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Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2010

SHARING TEA.... At first blush, it seems a little silly to hear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a bold champion of liberalism, suggest she has much in common with "Tea Party" activists, but there's nevertheless something endearing about this message.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has much in common with the Tea Party.... In a "This Week" interview with ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, Pelosi said, "We share some of the views of the Tea Partiers in terms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C., as -- it just has to stop. And that's why I've fought the special interest, whether it's on energy, whether it's on health insurance, whether it's on pharmaceuticals and the rest."

Pelosi held to her skepticism about what is behind the movement. "Some of it is orchestrated from the Republican headquarters," Pelosi said. She also added that, "Some of it is hijacking the good intentions of lots of people who share some of our concerns that we have about the role of special interests."

There are multiple factions within this so-called "movement," and it's often challenging to keep track of what it is, exactly, that these activists are so worked up about. Much of the time, the Teabaggers themselves don't really know why they're so angry.

But Pelosi's suggestion that the activists have a fair amount in common with Democrats' progressive ideas is not as foolish as it might seem. The "movement" cares about fiscal responsibility? Then the activists certainly would have no use for Republicans, who added $5 trillion to the debt, left Dems with a $1.3 trillion deficit to clean up, and deliberately decided that they could expand government without paying for it. More recently, the GOP rejected PAYGO and a deficit commission that they proposed. If fiscal responsibility is a top concern, it's entirely reasonable to argue Democrats are the more fiscally responsible party.

The "movement" cares about wealthy interests dictating public policy over the needs of regular Americans? Then the activists certainly would have no use for Republicans, who not only run corporate lobbyists as candidates, but barely make a move without getting lobbyists' permission.

The "movement" cares about taxes? Then the activists certainly would have no use for Republicans, who voted against one of the largest tax-cut packages for the middle class in American history when they opposed the recovery effort a year ago.

The "movement" cares about the size and scope of government? Then the activists certainly would have no use for Republicans, who expanded Medicare and enthusiastically embraced government intercepting Americans' communications without a warrant.

To be sure, much of the Tea Party crowd is well beyond reason, and has embraced delusional and paranoid right-wing fantasies. For these folks, Speaker Pelosi's remarks will likely be laughable.

But for some of the well-intentioned factions, the notion of driving a wedge isn't entirely far-fetched.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Not a bad idea for Nancy to speak a little common sense at the nihilism of the day.

I doubt the mob will hear it.

Posted by: neill on February 28, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

She's legitimizing their extreme views and conduct and will get exactly zero back for her goodwill efforts. She's only making them stronger. Dumb move.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on February 28, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

I think her overture towards those folks is too little, too late. Call them the mob, shills for industry, whatever. There are a lot of normal, pissed off people in those crowds, and a lot more people who are sympathetic to what they do.

Fact is, the tea party movement is an excellent inroad to white, middle-American rage. That is still the largest voting bloc in the country, and the Republicans have been duping them into a whole lot of nonsense for way too long.

If Democratic ideas are good for the tea set, there should be no problem selling those ideas to them. I believe they are.

Democratic ideas actually deal with our long term fiscal solvency, our ability to get people working somewhere other than flipping burgers, making sure they can see a doctor when they need it.

And we write these people off because we find them distasteful. Time to rethink things, guys.

Something's not right when the very people you want to help hate you.

Posted by: itstrue on February 28, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

It's true that Obama cut taxes for 95% of working families. But look at the old, bitter, white faces of the people in those Tea Party videos. Those people aren't "working families." They're grumpy old retirees who are mostly pissed off that the guy who looked like them didn't win, so they think "their country's being taken from them."

"Working families are WORKING, not waving dumbass signs and hanging tea bags from their silly hats.

Posted by: The Needle on February 28, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The Tea Party seems like an old rebranded trick from the 90s. Back then, they called themselves 'libertarians'. They were as loud and as unhinged as today's brand. Remember how Clinton was going to impose martial law on Y2K and cancel all upcoming elections? I always thought it odd that these brave defenders of our liberties went completely silent during the Bush years. It looks like they're back and still getting their barking points from the GOP.

Posted by: JoeW on February 28, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

There are multiple factions within this so-called "movement," and it's often challenging to keep track of what it is, exactly, that these activists are so worked up about.

