Why I’m comfortable with the Tea Party movement


4:09 pm - December 31st 2010

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contribution by Tim Fenton

I have a confession to make: unlike some observers of politics Stateside, I’m comfortable with the Tea Party movement. That’s because it demonstrates – unlike the assertions of some of its supporters – that fundamental freedoms still underpin the USA: if you want to start, support or work for a political movement, then you are free to do so.

Moreover, citizens of the Republic are also free to voice whatever opinions they hold, protected by the First Amendment.

So anyone who believes ACORN stole the 2008 Presidential Election, that Barack Obama is not a natural born US citizen (and/or a practising Christian), or that any factual analysis ever comes out of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) is entitled to their view.

Of course, I don’t hold to any of those views, and that is where the Tea Partiers don’t get it: in a country of 300 million inhabitants, it’s not difficult for those of a conservative persuasion to find other like minded individuals. Thus the blogosphere and Twittersphere are alive with such people, but what they too often forget is that those places are also alive with those of a more liberal slant.

The results from some of the Mid-Terms should have brought this home to the Tea Partiers: had the GOP won the Senate races in Colorado, Nevada and Delaware, this would have given them 50 seats against 48 Democrats and two Independents. Most likely Mitch McConnell would now be Majority leader, and the Republicans would be in control of both Houses of Congress.

But those three races were lost by Tea Party backed candidates – Ken Buck, Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell – who proved unacceptable to the wider electorate.

To have them win the Primaries in those states may have given those favouring Ideological Purity a warm feeling, but politics is, as ever, the art of the possible: there are always compromises to be conceded, pragmatic choices to be made.

And that’s another reason why I’m comfortable with the Tea Party movement: the more control they exert over the GOP, the less electable it will be come 2012.

If the movement gets to pick the Republican Presidential challenger, it will more than likely choose Sarah Palin, and that will deliver Barack Obama a slam-dunk second term.

In a system where there are just two electable parties, any candidate that repels a significant part of the electorate should not be standing – not if their party is serious about winning.

There is little point in being ideologically purer than the next man, if doing so keeps you away from the levers of power.

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Reader comments


I really, desperately, hope that Palin is as unelectable as everyone who dismisses her believes.

The tea party is essentially pissed off neocons who aren’t happy politics in the US has moved more central.

Essentially we have our own tea party already. They call themselves the BNP

Good for you, and yes you are right, the median voter wins again! The real key is to change who the median voter is or find an issue that makes them vote for you.

Also, unlikely as it is, so what if Sarah Palin wins? Surely the Obama administration demonstrates that presidents actually have very little power to effect policy. They are are just at the front of a runaway train whose direction was set ages ago.

@1: I really, desperately, hope that Palin is as unelectable as everyone who dismisses her believes.

So do I. I’m not sure she is though.

@3 Oh I don’t know about that, DADT has recently been repealed and given McCain’s consistent opposition to that I doubt we would have seen that happen had he become president in 2008.

How does your suggestion that the Tea Party is a free expression of part of American public opinion play with the fact it’s bankrolled by the Koch Bothers and seems to play along lines that benefit only them and their wealthy chums?

Begging my own question, it seems to me to be more of an example of how free speech and democracy have become the privilege of the plutocracy both in the US and here.

I also hope your right about Palin. They elected Bush, after all.

I doubt we would have seen that happen had he become president in 2008…

Hooray…

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(Q) Jeffrey Smith, can you compare the Obama administration on biotechnology with the Bush administration?

(A) The Obama administration has not been better than the Bush administration, possibly worse.

Retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, who served as the Director of National Intelligence under President Bush, said the Obama “administration has been as aggressive, if not more aggressive in pursuing” terror threats…

Expert Consensus: Obama Mimics Bush On State Secrets…

@7 Yes, because if US policy doesn’t improve in all areas simultaneously then no improvement at all, in any way, shape or form has happened.

Tim Fenton: ‘If the movement gets to pick the Republican Presidential challenger, it will more than likely choose Sarah Palin, and that will deliver Barack Obama a slam-dunk second term.’

Or, to put it another way: ‘After Palin, us.’

Something nasty from the past reminds me that it doesn’t necessarily work that way…

8 – The point is that I’m not sure how much of a victory repealing DADT was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sexual equality, but the right to join an institution that, in my humble…, is mostly used as scaffolding for quite unjust adventurism isn’t much to celebrate; especially when compared with all that’s not been improved or, indeed, has been worsened.

I’m sorry to continue the well-mined Obama yay/nay seam in this thread but it strikes me that as drones are striking and resources are draining it’s more important to regard the current President than whoever might replace him.

@10 Given how the military is lionised in American culture DADT’s repeal may very likely be the stepping stone to DOMA’s repeal and getting ENDA passed, which I would agree as being worthier endeavours.

But my original point was that presidents do have noticeable power to effect policy by pointing out an obvious policy that would have wildly differed had McCain become president.

