Tea Party Madness In America

The Mad Hatters Of The Tea Party

It was inevitable after two wave elections favoring Democrats that there be a correction to restore balance — however, no one envisioned the Tea Party. The education of Tea Party supporters to the confines of working in Washington is going to be a wondrous thing to watch, and it should begin very soon. Like right after January 20.

One of the first considerations for the new Congress will be increasing the debt ceiling to allow the United States government to continue operating. It will be the first opportunity for the new kids on the block to demonstrate for their voters how they will behave in relation to the Republican Party and the responsibilities that come with being elected. Will they draw hard lines in the sand and refuse to capitulate, or will they be co-opted by political realities within their first 30 days?

That the Tea Party could field and elect so many candidates is a function of Barack Obama’s legislative priorities. Recognizing he might never have 60 Democratic Senators again, he chose to go for broke on healthcare reform, and he won, but was in turn thwarted in attempts to pass meaningful jobs legislation. It’s the resultant pain felt by Americans that’s fueled the Tea Party’s rise to national prominence. For the next two years, Obama will have to deal with the consequences of that decision.

Regardless of what Tea Partiers may believe, there are thousands of American corporations with their lips firmly affixed to the government teet, and they want to be paid. Mainstream Republicans recognize that fact, and have always been loath to shut down the government in any other than a symbolic fashion, but will the Tea Party’s constituents understand? Despite the fact that the budget was legislatively approved, a fait accompli, will Rand Paul believe he has the right to line-item veto spending he finds objectionable? Can Mitch McConnell explain to Paul that in order to pay General Dynamics, we must pay the welfare mother as well?

Another fiscal policy disaster waiting for them will be the decision to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. They added hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the deficit with the promise of job creation, however Bush created fewer jobs in eight years than any president since the Great Depression. Only the most obtuse still believe that tax credits create jobs, so how will they rationalize continuing the tax cuts for the wealthy, and what programs will they eliminate to pay for them?

The Democrats have their own issues as they regroup for the 2012 elections, not the least of which is moving forward on any meaningful legislation. The GOP’s intent is clearly to obstruct, so what can the Democrats accomplish over the next two years? The hope for them is that the Tea Party is so reactionary that Obama can triangulate and gain the cooperation of mainstream Republicans in order to keep the country functioning.

The fact is that the party base has seized control bodes ill for the Republicans in the long-term. There was similar situation in the late 70s through mid-80s with the Democrats, which is what precipitated the shift to the right we see today. As reasonable Democrats were marginalized by the ideologues, candidates less likely to be elected were fielded because they met some “purity standard,” much like Tea Party candidates today. Intuitively it signals a move back to the left. Karl Rove is working furiously to regain control of the party he built starting in 1980 without significantly marginalizing fringe candidates. It’s unlikely he can succeed, and the Republican brand will take a significant hit.

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Campaign Finance Cartoon

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and Campaign Financing

Can money buy elections? There are many Democrats blaming the results of this election cycle on that very fact, but to what extent did corporate money affect the election? Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Linda McMahon dumped tens of millions of dollars of their own monies into unsuccessful election bids against significantly less well-funded opponents. Coming polls will explain the likely reasons these women lost, but there’s little doubt that the ostentatious spending displays negatively affected more pragmatic voters. At least for now there are people whose votes cannot be bought.

The ultimate wildcards in future elections will be the Millennials and Latinos. Millennials are the 18 to 29-year-old demographic that broke 60-40% for Obama and the Democrats in 2008. Only 11% of them voted in the mid-term election. This generation is naturally progressive, holding vastly different views than their parents or grandparents on cultural issues such as abortion, marijuana, and gay marriage. They are natural born Democrats, but can they be transformed from a demographic into a constituency that reliably shows up on election day?

Latinos gave Harry Reid the election in Nevada, and at this point they appear to be a stronger Democratic constituency than even the Millennials. However, if Democrats fail to produce on meaningful immigration reform it could be a short-lived love affair. Democrats might see reform best left unresolved to use as a wedge issue that forces Latinos to the polls, similar to abortion initiatives that drive fundamentalist Christians, which may work due to the reactionary behaviors of Republicans in states like Arizona. Latinos could be forced to choose between a party unable to pass meaningful immigration reform, and a party that wants to throw them into corporate-run prisons for the unspeakable offense of having brown skin. Not much of a choice.

One thing is for certain: we are about to see some of the most bizarre political gyrations in American history, and if these guys don’t destroy the country in the process, it should be fascinating to watch.

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Larry Wohlgemuth was raised during the tumultuous 60s in the midst of sometimes violent civil rights and antiwar protests. After a stint in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, he earned a BBA degree from Washburn University. Wohlgemuth leans so far to the left he prefers to be called “Comrade”, and his book, “Capitalism’s Final Solution” is planned to be released in the spring, 2011. Larry is a contributor to Prose Before Hos and runs his own blog, It Begs the Question.

See Also: On not being obliged to vote Democrat, Could Be Worse – Could Be 1994, Wall Street’s Useful Idiots, A Judicious Study Of Discernible Reality, 2012 Already Looking Grim For Senate Dems, Christianists In Tea Party Clothing?, There is No Tea Party Movement, Teabonics: The New Official Language of the Tea Party, and Why Democrats lost.

[tags]tea party, 2010 elections, democrats, republicans, party system, campaign finance, realities of washington politics, congress, senate, house of representatives, essay, politics[/tags]

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