Tag: Tea Party movement

Cantor loses to Tea Party challenger in major upset

Cantor, the republican Senate minority leader, in a first ever case, lost in the primary in VA to an unknown and upstart Tea Party candidate. The NYT is flabbergasted. After all, they have been telling us that the Tea Party is dead, after all.

With just over $200,000, David Brat — a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. — toppled Mr. Cantor, repeatedly criticizing him for being soft on immigration and contending that he supported what critics call amnesty for immigrants in the country illegally. The Associated Press declared Mr. Brat the winner.

Going into the elections, most Republicans had been watching for how broad Mr. Cantor’s victory would be, with almost no one predicting that he would lose.

Mr. Cantor’s defeat — the most unexpected of a congressional leader in recent memory — will reverberate in the capital and could have major implications for an immigration overhaul.

There is a lesson here for all politicians: Americans are not liking the current immigration strategy employed by either party. Amnesty for these law breaking border jumpers should be a no-go. We were already promised in the 80s it would not happen again, and here we are today with central American nations all happy that Obama’s administration has decided not to enforce immigration laws. It’s insane.

Cantor losing is about the greatest thing that could have happened right now. It will force the politicians in DC to abandon their strategy to reward criminals in order to buy potential future votes. And democrats should be even more weary about this. A large section of their voter base views these border jumpers as direct competition for their livelihood, and they will not just accept the new comers, despite what the elite hoi-polloi on the left tell them they should believe.

Good riddance, and lets make sure the amnesty plans are derailed.

Still Cruzing

Let’s be clear about this: what Ted Cruz is doing — now going on it’s 20th hour — is not a filibuster. Under the rules of the Senate, the budget will come up for a vote this afternoon, the Democrats will almost certainly strip the defund language from the bill and send it back the House. I suspect that the Republicans will eventually find a face-saving way to give in: delay parts of the bill and not shut the government down. Polls are showing that shutting down the government is unpopular and the Republicans can read polls, even “skewed” ones. There’s also that defunding the program won’t stop the worst aspects of it. I’m hoping the core of the deal will be a delay or repeal of the employer mandate, but we’ll see.

All that having been said and despite my increasing feeling that Ted Cruz’s speech is more about self-promotion than anything substantive, I do have to tip my hat to the speech. I was sort of on the fence about that until I read Nick Gillespie this morning:

Make no mistake about it: the on-going “extended speech” by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has absolutely nothing to do with defunding the Affordable Care Act—or even delaying it for one goddamn day.

Cruz and his fellow Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) are the best-known of the gaggle of legislators that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) denounced as “wacko birds” earlier this year. “It’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone,” sputtered McCain in the wake of Paul’s immensely popular and influential filibuster, which called much-needed attention to the Obama administration’s glib attitude toward civil liberties and executive branch overreach.

There’s every reason to believe that the future belongs to the wacko birds and their general, transpartisan message that government is too big and too powerful.
The wacko bird caucus overlaps pretty well with the Tea Party. Besides Cruz and Paul, it includes such characters as Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY). Despite meaningful differences among them, they all support cutting federal spending and taxes, and reducing regulations on business and other economic activities. Unlike many members of the GOP, they are critical of the national surveillance state and, at least in the cases of Paul and Amash, are principled non-interventionists who are quick to question the Pentagon budget.

But Cruz and Paul are speaking to significantly different audiences, despite being wacko birds of a feather.

I’ll avoid extensive quoting and send you to Nick’s excellent analysis. Rand is, of course, a libertarian hero — trying to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party, pushing on issues like civil liberties, the War on Drugs and culture liberalism. Cruz, however, appeals to the more traditional Republicans with his button-down looks and emphasis on cultural conservatism. They’re very different in many ways, but they end up in the same place: opposing the expansion of government power.

