last gasp of a legitimately embattled and frightened segment of America that in their desperation allowed themselves to be lead down the road of intolerance and hatred by corporate leaders seeking to advance their own financial interests, and opportunist individuals like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin seeking fame and fortune at any cost.
As a former Tea Party Democrat and frequent speaker at Tea Party rallies, I am shocked that the political movement within The Tea Party demands to balance the budget. Such thinking is based on abject ignorance and counter to true Tea Party values. The Tea Party's demands to balance the budget and reduce the Federal deficit aren't merely misguided, but dangerous, and would cause the worst depression in history. I have been, and continue to be, a strong supporter of the core Tea Party values of lower taxes, limited government, competitive market solutions, and a return to personal responsibility. However, their proposals to balance the budget are the same suicidal policies that caused the 6 horrible depressions in the U.S. over the past 200 years. At the worst possible time to take money out of the economy, the Tea Party's proposals would remove an estimated $1 trillion and cause the worst depression in world history, destroying tens of millions of jobs and ruining our children's future.
Modern money, after the demise of the gold standard, is akin to a spreadsheet that simply works by computer. As Fed Chairman Bernanke explained on national television on 60 minutes, when the government spends or lends, it does so by adding numbers to private bank accounts. When it taxes, it marks those same accounts down. When it borrows, it simply shifts funds from a demand deposit (called a reserve account) at the Fed to a savings account (called a securities account) at the Fed. The money government spends doesn't come from anywhere, and it doesn't cost anything to produce. The government therefore cannot run out of money, nor does it need to borrow from the likes of China to finance anything. To better understand this, think about when a football team kicks a field goal; the number on the scoreboard goes from 0 to 3. Does anyone wonder where the stadium got those 3 points, or demand that the stadium keep a reserve of points in a "lock box"?
Moreover, government deficits ADD to our savings - to the penny - as a fact of accounting, not theory or philosophy. This why my proposal for a payroll tax (FICA) holiday will directly increase incomes and savings and thus fix the economy from the bottom up. It will result in $20 billion per week flowing into the hands of people that will pay their bills and spend money. It will be an exact increase in income and savings for the rest of us as anyone in the Congressional Budget Office will confirm. For the Federal government, taxes don't serve to collect revenue but are more like a thermostat that controls the temperature of the economy. When it is too hot, raising taxes will cool it down. And in this an ice-cold economy -- a very large tax cut is needed to warm the economy back up to operating temperature.
While I fully support the Tea Party desire to cut taxes and recognize the need to cut wasteful and unnecessary spending, the tax cuts have to be much larger than spending cuts in order to ensure that less money is taken out of the economy, and not more as the Tea Party is currently demanding.
...The elections last week in Florida and Alaska also pointed to ideological differences and personal enmities that have played out in Republican primary battles all year and that threaten to leave scars and fissures within the party that will have to be dealt with later. Republicans have seen more turmoil in their ranks this year than Democrats, a sign of both robustness within the coalition and unresolved debates about the party's direction.
For anyone with the wits to realize that the lunatics now run the asylum the Republican Party has become, it is axiomatic that, no matter how awful Democrats may be, Republicans are worse. The evidence is overwhelming and it mounts day by day. But does it follow that it is always better for Democrats to win elections? I suspect not, and not because things must get worse before they can get better. For less dubious reasons than that, it is far from obvious, for example, that the situation we confront would now be worse if John McCain had beaten Barack Obama.
Of course, I mean the McCain who, when he ran for President, could still call himself a "maverick"; not the Tea Party wannabe who has moved right by orders of magnitude in the course of a primary election campaign in what is perhaps the most retrograde state in the Union. Had McCain won in 2008, he might have freed himself enough from fear of his party's base to get back into his groove.
The idea that the Obama administration is no better or perhaps even worse than a McCain administration would have been is, for most liberals, unthinkable. But this is a disabling and dogmatic conviction. Its prevalence is one reason why the Democratic leadership is able to evince contempt for their party's most steadfast voters. They know that they can do anything, and the unions, the gays, the feminists, the environmentalists and even the peace movement will still be there for them.