Does that mean Obama’s presidency is a dream come true?
Far from it.

Does it mean that the thought of a Palin presidency should worry people? Absolutely.

This article is naive idiocy of the worst kind.

How many more times does it have to be said before it gets in to the heads of cretins. The Tea party is not a bottom up political movement. It is a top down, corporate funded, and corporate organised jamboree. It has the backing of Murdoch’s Fox news, and Dick Armey, a once Republican politician and now a corporate lobbyist. It is designed, like most American corporate astro turf bullshit to appear bottom up. It is no such thing.

As for Palin, while I agree in normal times she should have no chance of election success, these are not normal times. The fact that Bush, who is one of the stupidest people in the world , a man who could barely speak English, and avoided military service could get to be president means all bets are off on how low the bar has fallen.

Be careful what you wish for. If Palin gets the nomination and the American economy does not turn around, and with the whole US media machine behind her, I would not bet against her.

Palin is not Bush. Bush had enough basic sense and competence to obey his handlers and stick to the script. Palin tries to think for herself, and isn’t up to it.

@Tim Fenton, are you American? Because I can’t help feeling that you might be Tony Blair in disguise. If you cut your article in half, running down the middle are the same words that all too many “pragmatists” hide behind: “Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile”. It makes perfect sense on the face of it but demonstrates a complete neglect for political process. Namely that you might start out with a significant proportion of the electorate disliking you, but the aim of the game is to turn that around.

And the Tea Party people have that potential. They are being supremely aided by the inability of the Obama administration to retain any vestige of the mass movement this website and others claimed it was building, as the Presidential campaign of 2008 wore on and its attempt, like Blair’s New Labour to be a “party of government”, completely ignoring matters of principle – which is why we have Joe Biden, for example, attacking an information-sharing site as “terrorists”. It seems Democrats aren’t much different from Republicans in their jingo-wielding hypocrisy.

So we’re fed this stuff about DADT, and I’m sure it’s important (though I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone possessed of some nous would actively want to learn how to kill brown people) but it doesn’t deal with issues that affect the lives of every American. The climb downs on healthcare do. The willing acceptance by Anne Duncan et al of the firing of 74 unionised teachers who exercised their democratic right to refuse management diktats will have an effect on every American – because a single high school principal will not be the last person to try such legally sanctified extortion. Similarly, lacklustre support for the EFCA will affect all Americans.

As for economic stimulus, the less said about the amount of money being poured down the necks of employers on the basis of the same failed “trickle down” theories the better.

All the Tea Party people have to do, really, is wait. Wait for panic and disaffection to set in. Wait for Obama to show his true colours – which are not to the advantage of the ordinary working American, except insofar as they might benefit indirectly and after large corporations have already extracted their share from the President and Congressional Democrats. The Tea Party people have some gifted speakers who bridge the divide between the nutcase and the normal, but more importantly they give the impression of being anti-government (and in the present environment of right-wing media coverage it’s easy to defend the notion that government has failed”) and populist, of listening to people and being grassroots. Obama benefitted from this – and he’ll benefit from it in 2012, to some extent at least – the question is will he benefit from it enough?

Sally, commenting above, is correct, that large numbers of the Tea Party people are corporate shills – but I said a year or so ago that I was still comfortable with the average placard waving members – and that we should be engaging with them. Left to their own devices however, they’ll benefit from the sort of sneering you heap on their chosen in your article – which just smacks of exactly the sort of sneering the political centre always aim at those on the fringes, born from the comfortable certainty that your guy will get elected and the ignorable certainty that he/she will then promptly do as little as humanly possible.

This you neatly tie up with the bow of clichés like “politics is art of the possible”. And this lazy “pragmatism” is why the American conservative fringes keep kicking the arse out of first their own centrists, then yours, only to do it all over again from an even more politically advantageous position twenty years later. It’s why the overall litany of the “left” (though I scoff to call anyone adopting this attitude “left”) in the US as in the UK is one of defeat from the 1970s through to today.

> I’m comfortable with the Tea Party movement. That’s because it demonstrates … that fundamental freedoms still underpin the USA: if you want to start, support or work for a political movement, then you are free to do so.

It appears the author is totally ignorant of how the Tea Party started and what it is. That’s puzzling because it has been investigated and reported by many sources, e.g.:

* http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/13/tea-party-billionaire-koch-brothers

* http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

* http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html

Someone even made an entire documentary about them – worth watching: http://astroturfwars.org/

The Tea Party is a corporation-created club for ‘useful idiots’ – people who can be easily manipulated to act and vote against their own best interests for the benefit of billionaires. The Tea Party is the opposite of a demonstration that “that fundamental freedoms still underpin the USA” – it’s a prime example that democracy in the US is paid for, polluted and twisted – more plutocracy / corporatocracy than democracy.