No, it's not. It's about the the perception of federal tax dollars being spent to help those people. The fact of Obama being the color he is amplifies the perception. I only wish they had the balls to come out and say that, rather than the concern-trolling about "the deficit", "big government" etc. Say what you mean! You don't want your tax dollars being funneled to people you believe to be undeserving. Maybe then there can have an honest debate. Until that happens it's all smoke and mirrors.

Posted by: DelCapslock on February 28, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

That is still the largest voting bloc in the country, and the Republicans have been duping them into a whole lot of nonsense for way too long.

Republicans treat governance like American CEOs treat corporate management. It doesn't matter whether your product is greasy hamburgers or tax breaks for the wealthy, it only matters that you can brand yourself to be identified and connected to the consumer. Both camps make a living convincing people to buy into something they don't need. Like McDonald's trying to insinuate Olympic athletes actually eat their shit. We all might not be Olympic athletes but we can all eat like one? Pffft.

That is the landscape of the voting public we're talking about here. Of course, this is all just preaching to the choir.

Posted by: about time on February 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I was wondering when the Democrats were going to point out the fact that most Americans (including some Teabaggers) are not please about the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United. Five conservative activists judges are responsible. Remember, the Republicans were complaining that they could not trust Judge Sonia Sotomayor because they felt she would be an activist judge. Imagine that.

It may be the only thing Democrats and Teabaggers can agree on, but talk about a wedge issue. The Republicans have no problem with the ruling. The Teabaggers are outraged by the ruling. Democrats should continue to focus on this surprising phenomenon. They should put the Republicans on the spot. They will be twisting themselves into pretzels to explain why they support this ruling. The optics just aren't good for the Republicans.

http://www.scotuswiki.com/index.php?title=Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission

Posted by: Ladyhawke on February 28, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Steve writes:"Much of the time, the Teabaggers themselves don't really know why they're so angry."

I think they know why they are angry, just are misguided in the source/cause of that anger. In the following paragraph Steve explains it; the Republicans are to blame.

Enter Frank Luntz. Simple people want simple explanations. Limousine Liberals, America Haters, Commie Sympathizers, One World Order, Black Helicopters.

As JoeW says, they believed Clinton was planning to impose martial law on Y2K. Gee, I wonder where they got THAT idea. . .

I wish Bernie Sanders and Barney Frank could have a sit-down with these angry folks.

Posted by: DAY on February 28, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

It's Sunday, so it's John McCain day. Any chance David Gregory will ask the old goat any real questions about lives being lost if health care isn't passed. Nah, He will probably confine his deep penetrating questions to the preapproved topics submitted by McCain's booking agent.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 28, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

It's an interesting bit of reverse psychology since attacking them publicly only fuels their fire. If dems start praising aspects of the tea partiers it might make many of them want to abandon their so-called "movement"-- after all, how can what they do be any good if dems aren't demonizing them for it? I think a lot of them are motivated by contrarian anger as well as the idea that they're pissing off people like Pelosi. Sort of a smart way to deal with them, don't take their hate bait. Also anger and frustration with the government reaches far beyond the tea partiers, so it would be pretty stupid to dismiss it all as radical.

Here's an experiment-- what if suddenly we all started saying that Sarah Palin was wonderful and insightful, it might even lead her to question what she's saying.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on February 28, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

NO. Just NO.

These people are scum, and they should be marginalized and ridiculed at every opportunity from every level.

Posted by: Toast on February 28, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds good Steve, but who'll sell it ?

Posted by: rbe1 on February 28, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Something's not right when the very people you want to help hate you."

And that is the very problem you all don't seem to get.

Those in the tea party movement don't want the kind of "help" you are offering in the way of larger government and more entitlements.

Just for a moment, look at the way you phrased your statement: "the very people you want to help". It makes these people sound like they are blithering idiots who need to be led to the correct path.

I am not trying to be disrespectful but just asking you to look at a different perspective before dismissing it out of hand. Is it so difficult to understand people who want to be in control of their own lives and their own decisions, good or bad, for their families?

Both of my parents received their elementary educations in one room schoolhouses. They went to public schools. They went to college. They faced many hardships unfathomable to most living today. Both had TB. At times my paternal grandmother only had Junket or milk toast to feed her kids. My maternal grandmother was left to raise 8 children when my maternal grandfather passed away at 48.

