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Tilting at Windmills

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October 12, 2009

CREATING A MONSTER.... The right-wing "Tea Party" activists are, obviously, deeply opposed to the Obama White House's policies and the Democratic agenda in general. But Alex Isenstadt reports that they're not especially pleased with the state of the Republican Party, either. Apparently, the Teabaggers think the GOP is too moderate.

While the energy of the anti-tax and anti-Big Government tea party movement may yet haunt Democrats in 2010, the first order of business appears to be remaking the Republican Party.

Whether it's the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates -- even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.

In advance of the 2010 midterms, Republican Party leaders are making recruiting, endorsement, and targeting decisions based on some sense of political pragmatism. Tea Partiers, apparently, aren't especially concerned with the party leaders' preferences, and are backing like-minded candidates, even those taking on GOP incumbents.

As organizers and activists see it, the Republican Party-backed candidates just aren't reliable enough, so Teabaggers are exerting their influence and deemphasizing the notion of a GOP congressional majority. "It's an outgrowth of the frustration people have had with the Republican Party," said Andrew Moylan, director of governmental affairs for the National Taxpayers Union, a group that has played a large role in organizing the tea party movement. "I think a lot of people have been angry at Republicans for betraying our trust."

RedState's Erick Erickson told Isenstadt that Tea Party activists should "put down the protest signs" and "start infiltrating the party," including staging takeovers of local Republican parties.

Now, the notion of hostilities between right-wing activists and really right-wing activists is, to a certain extent, entertaining. State and local Republican parties are already pretty unhinged -- pick a state GOP platform at random and read it -- but that's apparently insufficient.

But the part of this that's really remarkable to me is the notion that the Republican Party of 2009 is just too darn reasonable and open to compromise with those sneaky Democrats, as far as this crowd is concerned.

Yes, the recovery-opposing, nominee-blocking, ACORN-hunting, Fox News-following, health care-rejecting, gay bashing, global warming-denying, scorched earth-raging Republican Party isn't far enough to the right for the Teabggers.

This isn't to say the activists don't have the right to try to take over their party, and drive it over the right-wing cliff. It's their call -- political parties should reflect the values and priorities of their members. But the road to recovery for the Republican Party is to move back towards the American mainstream. The activist base seems to have a far different agenda in mind.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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It just shows what a Godsend it was that McCain backed the TARP bailout -- if he had suspended his campaign, and then REFUSED to accept Bush's plan for shovelling all that money out the door, he might have won.

Folks in these threads like to bitch about how much corporations control politics, which is generally a bit overblown (or self-fulfilling, take your pick) -- the Teabaggers might be a test whether there is anything significant about the Republican party WITHOUT its corporate support.

Or --? Remember that Armey and the National Taxpayers Union have been known to speak for their backers. (The Florida guy attacking Crist for his environmental policies is a hint.) But it's not at all clear that there is much of a Republican Party without these guys, who are seriously alienated from what their party actually IS -- and has always been. Actual employers -- about which Armey knows nothing, having been an academic before politics -- sorta like having lines of credit available to good risks, which is what TARP was all about.

So the Teabaggers aren't just irresponsibly bitching about a tough call that had to be made to create TARP and the save the global economy, which would be politically legit in any case. (Nobody is supposed to LIKE castor oil.)

They're politically calling the GOP's decades-old economic bluff: they're seeing the bogus anti-tax, small government bid the GOP has always made, raising 'em voters, media and candidates-- and calling.

Posted by: theAmericanist on October 12, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Given this and the environment we're in, I feel much like these folks do--but applied to the Democratic party. Too many incumbents are appearing and indeed acting all too comfortable with 'the way things are', which is that the legislative branch acts too much like a club and too little like the people's representatives. There are real problems right now, and too many Democrats are treading too lightly I think, especially in the face of the crazy coming from the right.

Posted by: terraformer on October 12, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Just remember that all important book by Frank Schaffer called "Crazy For God". That is what these people are about. They are waiting, literally, for the 'end times'. Never mind that that is a delusion. These 'humans' entire 'reality' is defined by delusions. And they need these delusions reinforced. Any gets in the way .... well we are seeing it now ..

Posted by: stormskies on October 12, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Evolution.

