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11/8/2012
Can the GOP Win Without the Crazies?

Birthers, truthers, paranoids, conspiracists — the whole angry, resentful, frightened mob of right wingers who make up a good portion of the Republican base scares the wholly living hell out of most of the rest of us. They exist on a different plane of reality — uncomfortable with deep thinking, irrational when their delusions are challenged, and unable to climb out of the echo chamber in which they find comfort and support with other like minded crazies.

Worse than who and what they are, the establishment Republicans and even other rational conservatives tolerate them, dismiss them as inconsequential, or actively encourage them in hopes of using their energy, activism, and money to win office.

I categorize the crazies, recognizing there is overlap in and redundancy in my taxonomy:

1. The Birthers. Still alive and kicking and insisting that either a) Obama wasn’t born here; or b) he is an illegitimate president because he’s not a “natural born citizen.” They’ve only got 4 more years to prove their case.

2. Conspiracists. Runs the gamut from the birther issue mentioned above to the idea that hundreds of reputable scientists are colluding to cook the books on global warming. Several prominent congressmen - Michele Bachmann among them — have joined this group by wondering if Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s close aide, isn’t a Muslim Brotherhood plant.

3. Anti-Science crackpots. Enter the evangelical right who dismisses evolution, the Big Bang Theory, as well as other right wingers who worry about vaccinations and are convinced a woman can’t get pregnant from rape because her body automatically shuts down to prevent it.

4. Anti-intellectual. Dismissing out of hand any criticism from anyone who they believe isn’t a conservative. They are suspicious of anyone who went to an Ivy League school or who thinks for a living, and they reflexively reject nuance and logic because if you don’t feel it in your gut, you’re probably a squishy moderate.

5. Paranoids. Pure Hofstadter. Read.

6. Cry “Communist!” and let slip the dogs of war! Is there anything loopier about the crazies than their belief that the US is turning into a Marxist dictatorship? Sheesh.

It is an open question how large this segment of “conservatives” might be. Being in a better position than most to hazard an intelligent guess, I would put the percentage at more than 25% but less than 35%. I don’t believe any polls on the matter for the simple reason that the way questions about birtherism or socialism are formulated sweeps up many on the right who have questions about such things, but don’t give them much credence.

So, how much did fear and loathing of the GOP crazies by ordinary voters contribute to the party’s debacle on Tuesday?

On Wednesday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray said the decisive Senate victories for her party had “proved to Republicans that extremists are dooming their party to disaster.”

“If Republicans want to follow the Tea Party off a political cliff, that’s their prerogative,” Murray said on a conference call with reporters. “But we will not let them take America off a cliff.”

Sorry, but it’s far more complicated than that. The self identified “Tea Party” has many faces, many factions — some of whom are rational libertarians, thoughtful federalists, or plain old Main Street Republicans.

But there is no doubt that the energy, the dynamism, and the soul of the Tea Party movement can be found in the angry, contorted faces of its members screaming about “Communism” and “Socialism” at rallies across the land. They are a fraternity of, for the most part, middle aged, Middle Class angry white males who believe they see the country they grew up in slipping away. Their vision of what America was like — a vision that obscures or ignores the more unseemly aspects of American society in decades past — lives on in Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” (a phrase The Gipper stole from Puritan leader John Winthrop). It’s a precious, if completely fanciful vision of an America that never was, but is embraced because it validates the sincere patriotic feelings felt by most ordinary Americans. They fear change because it is unsettling to have America’s perfection challenged in such a stark and obvious way.

America is changing — has always changed — and this has always unnerved some of us. It’s too easy to explain it away by saying that racism is the motivating factor in their hate. By limiting one’s explanation to the loss of white privilege, you lose sight of the traditionalist nature of their opposition to President Obama and his leftist allies.

Ed Kilgore:

As we have seen throughout history, cultural despair can lead to quiescence—to the withdrawal from politics and the building of counter-cultural institutions—or to hyper-activism—to the building of self-consiously counter-revolutionary political movements that exhibit contempt for democracy and treat opponents as enemies on an almost existential level. Maybe the kind of stuff I quoted above just reflects an emotional hangover from an election conservatives convinced themselves they were going to win. But it’s hardly new; much of the Tea Party Movement and its “constitutional conservative” ideology has involved a strange sort of anti-Americanism cloaked in super-patriotism. It wouldn’t be surprising if the same people reacted to the re-election of Barack Obama by taking their hostility to America as it is to another level.

For better or worse, the Tea Party has become the Tao of the GOP. Trying to remove them would sap most of the energy and activism from the party, which is why you don’t see too many establishment or mainstream Republicans trying to marginalize them.

But despite Kilgore’s use of scare quotes for “constitutional conservative” — as if this isn’t a valid philosophical construct or something to be feared or belittled — there is actually a purpose to the Tea Party’s obsession with the Constitution. The Kilgore’s of the world definitely don’t want to debate this, but the notion of “limited” government is at the heart of the Tea Party critique of the American government. Many of them have almost a biblical belief in the sanctity of the Constitution, that it must be taken literally, word for word like the Bible, and if something like national health care doesn’t appear in it, it is by definition “unconstitutional.” Others have a childlike understanding of the meaning of federalism, or the commerce clause, that makes them suspicious of anything that augments those concepts.

But despite all this, they are the only Americans willing to debate the limits of power granted to the federal government by our founding document. In this respect, the left, who prefer to keep their options open when it comes to defining limits on federal power, finds it convenient to tar tea partiers as racists, or authoritarians, or, as Kilgore does, anti-American. Some may be all of those, but to dismiss the argument they are making with scare quotes and name calling fails to recognize the value in what, in their own misguided way, they are trying to accomplish. I would venture to say that not since the ratification debates of 1787-88 has the Constitution been so seriously studied and debated. It’s a debate that needs to happen if there is any hope of maintaining a healthy balance between individual freedom and the needs of society to progress.

But the Tea Party does not represent the totality of the GOP crazies problem. Radical Christians who want to deny basic rights to gays, and even to women, are a far larger quandary. They vote. And no candidate for the presidency who runs on the Republican ticket can avoid toeing the line on their issues. If Mitt Romney had stood up to them by maintaining his position on gay marriage, abortion and other social issues, it is very likely he would not have been nominated. It’s at least partly the reason that governors like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie refused to enter the GOP field in 2012. Catering to the concerns of people who believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago proves to be too much for some.

It would be a dream solution for the evangelicals, the tea party, and the other crazies to form their own party, as Herman Cain suggested:

Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate who still has a robust following via his popular talk radio program and speaking tours, today suggested the most clear step to open civil war: secession. Appearing on Bryan Fischer’s radio program this afternoon, Cain called for a large faction of Republican Party leaders to desert the party and form a third, more conservative party.