Is it possible that these two are leading the wings of a rebuilt Republican Party, with one foot in libertarianism and one foot in conservatism and a steady push-back against government power? Is it possible that while they themselves are a bit on the edge, they can be the vanguard of a more mainstream limited government movement? I doubt either could be elected President (or should be) but could they hold the toes of a more mainstream Mitch Daniels or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie to the fire?

God, I hope so.

So while I’m not overly fond of Cruz and recognize this stunt for what it is, I’m also encouraged by it. As I said during the Wendy Davis thing:

In the end, despite the extremely boring parliamentary debate that pushed SB5 past midnight, I found last night kind of riveting. Not because I am particularly sympathetic to the protesters, but because I am sympathetic to anyone pushing back on government. I want people protesting, calling legislators and getting involved because so many of us have fallen asleep at the switch. Our Republic only functions if we hold our leaders responsible for the decisions that they make and the laws that they pass.

So my challenge to those who participated last night, even it was just a “StandWithWendy” hashtag is this: are you willing to keep this up? Are you willing to push back on NSA abuses, even when it is the eeevil libertarians raising awareness? Are you willing to protest the IRS targeting groups based on their politics, even when it’s groups you don’t like? In short, are you going to stay involved when it’s not your pet issue? When it doesn’t involve aborting fetuses?

Because if you’re not willing to stay involved; if you’re going to bash the Tea Party when they do something like this; if you’re going to decry the filibuster when Rand Paul uses it, then you are not a participant, a protester, a citizen, a revolutionary, a patriot or someone who “stands” with anything.

You’re just a partisan.

Unfortunately, but utterly predictably, many of those who “stood with Wendy” are now bashing Ted. That’s short-sighted. After the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, people complained that Congress couldn’t be bothered to debate them. Shouldn’t we be grateful that the Senate is at least semi-debating one of the most sweeping laws in American history? Ted Cruz is drawing attention to what he believes (and I believe) is a bad law. Like Wendy Davis, he has no hope of stopping that law. But the truth is where it needs to be, whatever you make of his motivations.

And for that, at least, I applaud him.

The Astroturf Study

The Left is jumping with both feet on this study:

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Taken purely as “science” — taxpayer-funded science incidentally — there are several problems with inhaling their conclusions without a hint of critical thinking. Sullum:

The main evidence for this thesis is that Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a think tank co-founded by libertarian billionaire David Koch and economist Richard Fink in 1984, received donations from tobacco companies (mainly Philip Morris) between 1991 and 2002. A year or two later, CSE split into two organizations, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, that have helped support and organize Tea Party activists. How much tobacco money did CSE get? According to Glantz et al., $5.3 million over 12 years, which amounts to roughly 11 percent of CSE’s revenue as of 2002. That’s a substantial share, but was it enough to corrupt “a think tank dedicated to free market economics” and backed by an ideologically motivated billionaire? Glantz et al. show that CSE saw eye to eye with Philip Morris on issues such as tobacco taxes and smoking bans, which presumably is why the company supported it. But they do not present any evidence that CSE took positions contrary to its avowed principles because it was eager to keep the tobacco money flowing. Nor do they claim that FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity, the groups that have aligned themselves with the Tea Party, receive substantial tobacco industry funding, let alone that such money is important enough to sway the entire Tea Party movement.

I didn’t realize that smoking rights was such a big deal to the Tea Party. I mean, every Tea Partier I’ve talked to has had that moment when his eyes glazed over and he mumbled, “People should be free to smoke anywhere. Tobacco taxes are bad. I like Phillip Morris better than Cats. I am going to smoke it again and again and again.” But I never thought anything of it.

Incidentally, you know who else got money from Big Tobacco? Algore. Yet, somehow, this does not discredit his opinions on global warming.

Sullum again:

If these positions are so clearly indefensible, why does the money matter? “It is important for policy-makers to be aware of the corporate funding sources for organisations that work to influence public policy,” Glantz et al. write. “It is important for policy-makers,the health community and people who support the Tea Party to be aware of these complex and often hard-to-track linkages.” But they never really explain why. Surely it is possible to judge arguments and evidence on their own merits, without reference to the alleged financial interests of the people offering them.

