What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where were you when the revolution faltered

This morning there was an interesting portrait of the Tea Party on NPR (you might be surprised, one of the major points was about its decentralization and that there are no movement leaders). One of the comments was that the effect of the Tea Party may be to split the Republican Party into their Fiscal and Social conservative branches. If you all do that, I'll be thankful. As a fiscal conservative, the corruption of the Republican Party by the influence of the social conservatives (who really aren't conservatives in my book, but retrogradists), was the worst thing Reagan and Bush Sr. did to the party (by making the deals to bring them into the party fold to garner their votes).

Unfortunately much of what the Tea Party has done has undermined their own proported values. They supposedly are beyond party and are strictly fiscally conservative, however their major victories have been to hijack Republican Primaries, usually by supporting the farthest right candidate. Those candidates, the darlings of the party and their proud achievements, are all strong social conservatives, which goes against the grain of the libertarian roots of the Tea Party.

What I see is that the Tea Party has given the social conservative wing of the Republican Party a boost. Which, IMHO, is the worst thing they could have done. And, again, really goes against their avowed purpose and values. I could make an argument about dysfunctionality here (something I did a twenty minute rant about last night in the privacy of my own home about local politics), but I'll save that for a letter date.

What the TP has done is taken races where the conservatives should have won easily this Fall and thrown them in jeopardy because the Tea Party helped propel extreme right wing candidates from the shadows into the spot light.

As a Democrat, thanks. As an American and someone interested in plurality in politics, I think you're playing with a fire you don't have a comprehension of. You've managed, for the cause of "ideological purity", to advance the careers of those who have as their first priority a social change to make us a "Christian Nation once again" (which we never have been, being an intentionally secular nation from the get go).

Congrats. You've sold your souls for political expediency all to assuage your anger.

Welcome to the machine.


Eric said...

Good points, Steve.

I did want to say, however, that I found the NPR piece a little... enh. I think Rauch is taking some things at face value and ignoring contrary evidence elsewhere.

That's not to say that some of the people he spoke to were lying to him. I think that a lot of the people on the ground in the TP movement are oblivious to how they're being manipulated by people who would have to be called "leaders" because they are, in fact, leading. This includes, for instance, not just the usual suspects like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, but also some folks who are providing a lot of money. (If you haven't already, you might take a look at Jane Mayer's profile of the Koch brothers in The New Yorker, although note that Mayer's coverage has also been criticized and questioned.)

Similarly, it's very hard to conclude, as Rauch does, that racism isn't playing a role in the TP movement. First, obviously, there's the problem Rauch does acknowledge: with a decentralized, amorphous structure, how does the TP disassociate itself from obvious racists with signs, etc. The thing is, although some TP organizations have disavowed racists, e.g. by breaking association with the Tea Party Express, I think that by-and-large the TPers general willingness to tolerate racist messages in their midst has to be regarded as tacitly condoning those messages; it's simply not sufficient to say, "Well I disagree, but he has a right to attend our rally and prominently display his message." (Imagine, in contrast, how the TPers would most likely treat a progressive protester with a sign in their midst--at a minimum, they'd ask him to leave.) Secondly, it's hard to escape the observation that one of the legitimate critiques or criticisms (depending on how you frame it) of Obama is that his administration has continued/endorsed Bush-era policies; while some TPers have realized they need to include Bush in their complaints, the ugly fact is that they weren't in the streets when the President was a white Republican.

There are other problems with Rauch's analysis, I think, but I've probably prattled enough.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately much of what the Tea Party has done has undermined their own proported values. They supposedly are beyond party and are strictly fiscally conservative, however their major victories have been to hijack Republican Primaries, usually by supporting the farthest right candidate.

Go back and listen/read again, Steve. Their goal is not about political power. It's about changing the culture.

I think Eric has a few good points, too. But saying "why weren't you out there protesting when Bush was president?" is a bit disingenuous. The tipping point had not yet been reached. This afternoon, I heard another NPR TP story http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129865403
Boiling Mad, in which the author tries to pinpoint the start of the TP at Rick Santelli's rant - after Obama's inauguration.