For years the Republican Party has courted and encouraged the far right evangelical christians to be their foot soldiers. They used them as a dependable block of votes. The the evangelicals began running for school boards, county boards, etc and seeped their way into the Party from the bottom up. The Republican Party ended up being consumed by their own creation.

It was clear during the 2008 campaign that the Republican Party was digging deeper in the muck, and now that element is eating them alive.

Let's face it, they won't make any in roads with African American voters, they've pretty much shut the door on hispanic voters, they insult women every chance they get, they're not appealing to young voters. They really are quickly becoming a fringe party. What will be interesting is when the traditional Republican corporate and big business patrons find themselves threatened by freaks who are taking over the party.

And make no mistake, there's a stink of the white power movement hanging over crowd grabbing onto the Republican Party, and that's a stink you don't wash off. It's only a matter of time before its out in the open and not slinking around the background.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 12, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to add my two cents worth this am on another subject, waking up to hear the insurers making threats that if health ins reform goes through they are going to put premiums up even faster than before.
Is this not the best argument we have heard so far for single payer?

Posted by: JS on October 12, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

So, let's see, Steve agrees with somebody at Politico (!) that the party machine that elected folks like Bachmann, Cantor, Pence, the other Joe Wilson und so weiter, just isn't crazy enough?
I'd like to point out that Politico is hardly a font of wisdom in their read of, well, politics.
How quickly they forget the Santorums of the Republican world.

Posted by: Tom M on October 12, 2009 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

What terraformer said at 8:49 this morn.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 12, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

the Teabaggers might be a test whether there is anything significant about the Republican party WITHOUT its corporate support.

I could be all wrong, but nothing about the Republican party's past leads me to believe the movement is sustainable in large numbers outside leadership backed corporate cronyism. The masters of the Republican party also happen to fancy themselves as the masters of the universe. Cuban cigar smoking brandy sippers all of them. The party pretends to care about gun rights to lock the Toby Keith listening, pick-up truck driving crowd, pretends to care about family values to lock the crazy for Jesus crowd, and pretends to care about taxes for the pissed off at government rubes who don't make all that much money that can be taxed anyway crowd (all of which are sizable voting blocks in America). But at its blackened heart Republicanism's core is commerce and industry. They might whip up their caged tiger and let the door 'slip' open a few inches, but I'm sure there's little danger of the masters being over-run by the slaves.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 12, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

"But the road to recovery for the Republican Party is to move back towards the American mainstream. The activist base seems to have a far different agenda in mind.

You forget in their minds they are the mainstream. Real Americans agree with them and the lefty communist/fascist/Nazi Dems only win when ACORN and other groups help them steal elections.

Posted by: mmc on October 12, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The Teabagger movement is about the mobilization of voters for 2010. Plain and simple. It's a corporatist effort to unseat as many Democrats as is possible in that November in order to stop a Democrat president from moving forward with an agenda that will wind up costing profits.

The way to get these people voting is to get them scared and angry. Between now and November of next year they can bitch all they want about what conservatism really is. But, the fact of the matter is, on election day, they'll select whatever name has an "R" next to it.

This "discontent" doesn't mean shit.

Posted by: chrenson on October 12, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think you can correctly define an indiscriminately general anti-tax and anti-spending message as farther right than the more mainstream GOP's position on social issues. Ill-defined as teabagger rage is, and unable as teabaggers are to parse TARP, the stimulus and the other issues they bitch about, their semi-coherent point is a populist rant against taxpayer abuse by a pro-corporate government.

That it took two Democrat-held houses and Obama gaining the presidency to awaken this group's deep outrage about government waste and protection of big business -- they may claim they complained during the Bush/GOP Congress years, but if so, it was at the level of a whisper -- is telling. That they concentrate on an anti-spending approach is a function of the movement's leaders recognizing the future unsaleability of the social issues that have sustained the base in the past; it's a canny funneling of conservative voters' fear and anger about loss of power, changing demographics, lack of job security, etc. into a new target. But none of it is particularly "farther right" than the mainstream GOP.

Posted by: shortstop on October 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

This development was entirely predictable for anyone aware of the Post World War II history of the GOP in which there has been rather open warfare between the established Republican Party and "movement conservatives" on the far right who embraced McCarthyism, the John Birch Society, even elements of the KKK.