But rather than respond with arguments and evidence of his own, Glantz seeks to discredit his opponents by implying that they do not really believe what they are saying, that they are only in it for the money. “It is important for tobacco control advocates to anticipate and counter Tea Party opposition to tobacco control policies,” Glantz and his co-authors write, “and to ensure that policy makers, the media and the public understand the longstanding intersection between the tobacco industry and the Tea Party policy agenda.” In other words, if you don’t have logic and facts on your side, smear your opponents as Big Tobacco shills or dupes.

Exactly. Ever since the Tea Party arose, the goal of the Left has not been to engage them or debate them or defeat them. It has been to discredit them. To claim that millions of people with concerns ranging from illegal immigration to Obamacare do not come by these views honestly, but are racists, sexists, idiots or shills in some sort of Koch-funded behaviorist experiment.

Liberals, of course, come by their views honestly and with intellectual rigor. But anyone who disagrees with them must be insane, deluded or brainwashed. So … tobacco money! … or something. It is part of what I call the Grand Liberal Conceit: the belief that everyone is naturally liberal, that liberal views are intrinsically objectively correct and that the only reason anyone isn’t a liberal is because of some evil conspiracy. This view, of course, is the descendent of the “false consciousness” of Marxism, an idea that still extends its vile and vain tentacles into all branches of intellectual thought.

Bullshit. I’ll repeat what I said in a slightly different context, when Bill Maher complained that Obama’s opponents were running against an imaginary straw man:

not all of the complaints against Obama — not even a significant minority — are illegitimate. Obamacare is not a figment of the fevered Right Wing imagination; it’s an actual law that was actually passed and actually massively increases federal control over the insurance system. The crummy economy is not some specter conjured up by Rush Limbaugh. The massive deficit is not an illusion created by Fox News. We can argue over how much responsibility Obama bears for these things; but we can’t argue over whether they exist.

If you ask people why they don’t like Obama, I guarantee you that, except for a handful of pundits, the words “Saul Alinsky” will never pass their lips. They will cite bailouts, which Bush started but Obama supported and manipulated to the advantage of his political allies. They will cite the economy and the debt. They will cite Obamacare. They will cite Dodd-Frank. They will talk about a man who looks at our ridiculous tax system and proposes more complications.

These are not imaginary hobgoblins we attribute to some Barack X candidate who only exists in our diseased conservative minds (Maher, of course, thinking all conservative minds are diseased). These are things the President bears responsibility for.

Yes, some of the organizations affiliated with the Tea Party have taken tobacco money at some point and some have been funded by David Koch. So fucking what. George Soros has been doing that for years and failed to get a real movement going. Ross Perot tried that and failed to get a movement going. All the tobacco and Koch money in the world would not not have made a lick of difference were it not for genuine and legitimate concern about the direction in which this country is headed.

To be honest, this study and the reaction to it tells you a lot more about the Left than it does about the Right. All politics they disagree with is the result of shadowy conspiracies and rich oligarchs. The world is filled with fundamentally evil forces — Big Oil, Big Tobacco, the Koch Brothers — who infest and corrupt anything they touch. There are not legitimate Right Wing movements, only Left Wing ones. And if that all sounds familiar, it’s because those are views and prejudices that they constantly accuse the Right of having.

Hell’s teeth, I tire of that attitude. I wish a thousandth of the energy spent investigating and spreading BS conspiracy theories about the Tea Party or any movement were spent engaging and exploring their concerns and ideas and how those can be addressed in a sensible way. But I guess that tolerance and patience only applies to Occupy Wall Street.

Ceiling Obama’s Fate

I don’t like Speaker Boehner or trust him.  Which just means I have a lot in common with your average conservative Republican congressman (that and skinny-dipping).  It bothers me that this is effectively the most powerful Republican in the federal government.  He’s going to compromise our best strengths away and we’re going to get screwed.   But I really have no idea what else the GOP in the House should do.

