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Michael Gerson on Republicans’ Dangerous Embrace of the Tea Party

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There's a must-read column in today's Washington Post by conservative columnist Michael Gerson.  The main point is that the Republican Party is making a huge mistake in embracing and/or tolerating the "tea party."  Gerson sites craziness like Sharron Angle, who "identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence." According to Gerson, that's "disqualifying for public office." Gerson also blasts Rand Paul-style libertarianism for having "a rigorous ideological coldness at its core." But the main point of Gerson's column is to warn his Republican Party that trying to ride this tiger, or stay quiet and hope it goes away without eating them, is a huge mistake. Instead, Gerson believes:
...Significant portions of the Republican coalition believe that it is a desirable strategy to talk of armed revolution, embrace libertarian purity and alienate Hispanic voters. With a major Republican victory in November, those who hold these views may well be elevated in profile and influence. And this could create durable, destructive perceptions of the Republican Party that would take decades to change. A party that is intimidated and silent in the face of its extremes is eventually defined by them.

This is the challenge of a political wave. It requires leaders who will turn its energy into a responsible, governing agenda. So far -- in Congress, among conservative leaders, among prospective presidential candidates -- that leadership has been lacking.

And so the Republican Party rides a massive wave toward a rocky shore.

Well said. Unfortunately for Republicans, there's no sign that "leaders" like Eric Cantor and John Boehner actually disagree with the Angles and Pauls of the world. Even if they do, there's no evidence that Cantor, Boehner, McConnell et al. grasp the problem they're facing, know what to do about it, or have the ability to do so even if they want to. Thus, the "rocky shore" looms.

The 3rd of July Nailed it for the 4th of July

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As it happened, the City of Fairfax held its annual Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks Display on the 3rd this year. Perhaps this choice of dates was more meaningful than one might at first suppose. By that I do not mean that moving the parade to Saturday, the 3rd, meant that everyone could go to Church on Sunday, the 4th, and still show their patriotism at the parade.  No, it was because, as Walter Rodgers pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor for 5 July, 147 years ago the Union forces won not one but two great victories against the Confederacy on the 3rd of July 1863, at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The fall of Vicksburg (the "Gibralter of the Confederacy"), and the defeat of Lee at Gettysburg, were so important that "the eminent Civil War historian James McPherson" wrote in Battle Cry of Freedom:
Lincoln appeared at a White House balcony to tell a crowd of serenaders that this "gigantic Rebellion" whose purpose was to "overthrow the principle that all men are created equal" had been dealt a crippling blow."

The Confederacy never recovered from these twin blows, and when Union armies advanced into the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day, as the federal forces implemented the Emancipation Proclamation of 1 January 1863. Whatever lawyerly constitutional splitting of hairs has been offered before or since for secession, the participants in "The War" understood perfectly well why they were fighting: to preserve that union which was founded on the freedom of all men, every one equally a human being.

“The Anger of the Legions” Meets the Tea Party

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Thanks to the firing of General McChrystal from his command in Afghanistan, Americans, wittingly or not, find ourselves at a tipping point in the evolution of our society, a point which history tells us is inevitably reached by every large power, after which that society goes down one of several possible different paths, generally without its participants' expressly realizing what has happened until long after the fact, if ever. The choices made, the threats perceived, the problems forcing the crisis almost always, I believe, bring about unintended consequences quite different from the expected results. The nature of tipping points is such that many different actors in the scenario in some way do sense the revolutionary nature of the moment and try, each of them, to seize and control the opportunity but, however savvy each participant may be, or whatever they believe it is necessary to do, the unintended consequences of their actions in the longer term rarely match their intentions.  

Tea Party Candidate “disappointed” in Hurt’s “refusal to engage in debate...