“I never thought that I would say this, and this is the first time publicly that I’ve said it: We need a third party to save this country. Not Ron Paul and the Ron Paulites. No. We need a legitimate third party to challenge the current system that we have, because I don’t believe that the Republican Party … has the ability to rebrand itself,” Cain said.

Rush Limbaugh agrees:

Rush Limabugh, two months ago, echoed the sentiment. ”If Obama wins, let me tell you what it’s the end of: the Republican Party. There’s gonna be a third party that’s gonna be oriented toward conservatism,” he said.

Well, some people’s idea of “conservatism” anyway.

Of course, a third party of anti-abortion and anti-gay activists, evangelical Christians, radical anti-government Objectivists, and paranoid loons would never win a national election. But then, neither would the GOP. This wouldn’t exactly be a split between ideologues and pragmatists, but it would clearly define the divisions in the conservative movement and Republican party in such a way that one or both parties might attract enough Democrats who may be tiring of the relentless liberalism currently in vogue on the left and would seek a different brand of populism or moderate politics.

But for the present, the crazies and the GOP establishment need each other. And unless the pragmatists realize just how much of a drag the crazies are on their political fortunes, the GOP is likely to continue losing mainstream voters who look in askance on a party that tolerates such nuttiness.

By: Rick Moran at 1:59 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

8/8/2011
HOW MUCH IS THE TEA PARTY TO BLAME FOR THE DOWNGRADE?

There are times I want to grab some tea party folk by the neck and try and shake some sense in them. Many of them are, indeed, unreasonable and illogical. Advocating not raising the debt ceiling, forcing the government to cut about 40% of the budget in one year, may not be terrorism but they might as well support detonating an atom bomb in New York City considering the similar effect it would have on the economy. You don’t snatch a trillion and a half dollars out of the economy and not see a collapse of some kind. And if it is Gotterdammerung they seek, let them self-immolate and achieve their irrational goals that way.

But really, it is ridiculous to call this a “Tea Party Downgrade.” There was never, ever a chance that the debt ceiling wouldn’t be raised. Less than 100 tea partiers in the House and a few in the Senate could never have blocked the Congress from raising the debt limit. In fact, it was useful for both sides to use that non-existent threat in order to try and get their way.

The 11th hour nature of the debt deal was pre-ordained. Both sides were going to take the talks to the absolute limit before papering over their differences and reaching an agreement. This is the way things are done in Washington — pandering to both bases, both sides playing politics to the hilt, until at the last possible moment, order is restored and a deal is inked.

Right now, a gigantic game of “Pretend” is being played by those who are blaming the tea party for what appears to be a political decision by S&P to lower our credit rating. Both sides are elevating the tea party far beyond their actual influence, pretending that they were obstructionist hooligans who almost caused a catastrophe. Or, in the case of Republicans, well meaning activists whose whims had to be catered to on the spending issue lest Boehner and other Republicans end up being primaried by tea party candidates. This is nonsense. The Tea Party doesn’t have that kind of electoral clout. And while they may score a victory here and there (Senator Lugar seems especially vulnerable), their candidates were soundly defeated in primaries against most GOP incumbents in 2010. (They fared much better in open primaries but only 32% of Tea Party backed candidates won in the general election.)

Pretending what isn’t so in this case was extremely useful to both sides; it gave Boehner an excuse to rule out tax increases and gave Obama a foil upon which he could impale the Republicans while agreeing to a deal without an increase in taxes. Obama, running for re-election, knows full well that raising taxes on anybody - even the rich - is bad politics in an election season. It is not surprising that he “caved” on the tax issue — a stratagem, the logic of which has escaped his more rabid liberal supporters.

I can’t believe that John Boehner didn’t know that no deal he came up with would satisfy the radical libertarians and far right wackos who supported sending the American economy to guillotine. I predicted back in May that there was no deal save balancing the budget now, today, that would placate the extremists who are the most visible members (but not a majority) of the tea party. In fact, if they supported any agreement, it would be the end of them. The Tea Party exists to be contrarians, naysaying is their lifeblood. They cannot exist as majoritarians. The movement would collapse under its own internal contradictions if they ever did achieve power. How could a movement that is, at bottom, anti-government actually run the government?

Neither can I believe that President Obama didn’t realize the same, exact, thing. Thus, this game of Pretend where both sides brought us to the brink, playing out their political games, all the while knowing full well they would come to some kind of arrangement - even if, as it turned out, that the agreement was largely meaningless as a deficit reduction deal.

We are not going to address our deficit problems until our economy is a smoking ruin. Every European nation currently at or near default never addressed their problems either and are now paying for the fact that it is not in the nature of democracies to deal with such intractable issues. Democracy is about consensus and compromise. But the politics that fleshes out a democratic form of government is, unfortunately, made up of politicians, freely elected by the people, who can be unelected in a heartbeat if they were to inflict the kind of pain that will be necessary to solve our spending problems.

The Tea Party doesn’t care about the pain. Like small children, they know what they want and they want it now. But this only makes them juvenile delinquents, not terrorists. They might get some credit for altering the conversation in Washington to reflect the reality that we have a spending problem, but their unrealistic solutions should receive our disapprobation.

There is no way to get spending under control without cutting entitlements and raising taxes. The longer we wait, the higher the taxes and the more we’ll have to cut. It’s a matter of arithmetic now. The administration’s own estimates have us running up $9 trillion more in debt over the next ten years. And that’s with pie in the sky estimates of growth and the nonsensical notion that interest rates won’t rise, thus massively increasing the amount we pay to service our debt.

Within this coming decade, the dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency, we will probably be downgraded further, we will experience at least another recession - or two - and since neither side has the answer to the crisis, we will probably see a string of one term presidents and control of the legislature see-sawing back and forth every two to four years.

And then? Terra Incognito as the ancient mariners used to call uncharted waters. If I’m lucky, I won’t live to see it.

By: Rick Moran at 12:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

9/17/2010
TEA PARTY DEFINES LOSING AS WINNING

What’s not to love about a headline like that if you’re a conservative?

Judging by the more than 100 comments that have been spewed onto the Pajamas Media site in just a few hours in response to my latest article, my guess is that I have become as popular as Christine O’Donnell at an AVN Awards Show.

Already a legend, I am become myth, the destroyer of America, the bane of tea party patriots, a traitor, a heretical gadfly that either, 1) nobody ever reads; or 2) will be solely responsible if Mouse Brain loses in Delaware.