And it should frighten any right-thinking person. The Kochs are sociopaths – their only concern is protecting and adding to their fortune, no matter the costs to society and the planet. Their network of ‘think tanks’ and bough-and-paid-for politicians now have significant political power – this is not a cause for celebration or “comfort”.

@15

” … are you American? Because I can’t help feeling that you might be Tony Blair in disguise”.

Do I need to make the obvious comment on that?

No, I am not “American”, by which I assume you mean a citizen of the Republic. But I do hope that those who clearly have an adverse reaction to what I write might have read it first. And who are my “centrists”? I am not aligned with any political party, although, were I a US citizen, I confess I would probably be a registered Democrat.

The central thrust of what I wrote is that the Tea Party has shown its ability to hobble the GOP: the failure to win the Senate will cost them. Heck, in Alaska, Tea Partier Joe Miller lost (he’s a bad loser and has only just conceded the race) to the incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, whom he beat in the primary – after a write in campaign.

Freely translated, that means one more Senator who will be less than totally willing to do the bidding of the Republican machine. And it’s all down to the Tea Party. This will do Obama no harm at all, especially with the Tea Party looking to challenge more Senators who they do not consider sufficiently Ideologically pure (Scott Brown, winner of the special election in Massachusetts, is one target).

With the right across the USA denouncing Obama as a socialist, and folks like you denouncing him for not being to “the advantage of the average working American”, he must be doing something right.

And the idea that the Tea Party just have to wait – no chance. They are set to screw up the GOP royally. Obama has finished the year in far better shape than was thought possible, whether or not he passes your purity test. That, as elsewhere, is an observation on what is happening, not an unequivocal declaration of support.

But at least your reaction is marginally more coherent than Sally’s.

“But at least your reaction is marginally more coherent than Sally’s.”

Explain please what is not coherent in my post?

@17 Please enlighten me on what the “obvious comment” is? Incidentally, what’s with this rather silly idea of referring to the United States as “the Republic”? Are you simply a bit peeved that I used “American” as the adjectival form designating citizenship of the USA? If so, I imagine that Mexicans have grounds for annoyance with you as they are also an American Republic. As are Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia…you get the point I imagine.

As for the more relevant matters…

I did read what you wrote. Your actual political affiliation, on the other hand, is just a label and irrelevant to my comment about “your” centrists. I assumed, as you admit you would, if you were American, that you were aligning yourself with the Democrats. My reply wasn’t interested in your specific contentions regarding three particular elections, those in Colorado, Nevada and Delaware. In two of those three cases, the Republicans were running against incumbents – one of whom was the Senate Majority Leader. There are other considerations, like relative funding. Most importantly, you’re relying on counterfactuals – that if only the Tea Party candidate hadn’t won the Republican primary, that would automatically have secured three additional Senate seats for the Republicans.

This doesn’t consider the point that, judging by their victory in the primaries, the Tea Party candidates had more support amongst the Republican base and whatever notional advantage non-Tea Party candidates had in “general acceptability” to the electorate (and if you were making this argument, you’re relying on truisms again) would have been a trade-off for the hard work of the activists who evidently turned out for their candidate. I didn’t really see the point in going in to any of this as the issue is beyond definitive. I was more interested in challenging your “pragmatic” (alternatively “centrist”) political philosophy.

Continuing to answer your reply @17, you are probably right that an extremist Republican Party will “do Obama no harm at all” (i.e. will at least harden registered Democrats behind the Democratic Party). But again you are neglecting political process. Things aren’t stationary, they are fluid. This extremism is competing with the effort Obama and Congressional Democrats have put into undermining their own support base. This should be visible enough in the recent election. You might relish the thought that the Tea Party people failed in four Senatorial campaigns (adding Alaska to the above mentioned three) – but the Republican Party, with the Tea Party aboard and acting like one more extremist pressure group, enjoyed a successful night all told. How long will extremism put people off?

The answer to that question isn’t simple and depends not just on the Tea Party but on organised Labor and all those groups which aim to offer an alternative to the status quo, and whether or not they can succeed in articulating that alternative and in translating it from words into deeds through the Democratic Party. It depends on the convolutions of the economy. And so on. My point is that time will only undermine the current situation, which in any case you may be misjudging to the advantage of Obama and the Democrats, especially if you think that Tea Party people successfully challenging in Republican primaries is a Good Thing, whatever happens one or even two or three election cycles later.

Perhaps you should take a closer look at the Goldwater campaign and the lessons which conservative Republicans learned during it.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Obama has finished the two years in appalling shape. At the 2008 election, the Democrats won a landslide presidential victory and took Congress with them, not to mention the overwhelming support of the American people. Two years later, this popularity has been squandered and the House is back in Republican hands. Not exactly a shining success. I will be shocked if Obama doesn’t win a second term, whoever he runs against – but let’s not start pretending that this in itself is any great success for the people who put him into office the first time around, or for the movement to which a great many of them belong.

