Thursday, September 13, 2012

Teaparty - its recent ascendency

This is about the rise of the Teaparty, hitting the high points of its takeover of the Republican dialog and mentioning the most obvious consequences.

I take as given that the reputation of the Teaparty is not universally good within the Republican Party, and that is why I expect that the information here will help those voters to fall away from their party.

The 2010 Republican primary elections for the US House and Senate indicated a meaningful shift in several ways. First, a few incumbents were defeated by their primary opponents, which is unusual. Second, there were a number of other conventional candidates favored on the party slates, who were challenged and defeated by Teaparty opponents. Several of these came across to the GOP establishment as loose cannons at best. A few seemed like unbalanced extremists who should, for the sake of party integrity and good sense, be abandoned. I'm thinking, in particular, of Sharron Angle of Nevada ("2nd Amendment solutions") and Christine O'Donnell of Delaware ("I am not a witch").

Third, helping to lock in their institutional inroads, the Teapartyers were not abandoned by their party. I thought that I detected a crucial choice involving Karl Rove. When Christine O'Donnell won her nomination, Rove immediately was quoted in the press as opposing the idea that the party should support her; she was a terrible candidate and was almost bound to lose anyway. But within 48 hours of that, he changed his mind. – A week later, Rove announced that his PAC would have 50% more to spend for the general election that he had previously announced. I was highly suspicious at the time that those two announcements might be linked; and the two years since then has shown that Murdoch and the Koch brothers are not the only billionaires who might have played a role.

None of the lousy candidates were repudiated by the national party. I noticed that there were local politicians in Nevada who were mentioned as disclaiming Angle, and I hope that other states had people with some good sense even though I never saw them mentioned. Will GOP endorsements mean anything in the future? Unfortunately, this corruption of "endorsing" on the national stage seems to have fallen beneath the active notice of the media. Worse, I saw a case where reporters re-interpreted non-endorsement as a personal thing, on top of "winning is everything" – In November, 2010, a few days before the elections, Obama pointedly failed to endorse the Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island. The CNN reporters of the non-endorsement cynically wondered who Obama might be rewarding in the GOP establishment... even though the same news cycle did have the vulgar retort of that candidate to the news. That candidate's reaction seemed to me to give sufficient evidence, by itself, that this fellow was not suited for high office.

Throughout the 2010 election season, the GOP granted these candidates a certain degree of gravitas. And all of them seemed happy to enter the national debate by extending the official Republican lie that "Obamacare is a takeover by the national government of medical care in the US."

Now, it did happen that both Angle and O'Donnell lost. Had Democrats been facing the folks that they beat in the primaries, there's a good chance that the Democrats would have lost both those races, and lost control of the Senate. As I imagine it, dedicated Teapartyers had little or no regret for the total outcome – Elevating the Teaparty profile was worthwhile to them, even at that cost. In their perspective, the "conventional Republicans" who they beat were very little better than the Democrats who won.

Now I will reach back to the early days of the Obama administration for the early impetus of the Teaparty. Before the street demonstrations and faces on Fox News, there was the now-famous agreement between Republican factions to "oppose everything Obama tries to do, deny him any success." I am not sure how immediately important that was; the folks we now know as Teaparty were going to oppose any expenditures, ... and undoubtedly would have given McCain a hard time if he had been elected. This seems to me to have been a ploy from the "win-at-any-cost" segment of the conventional party which dragged in the whole party.

With some tacit approval of party leadership, the GOP opposition to Obama was more abrasive and stupid and dishonest than might otherwise have been allowed. In particular, when Obama shifted from opposition to adopting the GOP's capitalistic program of reducing pollution through "cap-and-trade", instead of direct control, the new GOP stance became (1) calling cap-and-trade socialistic, and (2) backing up to pretend that, after all, there must not be any problem of global warming. Generally, they adopted a position that, "Not only is there 'no problem,' but there is not a strong suggestion of a problem which would call for prudent contingency planning."

I already mentioned opposition to Obamacare, which is a clone of Romneycare, that was built on GOP ideas from 1995, and never seriously opposed until 2009.

A few other issues worked out similarly, where the old Republican main-line is apparently off-line; and sensible, far-sighted approaches are no longer Politically Correct to even suggest. Campaign finance reform? Not even public exposure of contributors. Immigration reform? Certainly, no tuition support for illegal aliens.

A separate consequence of the 2010 elections was the GOP takeover of dozens of state governments, by governor and both houses. This has been followed by literally hundreds of bills to restrict abortions and access to abortions, and attempts to slip in "legal" government interference with the right to abortions. That does include "trans-vaginal probes" that some states require that women pay for and obtain, clearly intended as an objectionable nuisance. (It is ironical that these legislators, on other days, complain of intrusive government.) That does include laws to require doctors to misinform women about risks of abortion ("leads to suicide and cancer") and to permit doctors to lie to women about genetic defects, if lying might avoid an abortion. There have also been attacks on unions; attacks on public schools: curriculum on the one hand, charter schools on the other. And a win-at-any-cost effort at voter suppression, mainly for the sake of this 2012 election. (Attacking fraud would focus on absentee ballots.)

Finally, there is the hardening of Teaparty positions into GOP political-correctness during the 2011-2012 Presidential campaign season. Everybody signs the (totally irresponsible) Tax Pledge of Norquist. Everybody ends up endorsing the Personhood amendment, intended to ban all abortions and birth control pills and IUDs. Everybody is (seemingly) denying global climate change. (However, I do find the similar statements by Romney and Gingrich to be equivocations ... more on that later.) See

These things are in the GOP platform. Norquist, the no-tax anarchist, says something like, Just give us a Republican who has enough fingers to grasp a pen and we will give him the laws.

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