A sample:

Jeri Thompson is telling us that Christine O’Donnell is like Sarah Palin and just needs GOP “establishment” support to win in November. She will need considerably more than that, including one of those neuralizers from Men in Black to flash the entire population of Delaware and make them forget some of the loonier things O’Donnell has said about sex, about Vince Foster, and about her own financial history about which she has lied and lied again.

O’Donnell may in fact win. By November, the Democrats might be in such bad odor with the public that a pie-eyed prostitute, much less a prevaricating lightweight, could get elected in opposition to a Democrat. But chances are O’Donnell will be slaughtered and the likelihood of a GOP takeover of the Senate — already a long shot — will go down the tubes.

Yes, but the tea party people stuck it to the establishment. They woke up the elites. They put the fear of God into McConnell. They made Boehner wet his pants.

They sent a message!

Is it a good thing that the GOP establishment got pwned? Or that a bucket of cold water was tossed on the sleeping elites? Or that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner lost control of their bodily functions and now know the real meaning of electoral fear? Sure it is. But how that relates to winning, governing, and stopping the far left schemes of Obama and the Democrats is sort of murky.

By: Rick Moran at 9:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/10/2010
WHAT IN GOD’S NAME ARE CONSERVATIVES SUPPORTING CHRISTINE O’DONNELL FOR?

I have been writing for nearly two years about how conservatives have to be more pragmatic in deciding whom to support for office if they expect to bring conservative governance to Washington.

A couple of weeks after the 2008 election, I wrote this:

Republicans are about ready to fall into a couple of traps that losing parties apparently can’t avoid when the dust settles following a debacle such as they have experienced the last two election cycles. The first is the belief that the reason for being rejected by the voters is that their candidates weren’t “pure” enough ideologically and that only by pushing forward “true conservatives” can the GOP find its way back.

I don’t dispute the necessity for putting up more conservatives for office. But the idea that you can have some kind of lock step litmus tests to determine who a “true” conservative might be is nuts - and counterproductive. There are plenty of competitive congressional districts where one of those “true” conservatives would get slaughtered by most Democrats. When 70% of the country does not identify itself as “conservative,” you are deliberately setting up the GOP for defeat if you advocate only “real” conservatives receive support.

There are candidates that would be completely acceptable to the vast majority of conservatives who would fail some of the litmus tests given by the base. A party that seeks to diminish its ranks by making membership dependent on a rigid set of positions on issues is a party doomed to maintaining its minority status. The Democrats made the exact same mistake in 2000 and it cost them in 2002 and 2004.

Fast forward to today and the senate race in the state of Delaware. The GOP primary features the moderately liberal, longtime GOP mainstay Mike Castle facing off against an extraordinarily flawed, but “true” conservative candidate in Christine O’Donnell.

O’Donnell is a tea party darling despite the fact that she has the ethics of an alley cat and the brains of a mouse. She is a fatally flawed candidate in so many ways that it is not even a question of supporting a RINO like Castle vs. a “true” conservative like O’Donnell. Rather, it is a question of opposing a paranoid, deadbeat, lightweight who has pulled some personal and professional financial shenanigans that would disqualify her from not only holding public office, but also being employed as a responsible manager at any legitimate company.

In a radio interview last June, she lied about not having a federal tax lien on her house despite the fact that anyone with a modest ability at using search engines could find it. When the bank threatened to foreclose on her house, serving her personally with papers, she chalked it up to a “technical error by the bank” despite the fact that once again, anyone who bothered to do a little searching could find the mortgage company’s filing.

It turns out that O’Donnell is a deadbeat. She stopped paying her mortgage in October of 2007 while the bank filed the papers in March of 2008 to seize the house. She refused to contest the case and a summary judgment of foreclosure was entered against the property in May. According to a Lexis-Nexis search, the foreclosure was “stayed” - the house had been foreclosed but the sheriff sale had not commenced - when she sold the house to her boyfriend and legal counsel who then paid the outstanding balance as well as more than $2,000 in interest and legal fees.

When questioned about all of this, she has continuously and shamelessly lied. She has attributed the tax lien to “thug politics” and actually denied the property had a lien in the first place. She denied she sold her home while it was in foreclosure despite clear evidence to the contrary.

For months, O’Donnell denied her house had ever been in foreclosure. She simply stopped making payments in October 2007 and never made any move to contest the proceedings and would not “appear, plead or otherwise defend” herself against the mortgage company filing.

The lies don’t stop there. Incredibly, she owes her employees from the 2008 campaign thousands of dollars in unpaid salary and expenses.

Aides who worked for Ms. O’Donnell’s 2008 campaign against then-Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. claim that she withheld thousands of dollars in promised salary and never reimbursed them for out-of pocket expenses.

“Once I and others found out about her personal financial crises and her degree, we left,” David Keegan, a former aide, told The New York Times on Friday. “We were constantly trying to hold her back from spending. She was financially completely irresponsible.”

Yes, but at least she wants to save Western Civilization by being opposed to doing the nasty-nasty unless your conjugal bliss occurs within the legal framework supplied by a marriage license.

O’Donnell responds to a couple of these matters here. She does not retract her past false statements claiming her house was never in foreclosure, obfuscating the issue by claiming she was accused of losing the house. The charge is that she avoided a sheriff’s sale only by selling the house to her attorney/boyfriend (the evidence that the house had been foreclosed on is iron clad, linked above). No defense against not paying her employees salary and expenses, and her explanation of why the IRS filed a tax lien against her house and why it wasn’t resolved until 2010 is ridiculous. She says she had been working with the IRS prior to the filing of the lien, proving her intent to pay her taxes and that when the issue was resolved in March of this year, the IRS admitted the lien was a “computer error.”

Proof that she was working with the IRS is proof of nothing. If she refused to pay or couldn’t come up with the taxes, the IRS would slap a lien on your property even if you were meeting with them to resolve the situation. In fact, the document she supplies shows the lien was assessed in 2006 - three years before she began to meet with the IRS to resolve the matter.

And the document she supplies that shows the IRS releasing her property contains no explanation, and especially none relating to “computer error” even though she makes that claim in her defense.

Yet, in March, rather than a letter finalizing the appeals process, I received an erroneous tax lien claiming I had not responded to their previous correspondence. The IRS admitted the letter was a mistake, issued a Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien on May 19, 2010 and chalked it up to a “computer error.” The remaining balance was paid in full on May 16, 2010, clearly proving yet again that my political opponent is desperate and because of which he is ignoring the facts and circulating copies of the erroneous lien to reporters and bloggers.