Lastly, I dealt concretely in the last post with Obama’s progress as President and you’ve brushed it off with this glib remark that because the Right call him “socialist” and I’m calling him a disappointment, he must be doing something right. Apart from being childish, this is doesn’t actually answer any of my points. Or do you not stoop to engaging with the arguments of people you reckon can be dismissed as “purists”?

Cylux @1

“I really desperately hope that Palin is as unelectable as everyone who dismisses her believes.”

You are right to be anxious, the history of “unelectable, dangerous incompetents” makes for worrying reading; – Ronald Reagan, George W Bush should be remembered as such and that modern USA is quite capable of ‘electing’ the unthinkable. Although, to be fair, Barry Goldwater slipped through the net. We did it to ourselves with Thatcher – who surprised few with her draconian scourging of society – by – among other simple-minded tactics – denying such a thing existed. Palin is just the next in a descending a line of very avoidable electoral disasters. One crumb of comfort – it can’t go on forever – one of them will finish us off – and we shall have the hindsight-satisfaction of being been rendered extinct through our own many- times precedented gullibility. Happy New Year.

Mulligrubs – do wake up ‘ being been’ – I ask you!

Dave, I’m not sure what you’re arguing about here.

Yes there are lots of disappointments with the Obama administration, on foreign policy as well as on the fact that he didn’t carry on the movement building that he managed before the election.

But I have different views on all these typically left soundbites.

First, you can’t turn around the US military juggernaut that quickly. The leaked papers by the Washington Post a few months ago on how Obama tried to change policy in Afghanistan, and that lead to some revolt and briefings against him by generals shows how difficult this actually is. American worship their military unfortunately, and if Obama hadn’t kept control of the war in Afghanistan (and he’s done well to quickly bow out of Iraq) then his whole administration would have been undermined.

That said – he is pushing through some really punishing reductions in spending at the Pentagon that are being opposed tooth and nail. That is to be celebrated.

On the issue of movement building – my view is not that the President failed (after all, his job after winning an election is to govern, not build movements) – but that Democrat progressives failed. The grassroots failed themselves by not building an alternative to the Tea Party movement.

Some of this is changing with Democrat contributors now preferring to spend money building alternative structures and institutions (like Media Matters) than simply donating to the party.

But the movement has to be grassroots driven, not run by the President. There’s little point in blaming him – the fault lies with the grassroots because they thought their job was done after Obama got elected.

Two years later, this popularity has been squandered and the House is back in Republican hands. Not exactly a shining success.

Oh dear. I don’t know where to start with this analysis, bereft as it is of context. The economy has been in deep shit for the past 2 years – that is what matters, and that is what handed him a defeat. Also, as you well know this routinely happens to Presidents, as it did to Bush, to Clinton and to Reagan.

I wish people actually paid attention to what Obama was doing rather than running off with the same old complaints of betrayal.

Its only when we get a Republican president that people will realise how bad things can actually get and that there is a difference between the two parties.

The grassroots failed themselves by not building an alternative to the Tea Party movement.

This might be a touch unfair on the Dem’s grassroots here, the Tea Party movement as pointed out is a well funded astroturf group which also garnered much publicity and promotion by fox news.
It’s almost like blaming a family owned corner shop in Kirkham for not keeping up enough with the Trafford centre.

@Sunny – at which point are you not sure what I’m arguing about? I should think it would be quite clear from what I said to Mr Fenton, and then in his reply to me, and my subsequent reply to him – all of which seems to have generated a fairly lengthy reply from you, which seems rather odd if you’re not sure what I’m arguing about.

Saying that, when it comes to “all these typically left soundbites”, and you having different answers to them, eight of your thirty one lines of reply dealt with a subject I didn’t even raise – American foreign policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A grand total of zero lines were spent dealing with failures of Obama that I did raise. Similarly, I didn’t blame Obama for the failure of the movement which buoyed him to power. So most of your reply must be aimed at someone else.

What I did say was that any vestige of that movement has been dealt a solid kicking by Obama’s performance while in office – and I doubt all of them will accept the “Yes there are disappointments but…” argument. In this field I don’t think there’s much to dispute, all told, dislike the idea as you may. Perhaps we should turn the argument around, “Yes there have been some good things but…” I rather resent the idea that I’ve been ignoring what the man has actually been doing while in office when the things you are accusing me of appear nowhere in what I said.

On the subject of turning around the “US military juggernaut”, though, it needs to be said that all the briefings against Obama in the world cannot change the fact that the man is commander-in-chief. If the Joint Chiefs disobey a direct order, they go to prison. It’s the law. It may be the case that the Obama administration was cowed by the idea of the military brass appearing on television, attacking his plans, calling him unpatriotic and all the rest of it, but he could have changed policy. And if he had, boy, wouldn’t a popular movement, laden to the hilt with anti-war veterans of the US armed forces have been a publicity coup to hit back with. But hey, let’s not blame the President – he’s just the guy in charge!