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I think it's fair to say that 5th CD Republican Party congressional nominee Robert Hurt is not exactly getting rave reviews for his decision to flip flop on debating the tea party candidate in the race, Jeffrey Clark. To read what Clark has to say, click here. For now, an excerpt will do:
I was disappointed to hear of Senator Hurt's change of position or the mix up that occurred concerning his opinion on the issue of the upcoming debates. I understand he believes that unless you have the money and backing you have no legitimate claim to be included in the political process because you risk being nothing more than a distraction in the important debate of how the two political parties intend to best govern us in the future.

On this matter, I respectfully must disagree with Mr. Hurt. Although it is true I am not independently wealthy and am nothing more than a common citizen that does not have the backing of the political parties...

Anyway, you get the idea -- Jeffrey Clark is not happy with Robert Hurt. Not that this is surprising, given Clark's need to appear in debates to have any chance at all of winning this election.  Still, the fact is that Hurt did seem to flip flop on this one, apparently once his boss Chris LaCivita knocked some sense into him, and Clark's not pleased.

Meanwhile, the Roanoke Times weighs in, writing that "Hurt, state senator who spent six years in the House of Delegates, should have nothing to fear."  Except that Hurt clearly does have something to fear, namely that Clark might take votes away from him and tip the election to Tom Perriello. It makes sense from a purely political point of view. The problem for Hurt is that this is about as anti-political a year as you'll ever see.  Does Hurt really want to be acting like a typical,  calculating, conniving politician in the year of the Tea Partiers?  Something tells me, in the end, that Jeffrey Clark will end up in these debates -- whether Hurt's puppet master, Chris LaCivita, likes it or not!

Dick Armey: Deny Tea Party Affiliation

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Judas? Former House majority leader and leading figure in the tea party movement Dick Armey suggests that Republican candidates should avoid identification with the movement. Armey heads FreedomWorks, a nonprofit group that advocates "Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom". He is described as "a leading voice of the Tea Party movement."

Politico gives the details of remarks by Armey made at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Though the dust-up between Armey and Keith Olbermann is titillating, the practical aspects of his campaign advice are most relevant to Virginians. Candidates running on a one-trick philosophy take a risk of utter embarrassment when they allow themselves to be taken off script. Generally, tea-party backed candidates are vulnerable to scrutiny by members the media who have not shared the kool-aid.  He suggested that local media and Fox News are more a suitable environment for "conservatives."

"Fox News for many of us, we believe is more accurate and reliable than most news most of the time, and we are quite comfortable (and) enjoy when we've given interviews there." - Dick Armey
Armey's advice will not sit well with Virginia partiers. But it acknowledges the fact that the set of voters who identify with these "patriots" are on the fringe of the electorate and is finite. The problem for Republicans is how to keep them in the fold without identifying with them. They represent the margin between failure and success in some districts. Alienating them is as risky as embracing them.  

The Fimian Solution: Less Democracy!

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If you think that America's biggest problem today is too much democracy -- and not enough elitism -- then Keith Fimian is the candidate for you.  As discussed below and at Save the Seventeenth, in a debate on WTOP radio, Fimian expressed support for the idea of repealing the 17th Amendment, which -- almost 100 years ago -- gave Americans the right to elect their Senators, rather than having them appointed by state legislators.

Yes, Fimian is a candidate of the Tea Party, and the media never tires of telling us how this so-called movement represents the authentic Voice of the People.  If so, then it appears that the People actually would prefer to have their Voice muffled.  Assuming that Fimian is truly representing his followers, what we have here is a populist uprising against democracy.    (Something that hasn't happened in the Western World since the 1930s, but I'll just leave that thought alone for now...)

Just as interesting is how enthusiastically other conservatives support Fimian's call to move the voters from the driver's seat to the trunk. Check out this discussion from a few weeks ago at right wing blog Below the Beltway.