According to the document supplied by O’Donnell herself, the lien was assessed in 2006 for taxes owed in 2005. The letter from the IRS appeals officer only mentions efforts by O’Donnell to pay off the back taxes from 2005 beginning late last year - just about the time a candidate would begin preparing to run for office. Why does O’Donnell try and make it appear that the tax lien, in place since 2006, was only issued - erroneously - during the final stages of the appeals process early this year?

Also, if you read that letter from the IRS appeals officer, you are immediately struck by its insane incoherence. Is the IRS guy that stupid? Or were certain damning words and sentences dropped from that letter by the O’Donnell campaign? Given O’Donnell’s history of lies, either explanation is likely.

Tea party types who support O’Donnell remind me of liberal Democrats who recently praised Charlie Rangel at his birthday party. He may be a crooked sonofabitch but he’s OUR crooked sonofabitch. As long as their heart is in the right place on the issues, many personal peccadilloes can be forgiven - or ignored.

But the argument over O’Donnell doesn’t rest on her lack of integrity. How could it? Rational people residing in the state of Delaware can be counted on to take one look at O’Donnell and either stay at home on election day or hold their noses and vote for the Democrat. The argument made by the ideologues is that she is a superior conservative to Castle and deserves support no matter how personally flawed her character - or that the huge body of evidence for her lack of personal integrity is either manufactured or doesn’t exist.

I would not employ a person of such low character if I owned a company. And the fact that “real” conservatives want to send this tax avoiding, deadbeat liar to Washington who stiffs her employees out of their rightful wages, paints herself as the victim of dirty tricks when it is her own flawed character that is the cause of her miseries, and represents exactly the sense of entitlement and greed that they purport to oppose, shows that the ideologues care less about the integrity of our representatives than they do the purity of their beliefs.

By: Rick Moran at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

9/7/2010
WHY NOT HOLD A TEA PARTY PROTEST AGAINST KORAN BURNING?

Tea party folk become outraged at just about anything that President Obama and the Democrats try to accomplish these days. I do too.

Now it’s time to step up and defend America and our Constitution against a different foe; the preacher who is planning to burn Korans on September 11 of this year.

As bad as Obama has been, there is nothing more destructive of the Constitution’s spirit and letter than burning the Koran - or any book for that matter. What this Reverend Jones is planning on doing is so antithetical to Americanism that any red-blooded tea party patriot should be steaming at the very thought that this glory-seeking preacher wants to besmirch our most sacred values by imitating Nazi brownshirts at their worst who piled high books by Jewish authors at Nuremberg and set fire to them.

There is no difference - none - between the 50 or so members of the Dove World Outreach Center and mindless Nazi drones if they carry through with this plan. This is really a no brainer for the tea party groups who have shown brilliance in organizing demonstrations against the president and his party. Why not head down to Gainesville, FL where this bunch of drooling mountebanks are about ready to spit on the Constitution, and demonstrate to protect the Koran?

I am absolutely, 100% dead serious about advocating this, despite the fact that such a demonstration will never, ever take place. If tea party groups are so all-fired, hell-bent-for-leather eager to protest against Obama’s questionable and extra-constitutional excesses, why not turn that notion into a crusade to demonstrate the idea that book burning is a slap in the face to our Founders and radically against the very idea of the First Amendment?

Ah, but don’t the inbred Teutons down in Florida have the same First Amendment right to purchase a book with their own money and burn it on private property? Of course they do - just as those who profess a reverence for the Constitution have a duty to protest against their sacrilege. What’s so hard to figure there?

To my mind, using the fact that Jones and his infantile followers have a right to burn a book as an excuse not to show America that the tea party is consistent in their love of the Constitution is hypocritical. Are tea party groups only in love with some of the Constitution? Do they wish only to protect certain sections of it?

And if you’re not going to protest against Nazi book burnings because it violates the spirit of the First Amendment, why not do it for the boys and girls serving in Afghanistan?

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Gen. Petraeus said in an interview. “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”

Hundreds of Afghans attended a demonstration in Kabul on Monday to protest the plans of Florida pastor Terry Jones, who has said he will burn copies of Islam’s holy book to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afghan protesters chanted “death to America,” and speakers called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops. Some protesters threw rocks at a passing military convoy.

Military officials fear the protests will likely spread to other Afghan cities, especially if the event is broadcast or ends up on Internet video.

This fellow Jones obviously doesn’t get it:

Mr. Jones, head of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., said in a statement that “We understand the General’s concerns. We are sure that his concerns are legitimate.” Nonetheless, he added, “We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam. We will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats.”

I would say you are being totally “dominated by their fears and threats” to the point that you would forget what country you live in and channel Adolf Hitler to make your point.

I don’t care what the rabid savages in Muslim countries will do if we burn Korans. If it wasn’t Koran burning, their holy men would find something else to stir up the primitive emotions of the uneducated rabble who can always be counted on to riot and shed blood in the name of Islam when they feel that their juvenile pride has been nicked.

My sole concern is with protecting the legacy of free expression in the United States - a legacy that would be damaged if we burn any book for any reason. Why stop at burning the Koran. Why not move on to 1001 Arabian Nights? Or the diaries of T.E. Laurence? There are dozens of books that deal with the Koran and the Muslim faith, both fiction and non-fiction. If you want to make a symbolic gesture about Islam, why not torch those volumes too?

Peter Wehner is a lot more under control than I am about this:

If he carries through on his plan, then, the actions by Jones may undermine our mission in Afghanistan and threaten the lives of those serving in that theater. People with standing in Jones’s life need to stop him, in part because his actions are deeply antithetical to our founding principles. The Third Reich burned books; those who are citizens of the United States should not.

Jones’s actions would also be an offense against the Christian faith. From what we know, Jesus not only wasn’t an advocate of book-burning; he was a lover of them, most especially the Hebrew Bible, which he often quoted. Beyond that, Christianity is premised on evangelism, on spreading what the faithful believe to be truth about God, history, and the human person. There is nothing that would lead one to embrace coercion or to stoke (literally) the flames of hatred.

Whatever differences the Christian faith has with Islam, they are ones that followers of Jesus need to articulate with reason, with measured words, and with a spirit of grace and understanding. And whatever purpose Jones thinks he’s serving, it is not the purpose of the Prince of Peace. It is, in fact, very nearly its antithesis. We can only hope that this deeply misguided pastor is stopped before he does significant damage to his country, its gallant warriors, and the faith Jones claims as his own.

Jones might not be stopped. But a clear signal of society’s disapproval can be made if tea party folks show up en masse in Gainesville to tell this charlatan that he doesn’t speak for those who love the Constitution and defend it from all besmirchers.