Apologies. Excuse my sarcasm and cynicism. For the purposes of this argument, I could care less about US foreign policy.

Lastly, on the subject of the context my remarks on the electoral failure of the Democrats in the last election cycle are so unable to provide, allow me first to elucidate and second to return to some of your own comments on the subject. Sure, the economy is in deep shit and Obama et al got smacked with that. But hey, wasn’t there once some guy who had to weather several years of economic chaos, with unemployment continuing to rise during the first years of his first term, and then again during his second, whose party managed to hold on to a majority for fourteen years, including the years of a second recession? Gosh darn it, I wonder how he managed that? Here’s a clue; it wasn’t just by crossing his fingers and hoping that Congress would agree with him.

Yes there is a “mid-term effect” in which people vote for the opposition party, but we’re not dealing with a law of physics. It’s an effect of policies pursued by those perceived to be in control. This is why FDR’s first mid-term created the most unbalanced Congress since Reconstruction and why Obama’s first mid-term saw the House shift back to the Republicans. It’s not controversial to say this about Reagan, whose policies were wildly unpopular, just as were Thatcher’s, before they had a chance to crush and demoralise their opposition. It’s not controversial to say it about Clinton, whose bumbling of healthcare is widely attributed to making Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” of ’94 so effective. I don’t see that it’s controversial to say it about Obama.

Absolute, very last, final comment. It’s the height of dismissiveness to suggest as you do with your parting remark that I won’t understand how good things are until, because of my views (or the views of those like me), a Republican returns to the Oval Office. It’s not like I had to live through eight years of the last one or anything. It’s also a bizarre remark, since the socialist Left have an incalculably small impact on elections – Democrats seem altogether able to screw them up on their very own. How many euphoric victories followed by disappointment followed by years of the other guys having control, and taking us further down hill than before, have we to live through before one of you people that rejoice in terms like “liberal” and “pragmatic” twig that maybe this lesser evilism isn’t working all that well?

Dave, the problem I have with your discussion with Tim is that its not clear what broad point you’re making. You make a series of assertions to back up your theories that aren’t really grounded in reality.

for example:
, the Tea Party candidates had more support amongst the Republican base and whatever notional advantage non-Tea Party candidates had in “general acceptability” to the electorate

In some cases yes, but in other cases the tea party candidate lost out even amongst the Republican base. Furthermore – primaries to pick candidates are very skewed towards people who turn out to vote – which meant that tea party candidates who rallied the faithful and the angry had more chance of being picked and more chance of then getting elected in the mid-terms. Neither of these are a good indicator to general election victories.

You also say:
This extremism is competing with the effort Obama and Congressional Democrats have put into undermining their own support base.

What’s the evidence for this? Sure – the activists are angry they’re not getting enough but among Democrat voters broadly Obama enjoys supremely high approval ratings. And they also want as their leader going into the next election by a very high margin.

So how exactly have they ‘undermined’ their own base (as opposed to just not being able to pass legislation because they didn’t have enough votes) – and why isn’t this being reflected in Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats?

Responding to my own points… yes you’re right – you didn’t talk about foreign policy. sorry – that is aimed at Bensix.

On the movement point you said this: They are being supremely aided by the inability of the Obama administration to retain any vestige of the mass movement this website and others claimed it was building
– and that’s what I was responding to.

You also say:
and I doubt all of them will accept the “Yes there are disappointments but…” argument.

Actually, a lot of them do. You’ll have to point to major examples of Democrats walking away from the government in disgust for not getting anything done.

all the briefings against Obama in the world cannot change the fact that the man is commander-in-chief. If the Joint Chiefs disobey a direct order, they go to prison. It’s the law. It

Who said anything about generals openly obeying the President’s orders? I didn’t. I talked about briefings against him in the media, about generals undermining him in different ways, and him being hampered by the fact that he can’t take all the military decisions while he still had to work on dealing with healthcare, the oil spill and a whole bunch of other legislation.

nd if he had, boy, wouldn’t a popular movement, laden to the hilt with anti-war veterans of the US armed forces have been a publicity coup to hit back with.

Wishful thinking.

But hey, wasn’t there once some guy who had to weather several years of economic chaos

We’re not in the 50s any more, so please stop hankering to some golden age of the past as your measure.

The fact is people are short-sighted now and they’ve thrashed every recent Pres who’s not been able to turn the economy around quickly – Republican and Democrat.

b It’s not controversial to say this about Reagan, whose policies were wildly unpopular, just as were Thatcher’s, before they had a chance to crush and demoralise their opposition.

Reagan’s term actually proves my point more than yours. And the Republicans were demoralised at the start if it wasn’t for the tea party movement… in the same way the left was demoralised here until the education protests gave them a kick up the backside.

Obama could still crush Republicans at the next GE providing they end up with a shit leader (I’ll take Palin, which is the point of the OP) and do another Reagan.

have we to live through before one of you people that rejoice in terms like “liberal” and “pragmatic” twig that maybe this lesser evilism isn’t working all that well?