They did not have government assistance or help. Instead, my Mom's family opened a diner and she started working at the counter after schools and weekends when she was 13. She still made straight As in school. My Dad started selling magazines at 12, graduated into selling cookware, and then became a Beechnut salesman before he joined the Army.

Neither of them were malnourished. Neither of them quit. Nor did their many friends who all had similar life stories.

This is where we get our strength and resistance to being told what to do by an overbloated federal government. It is why we cannot abide being nanny-stated to death. It is why we want a smaller government with powers going back to states and local governments as they used to be.

No centralized government has the ability to decide what is best for everyone. What is best is localized and dependent on the beliefs and circumstances of communities. The federal government is like a One Size Fits All garment. It may "fit" but it certainly is not tailored to your personal measurements. Local government is like a tailored suit -- made to fit the requirements of the people living there.

The federal government is good at interstate commerce, minting a uniform currency, and building interstate highways so people can come and go from state to state and spend that currency in commerce. It is the correct venue for declaring and running wars. It is not good at taking care of people. It is wasteful and out of proportion and the people that run it, like Nancy Pelosi, ARE the special interests.

The tea party movement members are tired of the state of things. They do not see PROGRESS as more involvement in their lives by the federal government. True progress is allowing people to live their lives and find their own solutions to local problems.

Posted by: Greyledge Gal on February 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

In which Benen's spin level transitions from its usual "ridiculous" into "ludicrous" territory.

Posted by: am on February 28, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Then the activists certainly would have no use for Republicans, who voted against one of the largest tax-cut packages for the middle class in American history when they opposed the recovery effort a year ago."

The "Candidate X voted to raise taxes Y times" canard is popular with most Republican campaigns, often padding the statistics by counting votes against tax cuts as votes to raise taxes. By that 'logic,' all of the GOP members of Congress voted to raise taxes when they voted no on the stimulus bill. A smart Democratic strategist (there might be a few out there) would make hay of the GOP votes against a tax cut in the upcoming campaign.

Posted by: meander on February 28, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with the Tea Baggers is that they really don't know what true government oppression is. Many of them don't know what real poverty is, either. I have friends who've engaged in humanitarian work, ranging from medical and subsistence aid to human rights monitoring in extremely troubled, violent areas of the world, where merely forming an neighborhood economic cooperative can get you executed at worst, and shaken down by paramilitary groups at best, where any kind of health care is non-existent and it is common for the entire population of remote peasant villages to be riddled with parasites and chronic disease. The Tea Baggers in the U.S. think paying taxes according to the dictates of the Constitution is oppression, and regulatory controls on corporate greed is socialism.

Posted by: Varecia on February 28, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Just for a moment, look at the way you phrased your statement: "the very people you want to help". It makes these people sound like they are blithering idiots who need to be led to the correct path."

Policy is about helping people, one way or another. The other side just believes that you help people when you leave them alone.

You can't lead people without making a few suggestions on what to do. If that's condescending, then so is any leader.

Personally, I think the government can do a lot more than print money. It can define and enforce the rules that govern markets. It can make it easier for people to get a leg up in tough times. It can ensure a first-class education for everyone and access to the best health care in the world. It can make the world we live in less jungle and more civilization.

That isn't handouts or welfare. It's equality of opportunity, giving people a fighting chance. How many more entrepreneurs would there be if it was easy to get a decent loan and good health coverage for a few employees? The government can help that, and it would be good for everyone, rich or poor.

Henry Ford paid his workers enough to buy the cars they made. And they bought them. And it was good. If industry does that on their own, fine, but I'm not seeing it.

Some people will succeed no matter the odds. My hat off to them, for real. But given the same odds, most don't. That's why they're called tough odds.

It's a cop-out plain and simple to say, "I made it, so can you." It absolves you of all responsibility to others. I call it depraved indifference.

It's immoral to tell people they should just go it alone, especially when the rules of the game are being written by everyone who's already powerful. Some will swim, some will sink, but government can do a lot to give the working stiff a fighting chance.

Posted by: itstrue on February 28, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

"It's immoral to tell people they should just go it alone, especially when the rules of the game are being written by everyone who's already powerful. Some will swim, some will sink, but government can do a lot to give the working stiff a fighting chance."

itstrue, I would never for a minute consider that people should go it alone. That is what civic organizations and church groups are for -- to help those in their own communities when they need help. It is what each of us individually or collectively should do for our fellow man.