We’re talking about Obama’s legacy here.  A working and lasting deal on the debt and taxes would be the starting point for anything good or bad that happens after it.  Obama missed this chance last time through incompetence and opportunism.  He insisted on holding off on any long-term solution until after re-election and allowed the uncertainty  of the fiscal cliff and Taxmageddon  (as well as Obamacare, now not going away) to drag down the economy for another year and a half. 

This is why his first term must be considered to be a failure.  Obama roughly held unemployment in place–unless you want to get into the more complex argument about labor force participation–and that was the issue foremost on voter’s minds.  But Bill Clinton promised that nobody could have fixed the economy in four years and he wouldn’t lie to us, right?  So Obama gets his re-election and another shot at a grand bargain on the debt ceiling and taxes.

Frankly, I’d be more impressed if the federal government woud just pass a real budget in compliance with the law, but they are so fucked that this isn’t even on the table right now.   Whatever Big Fuckin’ Deal these damn fools come up with, it’s going to equally celebrated and meaningless.  They’re not doing what needs to happen, they’re postponing it.  They’re not really doing what they’re supposed to, but making it look like they are.  It’s theatre, but we had best know what the audience is expecting to see on stage: The Rich as the antagonist, who must lose at third act.

The GOP is going to lose plainly on taxes.  Incomes on those who make over $250,000 need to go up because we can’t keep defending these people for no clear reason.  Yeah, yeah, raising taxes now would throw us back into recession or worsen the one we’re already in, depending on your outlook.  The proposed tax increases won’t close the deficit either, I know.   But Obama must have that to show off.  It’s inescapable.  Don’t get me wrong, if we HAD to give Obama a trophy, I’d tell him to take Boehner’s testicles; but he doesn’t want them.  He wants to confiscate more wealth from the wealthy.

I say that the taxes on top earners have to go up because the American people don’t know dick about economics.  Let’s face it.  If they did, they would have shown a lot more curiosity about the lack of a federal budget for nearly four years now and possibly asked some questions about why the recovery was oh so weak.  Oh, yeah: They probably wouldn’t have re-elected Obama either.

My prediction is that the Democrats will get the tax increase on “the rich” while barely giving anything in return.  Don’t get mad about this though.  It’s a loser and the GOP will be better off with it resolved.  It will suck all the wind out of the “party of the rich” arguments if any other part of the deal falls through.

The GOP has the big gun in this argument.  They can always let all of the Bush tax cuts expire.   The demented extremist side of me who would like to collectively kick the electorate in the junk for last Tuesday LOVES the thought of doing this just for spite.  Shitty thing is that this would hurt my household too.  I’m a working schlub, married to a teacher, and we have two kids.   We are that middle class that everyone purports to care about so much and really doesn’t.  Hence, we hate everyone else.

Obama most assuredly does not want to be blamed for raising taxes on the middle class (except for Obamacare, because “kids with cancer” or something).   If the Democrats don’t agree to some spending cuts beyond reducing the military to menacing our enemies with rubberband-fired paper clips, then the GOP must announce that no agreement that realistically reduces the deficit could be reached and they have no choice but to allow the tax cuts to sunset.

The Democrats do not want this and will work hard to prevent it.  The problem is that even though we have the advantage in the form of the great tax increase gambit, we have the biggest disadvantage on the game board: Boehner himself.  This isn’t about him, it’s about Obama.  Both of them want to secure their own legacies and I think Boehner is the less committed of the two.   Worse, he still thinks that something can be worked out man-to-man with this president.  His greatest weapon is that which Obama most fears: tax increases on everybody.  Not beating Obama at golf.

If Boehner does not use the big gun, then he establishes Obama as a good-enough president for resolving the debt stalemate, passes an idiotic compromise that accomplishes nothing for the good of his country, and proves once again how ultimately meaningless it is to give the GOP control of any part of the federal government. 

Obama’s legacy is on the line but all eyes should be on Boehner now.