If it isn’t working all that well – then go ahead and suggest the electorally possible alternative. Hey the libertarian party in the USA are trying it – perhaps that’s your model? Or maybe the Green Party?

Yes I know the socialist left hate all this pragmatism and hate the centrism and hate the slow pace of change and hate the ‘lesser of two evils’ approach to politics. It’s just that the people who actually want to overturn the system or have a much more radical approach to politics is very small. And they’re divided, not very disciplined and aren’t really a political force. So I don’t know what you’re getting at.

26. Conservative Cabbie

I’m afraid the analysis of the Tea Party’s affect on the GOP is just wrong.

The results from some of the Mid-Terms should have brought this home to the Tea Partiers: had the GOP won the Senate races in Colorado, Nevada and Delaware, this would have given them 50 seats against 48 Democrats and two Independents. Most likely Mitch McConnell would now be Majority leader, and the Republicans would be in control of both Houses of Congress.

Whilst true, it ignores the positive effects the Tea Party had on the mid-term elections. In Wisconsin, the previously comfortably safe Russ Feingold was defeated by the Tea Party aligned Ron Johnson. In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter defected from the GOP because Democrats had opened up such a big voter regestration advantage that he thought that a Republican couldn’t win in Pennsylvania. Along comes Pat Toomey, again heavily backed by Tea Partiers to prove Specter, the Democrats and the pundits wrong. In Florida, the Tea Party backed Marco Rubio beat Charlie Crist, the darling of the moderate voter. And the list goes on – Rand Paul, Renee Ellmers, Allen West, Adam Kinzinger and the rest. All were fully backed by Tea Party organisations and all won in safe to strongly lean Democratic states or districts. Sure there were some misses, but does any political movement win 100% of its targets in only its second year as a movement? Barack Obama targeted Georgia, Arizona and Montana in his Presidential run. Does his failure to win them make his candidacy a failure?

Two years ago, the GOP were being written off. Sam Tanenhaus wrote about “The Death of Conservatism”. There was talk of a permanent Democratic majority. Almost all pundits thought that the GOP had to moderate their views and broaden their appeal. But all this ignored the fact that in part, the Democratic successes of ’06 and ’08 were off the back of non-turnout by conservatives disappointed in part by Bush, but mostly by a failed GOP congressional party (and the lack of a decent conservative candidate in the 2008 primaries).

Conservatism is way more popular than liberalism in America. The only way for the GOP to win is to excite the base. Without the Tea Party, there is no way the GOP would have had the success that they did in November.

with the Tea Party movement: the more control they exert over the GOP, the less electable it will be come 2012.

In some polls, some GOP candidates actually beat Obama. That was something that was impossible two years ago. The only support Obama has lost in any dramatic fashion is amongst white working class Americans (which we are reminded (mostly incorrectly) is the demographic of the Tea Party.

In a system where there are just two electable parties, any candidate that repels a significant part of the electorate should not be standing – not if their party is serious about winning.

Whilst I haven’t seen any polls in the last month, leading up to November, Obama was repelling two thirds of white voters. Does a two thirds majority of a large majority constitute “a significant part of the electorate”? By your logic, Obama should “not be standing”.

You are right that Buck, Angle and O’Donnell were bad candidates (the Democrats had some of their own too – Alvin Greene anyone). All that proves is that next time round, they just need to get behind better ones. The Democrats are defending some tough Senate races in 2012. Don’t give up hope, you may still get to see Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader (hopefully with a Palin Presidency, a GOP house and an end to the filibuster that the left so desperately want. Now that will be a fun ride 🙂

Well Sunny, judging by your comment @25, your problem is that you’re obviously only reading short snippets of a whole reply cogently argued and neatly put into paragraphs. Which is why your replies to me end up looking like they do and why when looking at such bitty answers, that carve up my replies and ignore any salient points you don’t wish to engage with, I lose the will to live.

You seem to be missing the point with regard to the Tea Party people – and the fact that you can’t grasp basic logic probably doesn’t help. A Tea Party person wins a primary. By definition, surely, this proves they have more support amongst Republican activists. So when you that my assertions (the above being one of them) aren’t grounded in reality, you’re being a bit silly. Sure, you can argue dynamics are different in a general election. You can also argue that Tea Party victories have been few and far between – but if you had read the whole section in which you located that remark, you’d have found I was addressing Tim Fenton’s points about three specific Senatorial elections in the last election cycle.

If you thought I was generalising this point, you should have read further down where I did not uncomplicatedly say “Tea Party r0x0rs” but that there is a long term game being played by them (hence the reference I made to the Goldwater campaign), that they are not cranks to be easily dismissed and that, however bumbling, we daren’t underestimate their leaders. You say you’ll take Palin, which you say is the point of the article, but back in 1999 I imagine you, like me, would have been happy to see the Democrats run against Governor Bush. Inability to string a sentence together is not a bar to high office, evidently, and this is an obvious answer to the OP if “Please Give Us Palin” is its only point.