Anonymous Cassie, grateful that you reminded her to go back and finish listening to the story that got cut of by her daughter.

Steve Buchheit said...

Eric, yeah, the first piece was a little too much of the kool-aid. And I'd already been watching Koch Industries before the New Yorker piece.

Steve Buchheit said...

Cassie, you haven't so much changed the culture as tilted it heavily in favor of the social conservatives. The rhetoric isn't matching to the actions, and the proof is always in the pudding.

This morning's show that included the spokesman from the AFC was more disturbing. You're becoming a stealth movement or front for the social conservatives. IF that happens, my shift will be from debating points to actively working to undermine and destroy the movement. With the people the TP has supported, it's very close. Again, the proof is in the pudding.

Anonymous said...

But his statements were refudiated (yes, I LOVE that word) by the other guest from the Waco TP group. She rightly pointed out that the NRA and other civic organizations are not expected to endorse those social agenda points, and the TP's focus is on economics, not on social issues.

However much it bothers you and Linda Wertheimer, the TP remains a nebulous, free-formed group that doesn't have a core leadership or mouthpiece. So, just like the Dems have their problem children, the TP has their own, but without an effective way to deal with them (a bug, not a feature.) I think the AFA (as witnessed by the comments this morning on NPR) is trying to co-op the TP. There is indeed extensive cross-over of membership, just as there is with the NRA.

You have to see that the cross-over between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives is extremely high. Asking a candidate who has strong fiscal conservative values to throw out their social values because they are "inconvenient" to the GOP, or conceivably, the Dems, is asking them to be untrue to themselves. Fakery never plays well on the election trail. If what we're hearing on NPR is accurate, whatever else a candidate brings to the table other than fiscal conservatism is irrelevant to the discussion for Tea Partiers.

Proof of the pudding for their POV will be the elections. Is O'Donnell truly unelectable?* Is Ayotte?

We'll find out in November, but if the last couple of elections are indicators (and the polls cited by Mara Liasson in this report www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129888743 ) then it should be quite an election season.

*Highly annoying - the state GOP candidate is a person that the GOP doesn't want but won their primary. So they pick up their marbles and go home? Pathetic. What a way to guarantee a loss.


Steve Buchheit said...

Cassie, actually there are many more fiscal conservatives than there are social conservatives. While the Waco TP rep did disagree, she didn't refute the AFA claims. She just said, "we don't talk about it." What the AFA rep said was, "if you are social conservatives and espouse our values, we'll pull the plug and collapse your movement."

Many people forget that the Republican Party was never about social conservatives (who, IMHO aren't really conservatives at all, but retrogradists who believe in a myth, but that's another post). It was the deals Ronald Reagan made with his version of the Southern Strategy that brought them into the fold. A position that GHW Bush then solidified, which skewed our national politics to the far right (Justice O'Conner was a mainstream conservative when appointed who didn't change her positions much, however at the end of her term she was considered liberal, that's how far the party slewed in the 80's and early 90s). It was also because of Newt Gingrinch's complicity that continued to tie the social conservatives and their rhetoric to the Republican Party, which then culminated with the election of GW Bush. It was that hard skew to the right that threw me out of the party.

So, the TP Movement has a choice. They can continue to give a nod and wink to he social conservatives (as the Republican Party did), continue the hard bank to the right and fall to obscurity (social conservatives are less than 30% of the population, and half of them don't vote regularly), or they can go back to their libertarian roots and disavow the social conservative movement (which will then deplete their ranks, but probably not by the 80% the AFA rep thought, but probably by 50%).

If the TP movement does embrace the social conservative movement, I now understand a lot of the rhetoric (it makes sense in that context, not that I'm saying it's correct, just that I understand much of what seemed non-sensical as a libertarian based movement).

What the NPR piece showed is that there are several creation myths about the movement. It depends on which one the individual member wants to believe as to how they approach the movement.