Thus the musings of Eric Alterman and friends in the August 30/September 6 issue of The Nation are sadly typical of what we will be hearing more of as the November elections approach. The gist is that it is crucial to continue cutting Obama slack. Sure, his presidency has been "disappointing," but the constraints were such that he could hardly have done better. Not to worry, though; Obama is still the man. It's just that it's taking him longer to change the world than liberals once thought it would. But if we keep the faith, Obama will do in his second term what he did not do in his first - at the beginning of which, as Alterman fails to mention, his administration squandered an historical opportunity of a kind that very rarely appears. This is lesser evilism at its most pathetic. Tea Partiers may be unmatched when it comes to not facing reality, but liberals give them a good run for their money.
Consider Iraq. Candidate McCain got into trouble justifiably when he said he had no problem with American troops staying there indefinitely. As he pointed out, we still have troops in Germany, Japan and South Korea. Of course, they are there for geo-political reasons, not to shore up collaborationist regimes. But no matter; the important thing is that they are based abroad and not engaged in "combat." If McCain had been elected and stayed true to his word - and, on this matter, why wouldn't he? - he would now be doing just what Obama is doing: prettifying and rebranding an occupation he intends to maintain indefinitely. This is essentially what George Bush had in mind too; and it is what most Obama voters thought they were voting against.
Iraq may be a wash; but Afghanistan, a blunder of equal or greater proportions, is something else. Candidate McCain had little to say about that then forgotten war; Obama was gung-ho. Of course, the conventional wisdom was that he didn't really mean it; he just didn't want Republicans or Hillary Clinton calling him a "wuss." However, it is now clear that, unless he is still worrying about appearing "soft on defense," he really did mean it. Would we be worse off under McCain? It is impossible to be sure, but I think we'd be in a better place. For one thing, McCain had nothing to prove. For another, his generals wouldn't have dared be as insubordinate as they have been under Obama. And, most of all, though he lacks the moral and intellectual capacities to draw the right lessons from the Vietnam War and therefore, unlike Obama, really doesn't know better, McCain does know how self-defeating counter-insurgency warfare can be; he knows it from his own experience. The post-Vietnam brass now calling the shots live to get counter-insurgency right, to correct what they think their predecessors got wrong. Would they be as empowered as they now are if they had to answer to a Commander-in-Chief who understood how foolish their thinking is?
Or consider another of Bush's legacies. The first order of business after inauguration day ought to have been to restore the rule of law by settling accounts with Bush era war criminals. There was no chance McCain would do anything like that, but some voters did think Obama might. Instead he took that prospect off the table faster than Nancy Pelosi ruled out impeaching Cheney and Bush in 2006. McCain would not have brought Cheney and Bush to justice, but having been a POW himself and having endured torture, he would likely have been less inclined than Obama to let the issue drop in order to "look forward." But even if he weren't, he could hardly have done worse.
Or consider the revival of nativism and racism that the Far Right has been stirring up since Obama assumed office. They didn't do anything like that under Bush and they wouldn't be doing it under McCain. Indeed, on "illegal" immigrants, McCain's position, before his primary fight with J.D. Hayworth, was reasonable and decent. If he were President, perhaps now we'd have "bipartisan" immigration reform. And since there is not a moron in America who would "accuse" McCain of being a "secret Muslim," the billionaires behind the Tea Party, if active at all, would be having a much harder time translating anti-government hostility into islamophobic bigotry.
On other issues, the balance sheet is more equivocal. On matters of special concern to constituencies that Democrats take for granted - among others, labor, gays, and racial minorities -- we'd have had principled inaction under McCain, while, under Obama, "pragmatic" equivocation has given rise to a few cosmetic improvements and a great deal of less than benign neglect.
Under Obama there has been health care (actually, health care insurance) reform that will eventually make things somewhat better for many people, though at the cost of further entrenching the power of health care profiteers whose machinations will continue to make more radical changes necessary. Much the same is true of the financial reforms Obama got through Congress. McCain would likely have done worse on both counts. And, on the most pressing of all issues today, job creation, Obama, though doing far too little, almost certainly did more than McCain, a dedicated free-marketeer, would have done, despite his inner need to placate Blue Dogs and Republicans.
On balance, then, it probably is a good thing that McCain lost. But it's not a slam-dunk. We should remember that over the coming months as liberals delude themselves while militating to keep the illusions of 2008 alive. They could do with a dose of disillusionment. Yes, there is something to be said for voting for the lesser evil. But the main task is to prepare for the next time circumstances make real "change" feasible. To that end, what is needed most is a more apt and effective political representation than the decrepit Democratic Party of today.