What Radical Conservatives Have Wrought

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There is considerable intemperate talk on the teabagger wrong-wing.  But the cons keep pushing the envelope.  Now Rick Barber (R-AL), candidate for Congress has gone way, way over the line. CBS News reports that:


Rick Barber, a Tea Party-affiliated candidate for Congress in Alabama's second district, released an ad Sunday in which he angrily tells men dressed as America's founding fathers that Americans are being taxed without representation, prompting the George Washington character to soberly intone that the time had come to "gather your armies.

"Gather your armies?" This is encouraging civil war, and, therefore, sedition.  We are still waiting for national Republicans with a conscience to begin to dial this stuff back. BTW, the goofball has representation and he is not being taxed without such.  Of course, if astro-turf teabaggers win, then we wouldn't have representation, but the the corporations would.

D-Day and Other Time Slips: Is Death the Source of Progress?

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It's hard to believe that 66 years ago today the largest armada in history assaulted the hostile shore of Festung Europa of Nazi Germany..... The Longest Day, which I remember (as I said elsewhere in a diary on BlueCommonwealth) because my father, an infantry battalion commander with the 1st Division, was there on Omaha Beach, while I was taking finals in school in upstate New York.

What strikes me today is how we are individually positioned in time, how we think or feel about events that are on our horizon because we lived through them, or over our horizon beyond our personal experience, but perhaps within the experience of someone we know, or simply way beyond everyone's mental horizon, i.e., "history." How we think of an event, or even if we think of it at all, has a lot to do with how we conduct our lives, how we vote, what our cultural tags are, and what we want to preserve, or what kind of change we can believe in. In short, what kind of a generation gap must we deal with?

“Tea Party Fail” in Fifth CD

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Gotta love this.
...the conservative favorite Laurence Verga has deflated, losing campaign staffers who say the more moderate Republican state Sen. Robert Hurt is all-but-certain to handily capture the party nomination for the central Virginia district on June 8. That would pit Hurt -- who drew ire for backing a 2004 state tax increase but is otherwise a pretty standard Republican -- against freshman Rep. Tom Perriello, a Democrat who won a GOP seat during the 2008 Obama tidal wave. He's vulnerable but has amassed a campaign war chest of more than $1.5 million.

But the GOP isn't free and clear yet of an intraparty battle, with yet another "true" conservative threatening to run as an independent in the general election if Hurt clears the seven-candidate field. Jeffrey Clark says he'll make a third party run if Hurt wins the GOP nomination...

Now, all we need is this imbecile to come in and endorse Clark, and Tom Perriello should be easily reelected for another term. Go Tea Party! :)

Why the Tea Party Will Fail (the Jihadists, too)

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We are in for a few rough election cycles as the Tea Party's rightwing populism burns through the electorate. Cynical outside observers have spied a certain irony, or, if you prefer, hypocrisy, in "the movement" because so much of its funding appears to be flowing through subterranean channels from the well-stuffed coffers of mega-corporations and other Big Money citadels.  

Even if you follow the money, there is, however, a genuine underpinning of honest anger among the TP foot soldiers against what they see as bloated government that answers to greedy and cruel big business, which has put our grandchildren in hock with its huge budget deficits----- a cause that also acts as a cover for both middle-aged white fear of loss of power in an increasingly diverse electorate, and covert racism, as explained in
The Stalking Horse.

The same outside observers maintain, I believe with some reason, that Big Business interests have co-opted the Tea Party for their own purposes, with the intent of furthering the transition to a corporate feudalism which will keep the facade of a democratic republic while true political power resides with global corporate interests. A current example of corporate power has been on display with the Big Bank bailouts, dilution of re-regulation efforts, and even the arrogance of BP in the Gulf, ignoring EPA directives on use of dispersants, and preventing full on-the-ground coverage by press and other media of the Deepwater oil spill catastrophe.  

Alas, Tea Party, you are doomed. Yes, you are probably more than a flash in the pan, but still doomed as a long-term successful political movement, and not because of anything or everything you will do over the coming months, or what your Democratic opponents might screw up their courage to do, either.