Thursday, December 27, 2012

Frankenstein's Monster and the Tea Party

"It's Alive!"


Tea Party


   Remember the good old days when Tom "The Hammer" Delay, ruled the House of Representatives as Republican Majority Leader during the Bush (George W) years?  He would cajole, bully, and threaten members of his own party to get bills passed, often just by one vote (in the 108th Congress, a preliminary Medicare vote passed 216-215, a vote on Head Start passed 217–216, a vote on school vouchers for Washington, D.C. passed 209-208, and "Fast track", usually called "trade promotion authority," passed by one vote as well. Both political supporters and opponents remarked on DeLay's ability to sway the votes of his party, a method DeLay described as "growing the vote" -Wikipedia) He would have lobbyists help write bills. He would threaten other Republican House members with primary challenges for those members if they would not vote the way he wanted. He would force members to take turns voting on bills that might be unpopular in their home districts in order to garner enough votes to get that bill passed.  And he raised a lot of money for his fellow Republicans candidates.
   As biological anthropologist and science communicator Greg Laden points out:
   "An anchor was pressing the two guests about this difference in strategy, challenging them with the idea that the Republicans were better at this sort of thing because they were coordinated and in lockstep. The word “lockstep” was used. Every single Republican will vote the same exact way on the health care reform bill (against health care). The Democrats, on the other hand, will be more diverse in their voting patterns and are currently more diverse in their arguments and positions on various aspects of each issue.
   I made the point in an earlier post (Discordant Democrats vs. Republican Dittoheads) that Republicans work in lock step and simply do whatever they are told. I’m not talking (necessarily) about the average Joe the Plumber Republican. I’m talking about elected officials with law degrees. The average United States Senator or Representative who happens to be a Republican needs not think, read, or consider."
      Personally I find Mr. Delay an incredibly loathsome individual, barely above "monster" status (I don't care how well he can dance ( )) due to his work in 2000 regarding human rights offenses toward workers in the Northern Mariana Islands.
   Nationally known columnist and commentator Mark Shields,  wrote for CNN:
   "Moved by the sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants -- from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed...
   Because they were produced in a territory of the United States, garments traveled tariff-free and quota-free to the profitable U.S. market and were entitled to display the coveted "Made in the USA" label.
   DeLay traveled with his family and staff over New Year's of 1997 on a Jack Abramoff scholarship endowed by his client, the government of the territory to the Marianas, where golf and snorkeling were enjoyed.
   DeLay fully approved of the working and living conditions. The Texan's salute to the owners and Abramoff's government clients was recorded by ABC-TV News: "You are a shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system."
   Conservative Republican Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Frank Murkowski wrote a bill to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas, which the Senate unanimously passed, but which Delay shot down for consideration, and later blocked a fact-finding mission planned by Rep. Peter Hoekstra by threatening him with the loss of his subcommittee chairmanship.
   Nice guy.
   Currently he is appealing a conviction for money laundering and a three year prison sentence and free on bail. He was indicted in 2005, found guilty in 2010, and still free. For some Texas justice is very slow.
   I'll celebrate when they finally get around to locking him up.
   But I digress.