On the broader subject of previous election cycles and their relevance to our argument, simply saying “Reagan proves my point” and then moving on isn’t much of an argument. If you’re saying that unemployment had a massive part to play in such a popular president as Reagan never winning a majority in the House of Representatives, then I’ve no argument with you. And if you’re saying that unemployment has since messed with the elections of Bush, Clinton and Obama, sure. “It’s the economy, stupid!” is a cliché for a reason. But as I said above, it’s not a law of physics. It happens because they’re either actively seeking to increase unemployment (thus Reagan) or aren’t doing enough about it (thus Clinton and Obama).

Don’t get me wrong, broadly speaking I’m behind the motivating sentiment of ARRA and the rest of the relevant legislation – but judging by the unemployment rate in the US, it’s just not enough. Does that come down to obstructive Democrats? Not judging by Obama’s own dismissal of the idea – and plenty of leaders of the AFL-CIO seem to agree with me that he’s not really up for a second stimulus.

Will any of this stop Obama from winning a second term? I don’t think so – and I’ve said this repeatedly. But that doesn’t mean that such a victory is a good thing for the people who voted for him the first time round, hoping he would get a lot more done, as he promised. Even returning to the White House having delivered Sarah Palin an unqualified 45-state kicking is not a moment for celebration, not least because Obama is no LBJ and is unlikely to want to turn back the clock even that far, when it comes to social welfare and employment legislation. But Sarah Palin is a Barry Goldwater – and a defeat now simply means the extremists go on with their well-funded, well-organised insurgency until they get a Reagan.

Which neatly brings me back to my point; for a movement started only a few years ago, the Tea Party have done staggeringly well. Don’t underestimate them, which is what all this sneering about Palin and her cohort seems almost purpose-built to do.

Lastly, FDR was the 1930s and 1940s, Sunny, not the 1950s. And looking back at past political examples isn’t reading tea leaves, any more than current political truisms have the force of laws of physics. You are correct that we don’t live in the same world as FDR – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have something to learn from his age, either its shortcomings or its successes – which is my way of saying the past is not my measure. But the past seems to have done better than the present in coming up to that measure – so a fair question is, why? Your attempted dismissal of all such historical investigation seems cretinous.

Dave Semple:
A Tea Party person wins a primary. By definition, surely, this proves they have more support amongst Republican activists. … Sure, you can argue dynamics are different in a general election.

Thanks – that is exactly what I’m arguing – don’t read too much into Tea Party victories. Like other right-wingers you’re hyper ventilating about their actual impact.

But as I said above, it’s not a law of physics. It happens because they’re either actively seeking to increase unemployment (thus Reagan) or aren’t doing enough about it (thus Clinton and Obama).

Sorry, you’re not convincing me that Obama doesn’t care about unemployment. Some evidence would be nice instead of just rhetoric.

But that doesn’t mean that such a victory is a good thing for the people who voted for him the first time round, hoping he would get a lot more done, as he promised.

yes it is. Just because they didn’t get 100% of the program they wanted doesn’t mean you think getting 60% is not worth it.

not least because Obama is no LBJ and is unlikely to want to turn back the clock even that far, when it comes to social welfare and employment legislation

Erm – a lot of legislation on employment and social welfare (medicare, medicaid, insurance industry requirements etc) are now much further than what LBJ managed.

But Sarah Palin is a Barry Goldwater – and a defeat now simply means the extremists go on with their well-funded, well-organised insurgency until they get a Reagan.

We’ll have to see. But the point is that if the Left want their own Barry Goldwater (which I’m all in favour of) then they’ll need to organise themselves independent of the Democrat top hierarchy, yet be able and willing to work to force the Republicans on the defensive. They’ve not managed it yet, which is why I’m blaming the left more than Obama for that. It’s not his job to come up with a Goldwater candidate.

But the past seems to have done better than the present in coming up to that measure – so a fair question is, why? Your attempted dismissal of all such historical investigation seems cretinous.

your pathetic ad hominems aside – you’ve not actually pointed out how Obama is rolling back on what LBJ did than actually build on it (in the case of heathcare certainly).

Lastly – I’m somewhat dismissive of your tone because of the points outlined in my last paragraph.

Conservative Cabbie – Alvin Greene wasn’t endorsed by Democrat high command. Whereas O’Donnell and Sharron Reid were a key part of the Republican strategy.

I’m inclined to agree with the general thrust of the OP; it is certainly feasible that the Tea Party could be more damaging to the prospects of a GOP victory than helpful.

The one possible fly in the ointment is to what extent the GOP will move right to try and outflank the Tea Party…. if they go on to win, that’s not a prospect most of us would welcome!