By: Rick Moran at 9:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

7/11/2010
CAN A LITTLE RADICALISM SAVE AMERICA?

This post originally appears on The Moderate Voice

I don’t often write in apocalyptic terms about the current administration, largely because America is too big and government too unwieldy to countenance sudden, dramatic change.

However, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have made it quite obvious that they’re willing to give radicalism the old college try because America pre-Obama was not to their liking. Indeed, a look at America on January 20, 2009 would have revealed a country in need of reform in many areas. Few would argue that the previous administration didn’t leave much to be done in health care, the economy, energy, and the twin wars we are fighting against radical Islam.

The question about Obama’s radicalism has never been that the problems he has sought to address aren’t in need of attention; the question has always been does he have to destroy the America that we have always been to accomplish reform?

If Obama and the Democrats had sought incremental, prudent change while keeping an eye on the federal budget deficit, I doubt very much if the tea party movement would have arisen. Every initiative that the president has undertaken had elements within them that would have enjoyed much broader, bi-partisan support if he had reined in the real radicals in Congress who made no bones about what they were trying to accomplish. From taking over one-sixth of the American economy by federalizing the health care system, to the impossibly wrong headed cap and trade idea, to financial reform that will hog tie the financial industry desperately in need of regulation but not the kind of anti-market rules currently stuck in Congress, President Obama has proven the upside down adage more is less, and much more is unmitigated disaster.

There is nothing “moderate” in any of this. The insistence of many commentators who apparently believe that simple repetition of this “moderate Obama” mantra suffices as far as describing reality would be laughable in another context - pitiful it is in our current dilemma. Using language as a beard to hide the true nature of Obama’s reforms - not to mention out and out lies about the consequences of them - is part of the motivation of the tea party movement. They, like the rest of America, are blessed with two eyes, two ears, and a decent passel of common sense. It’s hard to fool citizens who have taken the measure of this administration’s extremism, and have found much to fear.

Is the fear driven by exaggeration and lies by the opposition? To some extent, yes. But that’s politics that goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson who ran for president in 1800 accusing the Federalists of trying to set up a monarchy and ratcheting up fear and loathing against the opposition by trying to convince voters that John Adams was going to hand America back to the British. It is not an exaggeration to say that the “Democratic Republicans” of Jefferson tried to portray the election as the choice between liberty and tyranny. Needless to say, it worked. And ever since then, both parties have pushed the boundaries of fair play while stretching the truth to the breaking point in order to win in every single election, and when arguing every issue of import in our nation’s history.

More to the point today, the tea party movement is animated by more than “death panels,” and “Obama is a closet Muslim” prevarications. Millions of ordinary Americans have detected a disconnect between what Obama and the Democrats are trying to accomplish to mold America into what their particular vision of our country they wish to realize, and the words, the spirit, and the tradition of the Constitution. In order to change the subject, obfuscating what the tea party movement is really about, we have witnessed desperate attempts to describe their opposition as a by-product of racism, or far right, paranoid delusions. The people aren’t buying it, as evidenced by a strong plurality of citizens who support at least some of what the tea partiers stand for.

Bill Kristol believes that a sense that America is in crisis coupled with “alarm” is what is driving the tea party toward embracing radical change:

This sense of crisis is what animates the Tea Parties. I had the pleasure of attending the “Proud to be an American July 4th Tea Party” outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It featured patriotic songs and speeches, and expressions of support for our troops and praise for our country. Yet the mood of patriotic gratitude was mixed with expressions of alarm from my fellow Tea Partiers about the administration now in charge of our government. The combination of patriotic gratitude and urgent alarm produces a determination to act and a willingness to deal boldly with the crises in the economy, in foreign policy, and in self-government that the country faces.

In this respect, the Tea Parties are ahead of the two major parties. As established political parties are wont to do, both remain constricted in their views, attached to business as usual, and invested in established modes and orders—too much so to easily come to grips with a moment like the present.

Kristol is advocating radicalism to address what ails us:

But the GOP can be the party of the future as well as the present. It can be the party of fundamental reflection and radical choice as well as the party of day-to-day criticism and opposition. This isn’t easy. It can lead to mistakes and missteps, tensions and confusions. But it’s what the moment requires.

So fear not the Tea Parties. Be open to fundamental reforms. Belt-tightening and program-trimming, more transparency and greater efficiency, are not enough. The danger for Republicans isn’t that they will address the current crisis too boldly. It’s that they won’t be bold enough.

Fight radicalism with radicalism? Kristol, as impatient with the notion of evolutionary change as Obama, would substitute Republican “mistakes and missteps, tensions and confusions” for the Democratic blunders and idiocies that we are living through today. At the final bell, we end up in the same place; ideologically driven politicians and agendas that alienate half the country while failing to address the real, intractable, long term problems that threaten our financial future and our traditions of liberty.

The Tea Party movement has its uses as both the sharp end of Republican politics and as a prod to get politicians of both parties to pay attention to what ordinary people are thinking. Kristol is right in describing the reaction of Democrats and Republicans to the tea partiers as still being “attached to business as usual, and invested in established modes and orders…” In this, the tea partiers are enemies of the status quo, and thus, very dangerous to politics as usual. But is what they are advocating - if it can ever be determined exactly what it is they are seeking - as bad in its own way for America as anything the far left Democrats in the White House and Congress have been pushing on us?

Indeed, many in the tea party movement advocate a radical shrinking of government, which would be as damaging in its own way as the gargantuan expansion of government we are experiencing under the current administration. The abandonment of prudence by conservatives - a virtue by which every conservative should try to live their lives - would mean that the right agrees with Obama in principle; that change should not be governed by incrementalism and contemplation of consequences, but rather by whim and emotionalism. Tearing up the social compact between government and citizen and picking up the pieces later on isn’t going to work for Obama and the Democrats and it surely won’t work for Republicans who wish to do the same, albeit hoping for the opposite outcome.

Those, like Kristol, who are dazzled by the Tea Party Movement’s grass roots appeal should resist the idea of revolution and settle on adapting the spirit and patriotism of the tea partiers as the basis for pragamatic change in Washington. Change can be bold without being radical. If that’s the only lesson we learn from the Obama disaster, it will hold us in good stead as conservatives attempt to reclaim power from the radical leftists who are running this country into the ground.

By: Rick Moran at 10:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

5/30/2010
IS ‘LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE’ CONSERVATISM ON THE RISE IN THE GOP?