Like most far right movements, America's was an attempt to protect the "purity" of 100% Americanism from the contamination of any group they thought was a threat to their narrow vision of the country -- whether it was Catholics, gays, immigrants, liberals, minorities. The violent anti-communism of this group, which we are seeing today in the attacks against Obama as a Socialist, was simply a way for the radical right to gain some measure of respectability for their own inner demons. These are not people who are at core interested in winning elections in order to govern the nation. They could care less about patronage. These are true believers out to redeem America. So, they are not people who could be satisfied with a political party that actually tried to operate as a political party and build a coalition (which by definition unites people of different positions) or win elections by appealing to those outside the base.

Political parties exist by absorbing and moderating political movements, but what has happend to the GOP is that it has been taken over by a political movement itself. From dust you came and from dust you shall return.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to add my two cents worth this am on another subject, waking up to hear the insurers making threats that if health ins reform goes through they are going to put premiums up even faster than before.
Is this not the best argument we have heard so far for single payer?
Posted by: JS

I heard a similar claim this morning as well. Private health insurers warning that rates will be dramatically raised in order to "shift" the burden of health-care reform costs. It immediately struck me as an 11th hour scare tactic by an increasingly desperate industry. I also thought that it was a silly argument since we already pay for expensive emergency care for the uninsured through our insurance rates already. Alas, their arguments are never for the informed, but rather to illicit some sort of panic among the confused and misinformed.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 12, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

correction: that should be 'elicit' some sort of panic not 'illicit'.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 12, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

This is what happens when religion and politics are mixed.

Not only has the Republican's cynical strategy of playing the culture wars finally and gratefully backfired on them, I believe this strategy is largely responsible for the poisoned political paradigm of that is Democrats vs. Republicans.

For decades the men behind the corporate curtain manipulated the fears of conservative religious voters, demonizing and vilifying democrats.

We now have elected congressional leaders who actually believe this country should be a theocracy.

Look at the state of our union. All because these greedy captains of industry wanted to make an easy dollar.

You don't mix religion and politics. If these nutbaggers are the constitutionalists they claim to be, they should recognize the importance of the separation of church and state.

Posted by: citizen_pain on October 12, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

That would be: "poisoned political paradigm that is Democrats vs. Republicans"

Posted by: citizen_pain on October 12, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

-there's a stink of the white power movement hanging over crowd grabbing onto the Republican Party, and that's a stink you don't wash off. It's only a matter of time before its out in the open and not slinking around the background.-

Rushie and beckie
sittin' in a tree
R A C E B A I T I N G
First come mobs
then come lynchings
laughing with the all the money
In the the poison carriage

Posted by: FRP on October 12, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

My wingnut friend is constantly pissed at Limbaugh and Beck because, in his view, they're wimps who "hold back too much" and won't just come right out and say what they really mean.

Posted by: bikelib on October 12, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Two thoughts:

1. what teraformer said. (New window) The simple fact is, probably half of all Congressional Dems (and Obama) would have been Republicans 40 years ago. Despite the claims that Dems are all radical lefities, the fact is we actually need a bit more leftward pull to balance things out in this country.

2. I hope these clowns succeed in putting up some far right nutcases, because each time broader America sees these idiots in action, the less they like them. I'm really hoping the put Palin up in 2012. That'd crush the GOP for decades.

Or am I totally wrong in believing that'd happen ... ?

Posted by: Mark D on October 12, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

2010 comes before 2012. Pretty much everything depends on the economy, and no godawful foreign or domestic national security incident.

So basically, the Democratic plan right now amounts to passing health care reform, and taking a shot at immigration, before next year's election.

The politics of health care reform are pretty clear: Democrats PROBABLY have the votes to pass something, maybe with a sorta kinda public option, which won't have any real effect on anybody before the 2010 election. So it will simply be a question whether passing it mobilizes more Democrats to vote (cuz we succeeded) or whether it mobilizes more voters to go Republican (cuz we've created death panels, or some damned thing).

The politics of immigration are gonna get much more raw: next year is the Census, starting in April. Vitter, et. al, are going to try to ask about citizenship or lawful status, which is a perfectly sharpened wedge for the 'you're being cheated and losing control of your country' message.

There ARE ways Democrats could go on offense on all of this stuff -- but deferring to Obama (who has always been a counterpuncher) doesn't seem likely to produce an affirmative strategy, while the Congress is too diffuse.