@22. Sunny Hundal

> I wish people actually paid attention to what Obama was doing rather than running off with the same old complaints of betrayal.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/ – looks pretty damn good to me. I suspect some people have confused the executive power of ‘president’ with ’emperor’.

> Its only when we get a Republican president that people will realise how bad things can actually get and that there is a difference between the two parties.

We’re already getting tasters of that now with the GOPers grabbin back some power: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_12/027154.php + http://climateprogress.org/2010/12/09/house-science-chair-ralph-hall-global-warming-freezing/

Anyone who draws equivalence between the Democrats and the Repugs is either an idiot or a Repug.

31. Chaise Guevara

30 BlueRock

“Anyone who draws equivalence between the Democrats and the Repugs is either an idiot or a Repug.”

Sadly, “They’re all the same anyway” is high on the list of stupid things people say when they wrongly think that they’re demonstrating political wisdom. It annoys me almost as much as when people say “All politicians are bastards/liars/etc”. It’s not true, and if it were, that would be the people’s fault for electing bastardly liars.

The biggest problem Obama has is that he has pissed off his base. The republican gains in the Mid terms were more due to very low turn out by Democrat voters who are just pissed off with Obama’s bullshit. He promised change and has not delivered. He promised a public option on health care and then negotiated it away with the health lobbyists. He has the same bankers and wall street thugs running the economy that got America into the mess they are in.

There has been no attempt to do anything major about jobs as unemployment has risen significantly Obama has bought in to the corporate “price well worth paying” nonsense.

His health care bill is a clusterfuck which compels Americans by law, to buy health insurance. The health insurance companies can’t believe their luck. He stopped the importation of cheaper drugs via Canada that he said he would do.

He did nothing about the Bush tax cuts for billionaires in the first 2 years of office and then just panicked in the last 2 weeks of the year, and extended it for another 2 years. Which will create a hostage to fortune at the next election. Because the repigs will scare everyone at the next election that he will raise taxes.

He has decided, very stupidly to buy into the republican lies about social security, and he set up a committee, stacked with people who want to abolish it. This is all Republican wet dreams stuff.

The republicans have moved so far to the Right over the last 20 years that Eisenhower, Nixon and even Reagan would be seen as too liberal to get their nomination now. Obama has bought into the Washington consensus, which says the best thing you can do is piss off liberals. Well good luck with that at the next election because many Liberals are now saying why should we bother?

@31. Chaise Guevara

> Sadly, “They’re all the same anyway” is high on the list of stupid things people say when they wrongly think that they’re demonstrating political wisdom.

Yup. It’s lazy ignorance dressed up as hip cynicism.

Although, I’m struggling to not think it of the current bunch ensconced at No. 10. 😉

> …the people’s fault for electing bastardly liars.

And the Yanks keep giving wonderful demonstrations of that each time they vote in another Repug / Teabagger / Kochsucker! “You can fool some of the people all of the time….”

34. Chaise Guevara

@ 33

” It’s lazy ignorance dressed up as hip cynicism.”

Very well put!

Sally,

“The biggest problem Obama has is that he has pissed off his base. The republican gains in the Mid terms were more due to very low turn out by Democrat voters who are just pissed off with Obama’s bullshit. He promised change and has not delivered. He promised a public option on health care and then negotiated it away with the health lobbyists. He has the same bankers and wall street thugs running the economy that got America into the mess they are in. ”

Pretty accurate.

“His health care bill is a clusterfuck which compels Americans by law, to buy health insurance. The health insurance companies can’t believe their luck. ”

They can believe it. They wrote the bill.

I won’t emmesh myself in this argument, but will point out, that there are more than just left versus right struggles in US politics. One important thing is the states versus the Washington government, and the Tea Party has a big influence from this issue. Now, many this side of the Atlantic can understand this when it’s Scotland getting devolution, on the grounds that they are capable of handling their own affairs, and London is distant. So, you’ve got no reason to reject the same sentiments in America, which is a lot bigger than the UK, not to mention the structure of the Constitution and the specific rules laid out in the 9th and 10th Amendments.

Also, describing the shades of view within conservatism and the GOP simply in terms of how far from the supposed moderate centre is reducto ad absurdum, especially when you consider the neo-con death cult of Cheney/Rumsfeld etc. If you want to plot such things on a line, surely these guys are at the extreme end? (Paleo) conservatives who are against the imperialistic policies of the neo-cons and call for small government, ending the drug war etc are far more moderate by any sensible measure. However, because they’re against the GOP establishment, they’re made out to be crazy extremists.

Also I note that there are more elections than only for Congress and the President, there are all the local elections. I dare say a lot of people fired up by the Tea Party got elected to their local school boards, city councils etc.

But the Tea Party is really about shifting the acceptable boundaries of debate, by espousing the politics of the oligarchs whilst pretending to be a grassroots movement . Also it’s not clear that the GOP will be dragged down by the Tea Party just because they are jerks.

Trooper Thompson

“Pretty accurate”

Think I better go and have sit down.


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