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

Jacob Weisberg writing in Slate:

One way to understand the divisions in the Republican Party is as a clash of regional philosophies. Northeastern conservatism is moderate, accepts the modern welfare state, and dislikes mixing religion with politics. Western conservatism is hawkish, hates government, and embraces individual freedom. Southern conservatism is populist, draws on evangelical Christianity, and plays upon racial resentments. The big drama of the GOP over the past several decades has been the Northeastern view giving way to the Southern one. To see this transformation in a single family, witness the shift from George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush.

Yet since the second Bush left the White House, something different appears to be happening in Republicanland: a shift away from Southern-style conservatism to more of a Western variety. You see this in the figures who have dominated the GOP since Barack Obama’s election 19 months ago: Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rand Paul. You see it in the right’s overarching theme: opposition to any expanded role for government, whether in promoting economic recovery, extending health care coverage, or regulating financial markets. You see it most strongly in the Tea Party movement that in recent months has captured the party’s imagination and driven its agenda.

Although marked by a cartoonish analysis (Southern Conservatives are walking around with a bible in one hand and the constitution in the other), Weisberg gets it. What the Tea Party people represent - and it’s an attitude that the Southern Conservatives are beginning to adopt - is what Weisberg correctly alludes to as “soft libertarianism.” In historical terms, it presages Goldwater by about 100 years or more, although Goldwater was it’s modern equivalent.

It’s what we used to call the “pioneering spirit” best illustrated by by those hardy folk who settled the lands beyond the Mississippi River. Note I write “settled” rather than “explored.” Those who first mapped the trails that led to the hundreds of thousands of easterners making their way west, as well as the early traders, Mountain Men, and ne’er do wells who roamed the wilderness searching for their fortune, had no interest in “settling” or “pioneering” anything. They were closer to anarchists than pioneers. Government - any kind of government - established anywhere near them was considered a threat.

The genuine pioneers on the other hand, recognized that government must be established wherever they laid down roots if only for their own protection. While establishing a strong, self reliant credo, they nevertheless turned to Washington to protect them from the depredations of Indians (riled by the settlers who built on disputed lands), as well as protecting the railroads and regulating the rivers so that the fruits of their labors had a ready market where they could be sold.

In short, where Weisberg portrays Western Conservatism as something akin to the anarchists who opened the West, they were, in fact, not hostile to government at all. Being Americans of that time, they had no cause to support welfare or social engineering schemes. And if Weisberg would take the time to read and understand what the Tea Party people are all about, he would realize that it is not social welfare programs that these Conservatives oppose. Rather, they believe that these programs are best run by the states, and that Washington has no business dictating social policy. In short, it’s a more robust federalism that most of these Western Conservatives are espousing.

Yes, there are some in this camp who believe all welfare should come from churches and private institutions, with no government involvement at all in creating a safety net for the poor. Similarly, like Governor Perry of Texas (who straddles the Southern/Western conservative divide), there are some who think that beyond establishing a national defense and running foreign policy, the federal government should leave the rest to the states.

Perry said in his speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that the only things the federal government should be doing:, “Have a strong military, secure our borders, and deliver the mail on time. And that’s it. … And until you can get those three right, how about leaving everything else alone?”

Not even Goldwater would go that far, and these activists have about as much chance of realizing that dream as Ron Paul has of getting elected president.

Mainstream Tea Party activists are opposing the Obama agenda on tactical grounds, as well as the simple principle that what the president is attempting with health care, cap and trade, financial reform, and other agenda items is imprudent, unworkable, and goes far beyond any rational, reasonable response to what he is trying to fix.

It continues to amaze me that pundits like Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Ygelsias, and now Weisberg constantly refer to President Obama as a “moderate” or a “moderate liberal.” Moderates do not name Van Jones to any position of responsibility within 5,000 miles of Washington, D.C. Nor does a “moderate liberal” tear apart something as interwoven into the lives of individual citizens and the entire American economy as the health care system is, and replace it literally with God knows what. Also, moderates do not show up on the National Journal’s ranking of liberal senators as number one - ever.

These pundits are mystified by the Tea Party’s opposition to these fantastically imprudent legislative initiatives because they fail to understand the underlying rationale of most Tea Party activists. These are communitarian efforts to remake America into something alien, subsuming individual rights in a miasmic fog of positive rights for which there is no basis in the Constitution, nor connection to tradition, First Principles, or common sense.

It can be said that the Tea Party opposition to these initiatives has a decidedly partisan bent. Not wanting to give Obama and the Democrats anything resembling a victory is at the heart of their efforts. A glance at the previous 8 years of opposition to the Bush agenda for exactly the same reasons shows where that idea came from.

But if McCain had been elected, he too would have been forced by dint of political necessity to come up with answers to many of the issues that Obama has dealt with. I doubt very much if a GOP-written health insurance reform bill would have been met with the kind of opposition that the Tea Party activists gave Obamacare. And the necessity for some kind of financial regulation to rein in the big banks and deal with some of the underlying causes of the financial meltdown would have been unavoidable. There probably would have been no Tea Party movement in the first place.

What Weisberg and other liberal pundits fail to grasp is that while I agree there is a sizable segment among Western and Southern conservatives who ascribe to the “Leave me the hell alone” school of conservatism, it is tempered by the reality of the majority who don’t want to get rid of government, but rather make it the servant of the people and not the other way around. The preferred way to do this is re-establish a robust federalism where tax money and social programs - as much as it is practicable - are transferred to state governments. This is a lot different than the anarchists that Weisberg and others portray the Tea Party activists.

Perhaps if they took off their rose colored glasses through which they view the president, they might better understand the real pluses and minuses of the Tea Party rather than the shallow, cartoonish view they currently hold.

By: Rick Moran at 11:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/21/2010
RECONNECTING WITH THE CONSTITUTION AND ITS PRINCIPLES

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

Something remarkable has been happening in America since even before President Obama took office. There has been a dedicated effort on both sides of the political divide to reconnect with our founding document and its principles in an effort to understand, and counteract what they see as dangerous unconstitutional actions by our government.

It is more widespread today than it was in the Bush years, but even then there were many on the left who worried about the increase in executive power the Bush administration was accumulating and we witnessed many ordinary citizens earnestly studying the Constitution in their efforts to place the actions of Bush in a constitutional framework. The resulting criticism was, at least in some part, reasonable and rational while being based on sound constitutional arguments.

But this effort was but a prologue to the tsunami of interest in the Constitution evinced by the tea party movement and conservatives generally once the massive spending and power grabs of the Obama administration began. Probably millions of ordinary citizens are reading and trying to understand the Ur document of America’s founding given that the pocket sized edition of the Constitution is passed out at every tea party meeting across the country. I commented on this phenomenon following my visit to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference:

It may seem to some a quaint exercise in good citizenship for these millions to wrestle with such convoluted and complex questions as the meaning and reach of the commerce clause or the constitutionality of the individual mandate to buy health insurance. The condescension is misplaced — and totally unwarranted.