We do not need the government to do that or to facilitate it.

The more the government has taken over "helping" people, the more we as citizens and neighbors have abrogated our responsibilities to take on that role.

Some people will never make it because they don't have the drive or ambition. I don't see why anyone should help them if they won't help themselves. I am all for helping the disabled and those who truly cannot help themselves.

We have no right to be equal in the end. We have promise and how we use that promise should decide how we end up. That is what is fair and equitable and the government should not try to level the playing field.

As far as what goes on in far off lands, that is none of our business except to donate to charities that will help or to get off our butts and personally go do something about it.

Posted by: Greyledge Gal on February 28, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Greyledge Gal, you seem sincere in your libertarian beliefs, which is great. As such, I wonder if you voted for Ron Paul, who walks the talk, or John McCain, who like all mainstream Republicans only pays lip service to the small government principles you espouse.

I agree American's want to feel they have control over their lives, whether good or bad. Nobody wants a "nanny-state". But people like you fail to understand that the federal government is protecting you from corporations that don't play by those same sets of "local rules". Take the recent healthcare summit, I role my eyes when I hear bullshit from Republicans about how we need to "trust the American people aren't stupid and can pick the best interstate health insurance themselves so we don't need to to have big bad government set standards" talking point. How many typical Americans have the time and expertise to read through every prospective health insurance companies full set of policies (not just the little summary packets they send you) and understand details about what procedures are covered, what specific conditions constitute pre-existing, etc. And it's a moot point besides, as the race to the bottom in coverage will likely result in few insurance options that contain adequate coverage anyway.

Libertarian principles sound good, but every system must reorganize itself based on successive levels of complexity. It's true of biology and it's true of government. You admit the federal government must marshal a military for defense against outside threats. Likewise when regulating large international corporations relying on state governments just won't do. I like a one size fits all strategy for protecting children from lead laden toys from China. I suppose it's arrogant of me to assume Americans wouldn't want to decide for themselves whether or not to buy such toys. I suppose it's also arrogant of me to assume they wouldn't pull themselves up by their boot straps and do their own research on every toy they purchase.

The United States federal government is for the people and by the people. From pharmaceuticals, to derivatives, to minimum health insurance standards, to children's toys it is meant to regulate the businesses that states simply couldn't marshal the forces to effectively regulate themselves.

Posted by: oh my on February 28, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Greyledge Gal: "...The tea party movement members are tired of the state of things. They do not see PROGRESS as more involvement in their lives by the federal government. True progress is allowing people to live their lives and find their own solutions to local problems."

Bullshit! The Tea Baggers are sheeple who apparently slept through much of the 8 years leading up to the 2008 general election, and are just awfully peeved that they can't monopolize U.S. government all the time. They're perfectly OK with heavy handed government involvement when it comes to their own pet issues and causes.

Posted by: Varecia on February 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

The tea party, near as I can gather, is run by a bunch of crazy misanthropic racists.

But that's not what gives them power. What gives them power is basically that there are a bunch of people who are really, really angry, and aren't completely sure why. Tea party people sound confused because they are confused. A lot of them are upset and confused and angry that the world doesn't seem to be working. So when someone comes along and says, I know why it's not working. They'll follow that person without ever stopping to ask if anything they say makes sense, or checks out with the facts. Conspiracy theorists and racists have always worked this way.

You have to create a constructive outlet for people's anger, or it will just kind of sit around and fester until someone comes by and exploits it. I'm not sure Nancy Pelosi is going about addressing that in the right way here, but it's interesting to see her realizing the problem is there.

Posted by: mcc on February 28, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

It is a baby/bathwater situation. If the GOP is your only hope for good government, then you might as well be against government altogether. If you can live with real-world pretty good government, the Democrats are your party. Unfortunately, pretty good government requires paying taxes and programs that benefit people who aren't your relatives.

I think Pelosi's play for some of the action is smart.