   Well the good old days seem to be long gone, at least for the Republican leadership in the House, thanks to the Tea Party.
   Polls tend to show Tea Party supporters as being mainly white (as a matter of fact it was considered exceptionally difficult to find any people of color at the early Tea Party protests) and slightly more likely to be male, married, older than 45, more conservative than the general population, and likely to be more wealthy and have more education (although slogans on signs at rallies like "Keep your government hands off of my medicare" tend to discount the later). The idea was a grassroots movement advocating some type of strict constitutionalism (I guess they didn't think the Supreme Court was doing a very good job), reducing the size of government, its spending, lowering taxes, and it was definitely against Obamacare (although reducing the federal deficit should be a stated goal, which the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will accomplish (The 2011 comprehensive CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimate projected a net deficit reduction of more than $200 billion during the period 2012–2021. CBO estimated in March 2011 that for the 2012–2021 period, the law would result in net receipts of $813 billion, offset by $604 billion in outlays, resulting in a $210 billion reduction in the deficit).
   Since its inception the Tea Party has been usurped by groups like Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers ( ) and FreedomWorks (also funded by David Koch), so it's claim to be a movement of and by the people is dubious at best.
   The Occupy Wall Street movement is a grassroots group, of and by the people, but unlike the Tea Party it had, and has, seemingly no political agenda. The Tea Party however, almost totally identifying with the Republican Party, sent it's members to Congress.
   In the 2010 midterm elections Tea Party endorsed candidates upset established Republicans in several primaries, such as in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, and Utah. 138 candidates backed by Tea Party support ran for Congress, 129 were running for the House and 9 for the Senate, with 32 percent winning seats, which gave them approximately 14 percent of the seats in the House, a significant percentage.
   The newly seated Tea Party candidates first made themselves nationally known during the mid -2011 debt ceiling crisis, in which these elected officials refused, under principle, to extend the governments ability to borrow funds to keep the government running and paying it's debts. Then Presidential candidate and Tea Party Caucus founder, Michelle Bachmann, actually advocated for the House to let the government default on its payments for the first time in the nation's history, and it almost did, causing  Standard & Poor's credit rating agency to downgrade the long-term credit rating of the United States government also for the first time in its history, from AAA to AA+, leading to the Sequestering agreement that has led to our current so-called Fiscal Cliff  crisis.
   This wasn't exactly the outcome the established Republican leadership, in the form of Speaker of the House John Boehner, was hoping for.
   What he was hoping for was some measure of control over his supposedly party membership that other speakers had enjoyed up until then. But he had none. What he had was 14 percent of the House that were complete ideologues pursuing their own agenda without regard to their party or the country as a whole. If the country went down the financial tubes, so be it, as long as taxes were not raised and the government's ability to borrow money was curbed, and subsequent spending by said government was lowered. They considered no actual real world consequences to their actions. They were like little kids, completely and totally irresponsible. What Boehner had was 61 identified Tea Party Representatives (25% of Republicans), out of 242 Republican seats, with 193 Democrats who were unlikely to help him very much
   What he had was a Republican Frankenstein's Monster, created from a frustrated and angry Republican electorate, which once brought to life, turned against its master, creating nothing but chaos and turmoil within its wake.
   I doubt that even Charles and David Koch anticipated this happening. As a matter of fact I know they didn't, considering the lowering of the countries credit rating wasn't good for their own bottom line.
   Since the last election the Tea Party has lost influence ( ), but it can still screw up the Speaker's plans.
   A week ago Speaker Boehner was trying to pass his "Plan B" resolution to the Fiscal Cliff problem we're still facing. It was a mostly symbolic attempt to place the onus of solving this issue back on the Democrats because once sent to the Senate it had absolutely no chance being taken up, let alone passing.
   But he couldn't even get his own Bill passed through his own Republican controlled House.
   " House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a vote on the bill after they failed to rally enough votes for passage in an emergency meeting about 8 p.m. Within minutes, dejected Republicans filed out of the basement meeting room and declared there would be no votes to avert the “fiscal cliff” until after Christmas. With his “Plan B” all but dead, the speaker was left with the choice to find a new Republican way forward or to try to get a broad deficit reduction deal with President Obama that could win passage with Republican and Democratic votes.
   What he could not do was blame Democrats for failing to take up legislation he could not even get through his own membership in the House." -Jonathan Weisman, New York Times.
   Plan B apparently called for ending the Bush (George W) tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million, which the Tea Party members of Boehner's party could not stomach, so they refused his entreaties to get it passed, turning on their leadership, and putting the Speaker's job at stake when he comes up for reelection next Thursday.
   Like the monster in Mary Shelley's Gothic novel, the Tea Party may cause the death of its own creator, or leader.
   And it certainly isn't doing the country any good either.

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