The Constitution was not written in legalese despite the presence of so many lawyers at the Constitutional Convention. It was written in plain, accessible English so that the document could be read and understood by ordinary Americans. It was printed in newspapers, slapped on the walls near the village commons, and mailed far and wide. It was discussed in churches, in public houses, at family dinners, and between neighbors from New England to Georgia.

Never before in history had a country thought and debated itself into existence. When that generation of Americans looked at our founding document, could they have imagined that one day a congressman would say that the Constitution doesn’t matter? Or that congressmen could not answer the question of where in the Constitution did it authorize the federal government to force citizens to buy health insurance?

What does it matter today that ordinary people are reading and interpreting the Constitution in their own way, without reference to precedent or knowledge of specific court cases that have laid out the grid work upon which the powers and responsibilities of government have been constructed? After all, they can interpret the Constitution from here to doomsday and it won’t matter a fig to the Supreme Court. Those nine robed magistrates will work their will regardless of popular sentiment and, sometimes, common sense.

But in one of the more remarkable aspects of this revival of interest among the citizenry of the meaning and purpose of the Constitution, it doesn’t matter what the Supremes think, or the elites, or the sickeningly condescending left who sneer at talk of the Tenth Amendment or strict constructionism. What matters is the effort itself — that people are becoming more engaged in what their government is up to than they have been in a very long time.

What does this mean? The Hill reports a run on the Constitution booklet at the Government Printing Office:

Since September 2009, the GPO has sold more than 8,700 copies of the pocket Constitution to the public, according to GPO spokesman Gary Somerset. That is a higher sell rate than in recent years.

Those sales are in addition to the thousands of copies given to members of Congress each year. Congress authorized a resolution in 2009 to print 441,000 copies for the use of the House (1,000 for each member) and 100,000 copies for the Senate (1,000 for each senator).

The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, which keep statistics on the Constitution, also say that requests for the historical document are on the rise.

GPO sells copies for $2.75, but constituents can request a free one from their lawmaker.

Congressional offices are burning through theirs stacks of pocket Constitutions.

In a recent “Dear Colleague” letter titled “Order More Pocket Constitutions!” House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) advised members to take advantage of a special rate.

The letter stated, “Many Members have lately experienced a large increase in constituent requests for the Pocket Constitution. Members who may need more are invited to take advantage of a special, pre-publication ‘rider-rate’ of $390 per 1,000 copies. This rider rate of 39¢ each represents a substantial savings over the post-publication price of $2.75 each ($2,750 per 1,000) available later through the GPO Sales Program.”

There’s been nothing like it in my lifetime and no similar wave of interest in the Constitution that I can fathom from my own reading of history. Perhaps not since the debate on ratification itself have so many ordinary Americans struggled with trying to interpret and understand what Madison, Mason and their compatriots wrought 222 years ago this summer.

Ed Meese from Heritage’s Constitution Center:

“I think there is more interest now than I’ve seen in the last many years, and I think it’s because people are really worried about whether the federal government is getting so large, so expansive, so intrusive and so powerful that the Constitution is in jeopardy.”

Can the naysayers who pooh-pooh American exceptionalism explain this phenomenon in the context of other nations’ citizens carrying on this way? I doubt it. We Americans have always had a reverence for our founding document that transcends the words on the page and becomes sublime veneration - almost a civic bible.

In this, there is danger. There are many in the tea party movement as well as in some boisterous conservative circles who posit the notion that if something is not in the Constitution, then it is, quite simply unconstitutional. Nothing in there about health insurance so of course, it’s not legal. We don’t see the words “Cap and Trade” so we have to oppose it as a measure not authorized in our founding document.

These are people who actually think of the Constitution the same way they think of the Bible; immutable, unchanging, and holy writ. There is no “interpreting” the document because the words are themselves good enough to cover any eventuality that may arise.

This is wrongheaded, of course, but there are many of us who wish government erred more toward that interpretation than toward the present “anything goes” free for all where the Constitution is stretched beyond recognition to cover one scheme or another that seeks to separate Americans from their liberty.

It is here where the debate cleaves the sharpest; is the Constitution a guidebook that government is to follow or is it a suggestion box whose codicils are used to justify power grabs? It seems at times that we use the Constitution to absolve and exonerate rather than trying to grapple with connecting what is being adjudicated to the intent of the Founders.

I know that intentionalism is in pretty bad odor on the left and indeed, carried to extremes it is a pernicious doctrine. But if you are going to respect what’s in the Constitution, it seems like simple common sense to respect the intent of those who wrote it. Obviously, the framers didn’t have a clue about our modern world. They designed a government to cover the exigencies of a 18th century coastal republic of 7 million freemen. But neither could they envision a day when their basic intent of creating a nation of limited government, expansive individual rights, and the protection of property was tossed aside in the name of modernity.

Will all of this interest in the Constitution make a practical difference in our politics and culture? I am anxious to see the answer to that question play out over the next few years.

By: Rick Moran at 12:49 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

5/11/2010
BENNETT’S MISTAKE: TOO RATIONAL FOR THE GOP

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

How can you claim that a senator who has a lifetime score of 85 from the American Conservative Union to be “not conservative enough” for any state?

You can if you are a member of the modern Republican party. You can if the senator in question - Bob Bennett of Utah - made the horrible mistake of taking his responsibilities as a senator seriously. Senator Bennett was unaware that the modern Republican party demands that he seek to constantly score political points against his opponents by exaggerated and outrageous name calling rather than thoughtfully approach issues that concern his constituents and look to address their problems.

For this, he has been tossed aside by Utah Republicans and will not appear on the ballot this November.

Bennett, along with his Democratic colleague from Oregon Ron Wyden, made a serious attempt to address the health insurance problem in America with a flawed, but earnest effort at comprehensive reform. Called “The Healthy Americans Act,” the bill incorporated some standard liberal thinking like an individual mandate, but was also innovative in the way costs would be shared and how the program would be administered at the state level. It would also have done away with Medicaid - a plus in any conservative’s book. In short, it was a good old fashioned senate compromise on a thorny issue that, in another less mindlessly partisan time, would have served as a starting point for the two parties to work out their differences.