But the bad guys are focused -- and they have a plan to take it to us, which we lack to take it to them.

Posted by: theAmericanist on October 12, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Not backing Republican incumbents is by far the most reasonable thing the Teabaggers are doing. Have you seen the Republican incumbents? Have you seen what they did to our country?

As has already been said upthread, however, these guys will vote R when push comes to shove in November. Their hatred of the Republican Party is not as deep as their hatred of everybody else.

Posted by: reino on October 12, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure anyone, including the baggers themselves, know with any precision where they stand in relation to the GOP or to political issues in general. This tea-bagger movement, if you can call it a movement, seems to encompass so much inchoate rage at so many things, that predicting where it will go is dangerous, especially to those who think they can encourage, fund and control it. I'm not sure the baggers are people who can work inside a political party and do the boring things needed, like run for party offices and low-level elected positions. It's more fun yelling and screaming for teevee. But, they sure can scare Republicans into adopting their ever-nuttier rhetoric. This whole tea-bagger thing could be unsustainable, like a child's tantrum; lots of noise and drama that peters out after while in exhaustion. A year from now, we could be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Posted by: jrw on October 12, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Both major parties are corrupt and decadent. No news here.

Related to me just yesterday. An old fart of my acquaintance had his hearing impaired by earwax. After this trivial diagnosis, they gave him an MRI, just to be sure. Of what, profits?

Most sensible people realize that the problem with healthcare is cost and fraud, which should be addressed before tempting doctors with more government lucre.

Posted by: LindaRe on October 12, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

First paragraph, hate-speech wacko terminology: Teabaggers. The correct term for the movement, tea party activists, or tea partiers, is put in quotation marks, the slanderous left-wing wacko obscenity, teabagger, is not.
End of reading. Learn to debate, instead of name-call. Take your meds, if necessary before writing your column.

Posted by: Marianne7 on October 12, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

RedState's Erick Erickson told Isenstadt that Tea Party activists should "put down the protest signs" and "start infiltrating the party," including staging takeovers of local Republican parties.

I thought this was what they've been doing since the Reagan years! O_o

Posted by: PattyP on October 12, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Marianne7, calling a group by something other than their preferred term is "hate speech"? So you agree that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Hannity et al., not to mention numerous Republican elected officials, engage in "hate speech" on a daily basis?

Posted by: Redshift on October 12, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Learn to debate, instead of name-call.

So debating = good, name-calling = bad?

Then why have "left-wing wackos" (as you name-call us) been called by right wingers over the past eight years such names as "Traitors" and "Terrorist sympathizers," "libtards" and "moonbats,and now "Communists"?

By the way, the term "tea bagging" originated from within the movement itself, whose motley crew of numbnuts with an incoherent set of reactionary principles and unfocused hate ("Obama is a usurper from Kenya!" "He is a Communist Islamist Hitler!") and slogans drawn straight from Orwell's 1984 ("Health Reform is Slavery!" "Let's 'Take Back" Our Country") were too moronic to understand that.

Tea "partiers" aren't honest principles to be debated with but rather unprincipled slags whose support of Bush and the Republicans and their policies over the last eight years tanked the economy, killed lots of people overseas and has in general created great suffering -- and they simply can't take responsibility for what they've done. Are they too dumb? Too venal? Who's to know?

So instead they're screaming and finger-pointing and trying to scapegoat everyone else.

Did I mention they were slags?

Posted by: trex on October 12, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The failure of Bush & the Delay Congress, & Bush's response to the financial crisis, his immigration reform proposals, etc, were deeply traumatic & disorienting for these people, & would've been even if someone other than Obama had been elected in 2008. Having been Bush's most vocal supporters for most of 8 years, they really do now believe he was never really a conservative. So they really do mean it when they say they're conservatives first, & Republicans second, or not really Republicans. (This is just another way Glenn Beck's positioning is cannier than the likes of Hannity, his competitors in the demagogue market.) To regain their trust, the Republican Party has to not only admit its failures & heresies, but move sharply to the right & become much more populist.

And as a practical political matter, like any movement, they want to show that they have power & are to be feared. And they're much more able to collect scalps in Republican primaries than in general elections. So for the time being, the near enemy w/in the Republican Party gets the target painted on its back, & cleaning out the far enemy in White House will have to wait.

