Political Animal


April 07, 2012 10:05 AM Can Dems Run, and Win, Against the Tea Party?

By Paul Glastris

A couple weeks ago, I met up in DC with a former Clinton administration colleague, a great guy named James Cargas. A Houston area energy lawyer who got his start in politics interning for Tip O’Neill, Cargas is running in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 7th congressional seat. If he wins, he’ll face GOP incumbent John Culberson, who’s such a staunch Tea Party conservative that he’s fought against federal funding of light rail for his own city. The district leans Republican, but not so much that a moderate Democrat like Cargas can’t win. But what I found especially interesting is the central message of Cargas’ campaign: he’s running to help drive the Tea Party out of Congress.

That got me wondering: if Cargas thinks he can win by running against the Tea Party, are other Democratic candidates thinking the same thing?

Apparently so. The Washington Post today reports polling data showing that “opposition to the tea party is more strident than the tea party itself,” and that fewer Republicans are latching on to the label. It goes on to say this:

In contrast, Democrats are actually starting to wield the tea party label as a tool in their campaigns.
“I’m Bill Pascrell, and this is why I’m running: to stop the tea party,” the Democratic congressman from New Jersey says in a new ad.
The tea party is also being used against Reps. Joe Walsh (Ill.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.), two top tea partiers in tough districts for the GOP, and was used in ads run by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who won a special election earlier this year.
Democrats say the issue works for them as they continue to define a Republican Party whose brand is already struggling.
“It’s no longer viewed as a populist, grass-roots organization, but a dangerous group with extremist views that don’t reflect the mainstream values of America’s middle class,” Democratic media strategist John Lapp said.

This will be an interesting trend to watch.

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. This article was supported by the American Independent Institute.


  • Gandalf on April 07, 2012 10:46 AM:

    If the dems can't beat tea party republicans this election then 1 they would be totally incompetant and 2 the country would be screwed up beyond all repair.

  • j on April 07, 2012 11:21 AM:

    On ma different subject, I am saddened to hear of the shootings in Tulsa of four black men in different areas just walking in neighborhoods, 3 are dead. In another state I read about a 14 year old black teenager shot and killed.I am beginning to feel like the hatred toward blacks
    coming from FOX and the right is trying to incite a race war, heaven help us as a country. Europe applauded when the USA elected a black president (who they love) as a sign that as a country we are now beyond racism but it is now being stoked up. I am ashamed.

  • martin on April 07, 2012 11:26 AM:

    Maybe they finish off the Blue Dogs, too.

  • Larry Blong on April 07, 2012 11:38 AM:

    "GOP Out of Step with Mainstream America"

    Ever wonder why the GOP, Fox News and all your basic right wingers are so
    dissatisfied with President Obama on so many issues? Take for example keeping
    the tax cuts that Bush put in for the rich. Most hard working Americans are against
    this, particularly at a time of mounting deficits. There is only so much money to go
    around, and if we give more to the wealthy that means less for the rest of us. The
    president agrees with the people on this, the GOP doesn't. How about the issue of
    keeping Planned Parenthood, and equality for women when it comes to healthcare?
    President Obama, along with most Americans agree with this, but not the GOP.

    The majority of Americans want to keep Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security
    benefits and other programs that help the poor and middle class. Not the good old
    GOP (Mr. Ryan). If a program can't help the rich, who needs it? Again, Obama
    backs the people. The democrats want certain limits on what a company can do to
    the environment. Most people are for this. Who wants to breathe foul air and drink
    impure water? The GOP isn't too worried about all that, they certainly don't want to
    bust their buddies in big business with too many restrictions. Global warming is
    another issue most people are concerned about. Not the GOP. As one republican
    once told me,"don't worry, the earth cleans itself." Tell that to the ice caps.

    We could go on and on and find that on most if not every issue, President
    Obama comes down on the side of the majority of the people. That is nothing new
    as democrats have always been on the side of the working man and the poor, way
    more than the GOP. The GOP seems to place the wealthy, big oil, big business and
    the military before the people. Maybe that's where a lot of their campaign contributions
    come from? In other words the GOP are simply agents for the rich, while the dems
    are agents for the people. So why then does the GOP sometimes win the White
    House when what's above is so obvious?

    The GOP won the White House in 1968, and 1972 but NEVER would have if
    not for the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy. The GOP won
    with Reagan in 1980 but that was mainly due to the Iran hostage situation. They
    also won in 1984 and 1988 but Mondale and Dukakis probably couldn't win
    mayor in your town. We all know how the GOP cheated in 2000 to win (Cheyney
    hunting buddy Judge Sirica stopped the count on Saturday morning) and in 2004
    many people believe the GOP resorted to trickery again in Ohio with the voting
    Diebold machines to eek out a slim victory over Kerry by 60,000 votes.

    So that's a total of five elections the GOP has won by assassinations and
    voter fraud (cheating). I thought this was a democracy where the people decided

  • Larry Blong on April 07, 2012 11:43 AM:

    elections? Maybe we should take a closer look? Someone once said that until
    we know the truth about the murder of President Kennedy, America is living
    on a false foundation. And if they could do it in 1963 and get away with it, they
    could do it to any president in the future. If we eliminate murder and election
    fraud in the upcoming 2012 presidential election, President Obama should be the
    winner. Why? Because Obama is on the side of mainstream America, while the
    GOP is quite obviously "out of step."

    Larry Blong

  • jjm on April 07, 2012 12:13 PM:

    To Larry Blong: I don't think you mean, "Judge Sirica" -- Scalia, maybe? Sirica, the Watergate judge, died in 1992

  • smartalek on April 08, 2012 2:05 AM:

    "democrats have always been on the side of the working man and the poor, way more than the GOP."

    It's crucial to add in the qualifier "more than the GOP" to make this assertion fully accurate in the present tense.
    Of course, anything that's a little less damaging than slow, tortuous annihilation can be spun as better.
    I love hearing centrist, "moderate" Democrat-supporters decrying the middle- and working-class voters who vote Publican for -- ostensibly -- "voting against their own interests"... as though the Clintons, Gore, far too many of the current crop of Dem Congresscritters, and of course our current President, were actually working hard in our interests.
    NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the choices to leave unregulated the "exotic" financial derivatives (now more accurately described as "toxic") that not only enabled, but made inevitable, market failures from Enron's infamous scamming of CA's electricity supply to the '07-'08 MBO / CDO / CDS collapse that brought on The Great Recession -- all those choices happened on Clinton's watch.
    And now we learn that not only the Obama administration, but possibly a majority of "our" rep's in Congress, were willing to sell us out on crucial programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security -- and, of course, returning our tax codes to something resembling sanity -- and were kept from doing so only by Publican intransigence, and unwillingness to take "yes" for an answer?
    I can take such bs from Publicans; it's what they are, and what they do.
    But don't even begin to tell us the DLC Dem's are on our side, as if we've no more reality contact &/or IQ than Fox-viewers.

  • Texas64 on April 08, 2012 6:55 PM:

    Thanks for chatting up your former colleague, but you forgot to mention that Cargas is just an oil and gas insider. People in Houston are finding out that he owned companies with known GOP operatives, and with people who switched to Republicans the minute they got elected. Cargas was also the treasurer for a disgraced GOP PAC with these same people. He has no ties to the Houston community other than O&G interests and groups. He doesn't even pretend otherwise: he just hired a GOP O&G business partner to run his campaign. And his co-workers at his current job of managing electricity for the City (after being a seller of it until the minute he got the job) openly talk of his aggressive and unpleasant tactics to further his agenda.