It wasn’t just his dalliance with the “enemy” that angered right wingers in Utah. Bennett courageously voted against the Constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning back in 2006 - one of only three GOP senators to do so. He also supported comprehensive immigration reform. While there was a lot wrong with that bill, the guest worker provision had broad bi-partisan support and Bennett worked tirelessly to improve it. As for the rest of it, the best that could be said of the measure was that it was attempting to address a problem for which there are probably no good answers. That Bennett felt responsible enough as a legislator to lend his name and support to the bill reveals much about how seriously he views his office.

Alas, Bennett’s base of conservatives in Utah didn’t see it that way. Egged on by a massive infusion of cash by the Washington, D.C. based Club For Growth, Utah conservatives plotted to ambush Bennett at the state convention where he needed at least 40% of the delegates to vote for his candidacy in order for him to take part in a closed primary with the other leading candidate. (If he had received 60%, he would have won the nomination outright.)

In the end, Bennett received 26% at the convention and his 18 year senate career of exemplary public service will come to an end. Chris Chocola, President of Club for Growth, who poured $200,000 into the effort to defeat Bennett, said, “Utah Republicans made the right decision today for their state and sent a clear message that change is finally coming to Washington.” The CFG is angry at Bennett for supporting TARP in the fall of 2008 – a bill desired by a Republican president and pushed by a Republican Treasury Secretary.

How “conservative” is making a change simply for the sake of change? Not very conservative at all. And despite the fact that polls showed a plurality of Utah Republicans supported Bennett’s candidacy, he was defeated largely because he is identified with a GOP leadership that is perceived as insufficiently rabid in their opposition to President Obama and the Democrats. The Tea Party forces don’t want cooperation with the opposition to address the pressing needs of the people; they want war. And any Republican incumbent viewed as less than ideologically committed to total victory will be in trouble this year.

Senator Bob Bennett may not be as far to the right as many Republicans in Utah would wish. But their loss is more than they can imagine. A senator with Bennett’s seniority shouldn’t be sidelined so precipitously, and it very well may be that right wingers in Utah will rue the day they so gleefully shelved a fine public servant.

By: Rick Moran at 9:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

5/10/2010
OUR TEA PARTY PATRIOTS AT WORK

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

What do you get when tea party activists team up with Ron Paulbots?

A nightmare:

The official platform for the Republican Party of Maine is now a mix of right-wing fringe policies, libertarian buzzwords and outright conspiracy theories.

The document calls for the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve, demands an investigation of “collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth,” suggests the adoption of “Austrian Economics,” declares that “‘Freedom of Religion’ does not mean ‘freedom from religion’” (which I guess makes atheism illegal), insists that “healthcare is not a right,” calls for the abrogation of the “UN Treaty on Rights of the Child” and the “Law Of The Sea Treaty” and declares that we must resist “efforts to create a one world government.”

It also contains favorable mentions of both the Tea Party and Ron Paul. You can read the whole thing here.

Dan Billings, who has served as an attorney for the Maine GOP, called the new platform “wack job pablum” and “nutcase stuff.”

I would say that Mr. Billings sums it up nicely, although most of the really objectionable stuff is straight out of the Ron Paul playbook. Ridding ourselves of the Fed is the first step on the road back to a gold standard, a dubious idea that Milton Friedman pointed out would increase government regulation of the economy:

With no Fed, inexpert Congress will bear the onus of alleviating economic suffering. With deeper, longer recessions, Congressmen will inevitably succumb to pressure for more spending and regulation of the economy–as they did during the Great Depression.

How about eliminating the Department of Education? When first proposed by Ronald Reagan, the Department was in its infancy, only sucking up $6 billion dollars of taxpayer monies and serving as a repository for federal education programs that previously had existed in the various departments.

No more today. The Department is now a $60 billion behemoth with almost every school district in the country dependent on its largess. Cutting it down to size while gradually getting the feds out of the education business might be more to the point. But for our tea party patriots, no half measures and nothing “gradual” allowed.

But it is the conspiracy mongering that should give us the most pause. Putting paranoid loons in charge of the GOP in Maine who believe in a global warming “conspiracy” involving industry and government and that there is any possibility on planet earth that we would be yoked under some kind of “one world government” is madness.

Are all tea party patriots inclined to believe this “whack job pablum?” Certainly not all, although if you spend much time listening to them, similar sentiments are expressed by many. As a free standing group of activists dedicated to fiscal sanity and constitutional principles, the tea party movement has a vital role to play in any American revival. But as purely political animals, they are a washout. There are a sizable number of birthers among them, and a significant number who believe Obama is a Muslim, or favors Muslims, or is working for their interests. I hate to bring up the “R” word but yes, there is a small but significant number who are racists as well.

In short, while the majority of tea partiers are average, normal Americans with pretty standard views, there is a sizable segment of the movement that makes them a political liability. Another case in point was the tea party revolt in Utah that ousted Senator Bob Bennett. For someone who has a lifetime rating of 85 from the ACU, it is amazing to think that Bennett wouldn’t be “conservative enough” for any state in the union. But Utah Republicans had a few beefs with the senator and not even a last minute plea from Mitt Romney - popular in the state for his stewardship of the Salt Lake City Olympics - could save his political hide.

Other factors besides Bennett’s obvious conservatism were in play. Bennett, along with his Democratic colleague from Oregon Ron Wyden, made a serious attempt to address the health insurance problem in America with a flawed, but earnest effort at comprehensive reform. Called “The Healthy Americans Act,” the bill incorporated some standard liberal thinking like an individual mandate, but was also innovative in the way costs would be shared and how the program would be administered at the state level. It would also have done away with Medicaid - a plus in any conservative’s book. In short, it was a good old fashioned senate compromise on a thorny issue that, in another less mindlessly partisan time, would have served as a starting point for the two parties to work out their differences.

It wasn’t just his dalliance with the “enemy” that angered right wingers in Utah. Bennett courageously voted against the Constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning back in 2006 - one of only three GOP senators to do so. He also supported comprehensive immigration reform. While there was a lot wrong with that bill, the guest worker provision had broad bi-partisan support and Bennett worked tirelessly to improve it. As for the rest of it, the best that could be said of the measure was that it was attempting to address a problem for which there are probably no good answers. That Bennett felt responsible enough as a legislator to lend his name and support to the bill reveals much about how he views his responsibilities.

To get rid of a senator of Bennett’s seniority and experience is the most unconservative thing the tea party movement has done to date. To effect change simply to realize change is the antithesis of conservative thinking and the excessive partisanship demonstrated by activists in Utah who hated Bennett for working with “the enemy” does not serve the interests of their state.

Maine and Utah are the first stirrings of tea party activists flexing their muscles in the political arena. They may see success where failure is the real outcome.

By: Rick Moran at 9:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)