Posted by: K on October 12, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The "far" part of the political spectrum can at least be counted on to pay attention. Interesting that both the "far right" and the "far left" are pissed about the state of government.

Posted by: Glen on October 12, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Infiltrating the party"? That is just totally bizarre. I thought the teabaggers WERE the party!

Posted by: skybluewater on October 12, 2009 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's always amazing to hear Democrats discover that this is a 3-way kabuki dance with "independents" in the majority (Democrats and Republicans in the minority) .. or have you still missed that point.

Posted by: John Q Public on October 12, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the poster above who notes that many, not all, but many of the tea party types are simply upset about the increase in government spending and are not necessarilly racist nutcases. They object to massively increasing the federal debt on: 1) corporate bailouts, and 2) non construction oriented stimulus spending. They have a point, of course, as the bailouts often benefited bad corporate actors, and while I disagree on their view of the stimulus, conservatives have always objected to discretionary non infrastructure expenditures.

I think it is unwise to dismiss the entire tea party crowd as extremist. They represent a very traditional part of American thinking (or myth) that it is ALWAYS true that the less taxes the better.

Posted by: Wally on October 12, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's becoming pretty clear that the Teabaggers will split the unholy coalition that has let the Rethugs win elections. When the significant corporate faction, and probably the libertarians, can no longer control, as seems to be case, the blatantly fascist Teabaggers/right-wing Kristianists, a third party pretending to be in the middle will be born. Many of the centrist independents will support it, the Democrats will take a big hit, and the Teabaggers will be like a rabid, snarling hound barking at itself.

Ultimately money will win, the corporate Rethugs will run everything, of course, and American politics will get back to making the rich even richer.

Posted by: rich on October 12, 2009 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the poster above who notes that many, not all, but many of the tea party types are simply upset about the increase in government spending and are not necessarilly racist nutcases.

I sure hope you're not referring to my post. I said teabaggers aren't really any farther right wing than the rest of the party. I didn't say they aren't flaming racists. They are.

Posted by: shortstop on October 12, 2009 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

"many, not all, but many of the tea party types are simply upset about the increase in government spending and are not necessarilly racist nutcases. They object to massively increasing the federal debt on: 1) corporate bailouts, and 2) non construction oriented stimulus spending"

Um - no. If this is what they actually believed, they would have been protesting while Bush and the GOP Congress increased federal spending, federal deficit and the national debt to record amounts. So-called "pork" spending also reached record amounts under Bush and the Delay Congress...and none of these find patriots complained. And that includes "corporate bailouts," remember - set aside tax breaks, no-bid contracts for companies that committed fraud and even killed (and overcharged, sickened, etc.) US troops - Bush started the bank and industry bailouts before leaving office, and there was nary a tea-bag party to be seen.

Until, oddly, a black Democrat took office and simply continued Dubya's He-Manly Patriotic Policies.

Then, all of a sudden, the same people who had been defending Bush and the GOP, and screaming that any doubt or criticism of these heroes meant you wanted Bin Laden to kill and eat American babies suddenly "remembered" that they were against federal spending, and started posing with "Obama is a Marxist Fascist Hitler Kenyan Watermelon-Eating Antichrist Witchdoctor Tyrant With Bones In His Nose" signs, and jumping up and down brandishing guns as coached by FOX news producers.

Sure, that's not racist at all. It's all a totally principled and convincingly consistent policy argument.

Sure, pal.


Posted by: cereal on October 12, 2009 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

First paragraph, hate-speech wacko terminology...

Followed by...

Take your meds, if necessary before writing your column.

It seems to me that by concluding your argument with "take your meds" -- a cheap shot which denigrates an entire class of disabled people -- you destroyed your moral authority on the subject of "hate speech" before you could even finish two paragraphs.

The misplaced comma doesn't help your credibility either.

Posted by: foxtrotsky on October 12, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

What cereal said at 7:05.

Posted by: bikelib on October 13, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Greeting. Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. Your life will never be the same again. Help me! I can not find sites on the: Ventolin dosing. I found only this - ventolin medicine. Not, if the discovery specificity highway; plant now suffer, you must observe that you are clearly presented, ventolin. Ventolin, if your having chains with your woman, trying your rhetoric, class or skills not its respect to pan your nation only. Thanks for the help ;-), Aggie from Tanzania.

Posted by: Aggie on March 12, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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