Posted by: hoi polloi on February 28, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

as far as i can tell the one thing the teabaggers have in common is they didn't vote for obama...that's it...they lost the last election and want to nullify the results...[so much for belief in the democratic process]...they are probably more libertarian than conservative [nate silver tracked teabag party attendance crosstabbed with ron paul contributors by city and found a strong connection] but they almost all [87%, according to a cnn poll] voted republican: the party that works against their economic interests

Posted by: dj spellchecka on February 28, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

She's legitimizing their extreme views and conduct and will get exactly zero back for her goodwill efforts. She's only making them stronger. Dumb move.

Well, Nancy Pelosi is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Posted by: b on February 28, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Both of my parents received their elementary educations in one room schoolhouses. They went to public schools. They went to college. They faced many hardships unfathomable to most living today. Both had TB. At times my paternal grandmother only had Junket or milk toast to feed her kids. My maternal grandmother was left to raise 8 children when my maternal grandfather passed away at 48.

They did not have government assistance or help. Instead, my Mom's family opened a diner and she started working at the counter after schools and weekends when she was 13. She still made straight As in school. My Dad started selling magazines at 12, graduated into selling cookware, and then became a Beechnut salesman before he joined the Army.

Neither of them were malnourished. Neither of them quit. Nor did their many friends who all had similar life stories."

And I'm sure they had to walk uphill to and from that one-room schoolhouse. But not as sure as I am that Greyledge Gal is a fucking liar.

Posted by: brewmn on February 28, 2010 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Tea party patriots *bleeping* idiots. End of subject.

Posted by: Justin Wolf on February 28, 2010 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

When has Pelosi fought special interests? She merely represents the particular special interests that she likes.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on February 28, 2010 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised no one mentioned Fox News, Glenn Beck, O'Reilly, and most importantly, Rush Limbaugh. I'll bet virtually all Teabagger types listen/watch to at least some if not a lot of this stuff all the time. A lot of the retired ones, or stay at home wives, probably consume the stuff almost full time. You or I might turn into TBer after a few years of that. Well, if you could first forget everything you know.

Posted by: emjayay on March 1, 2010 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

Greyledge Gal said:

That is what civic organizations and church groups are for -- to help those in their own communities when they need help. It is what each of us individually or collectively should do for our fellow man. We do not need the government to do that or to facilitate it. The more the government has taken over "helping" people, the more we as citizens and neighbors have abrogated our responsibilities to take on that role.

This argument always strikes me as incredibly shallow and that the author has had a pretty narrow living experience. It's the old American meritocracy myth, that each of us rise as high as our will can take us, that those who don't do well is because they're lazy, stupid, or unambitious. This argument ignores far too much reality-- such as our history of institutional racism and sexism, our deeply unequal education system, as well as the the fact that helping the poor and less fortunate is not a high priority for most people.

Look no further than the fight over health care to see how people feel about "helping" their fellow man-- I seriously doubt the author believes that poor people should have a right to basic, affordable health care. Argue that the government shouldn't be able to make you care, but don't pretend that the government stops anyone from helping anyone else in need. It steps in where we fail as a society to care and help others.

Liberatarians and most republicans bascially believe that it is every man for himself. I personallly wish they'd just be up front about that, it's a lot less ridiculous than saying that churches will clothe and feed all the poor and that anyone who is poor is so because they're lazy, so they don't deserve any organized help. Especially now, more than usual, there are people who CANNOT FIND WORK. Lazy has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on March 1, 2010 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

One of the objections to "pass the damned bill" is that the Senate bill (the one the House could pass right now, but can't change before passage) is loaded with junk the House doesn't like. The House members want the Senate to pass some corrective legislation, but the Senate can't correct something that isn't a law, so the House has to pass the law and get it signed. The House doesn't trust the Senate to actually pass the corrections.

So, can someone tell me why the Senate has to pass the corrections? If it's a law, can't either House start the ball rolling to correct parts of it? Is it just politics, or is there a rule about it? I know the House doesn't trust the Senate (which is already holding 209 House-passed bill hostage to the filibuster), but it shouldn't take much to have another bill, with all the fixes, in the Senate hopper as having passed from the House, and then have the Senate pass it through reconciliation (most of the fixes are budgetary in nature, after all -- where to spend what money).

The Senate has a problem passing a fix for something that, being un-passed in the House, doesnt' "exist" as a law, so the House should:

Pass the damned bill, and then
Pass the corrective bill and send same to the Senate.

Is there a good reason this can't be done?

Ed

Posted by: Ed Drone on March 1, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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