Sep 212010
New Tea Party Symbol
Image by dsb nola via Flickr

Article first published as Tea Party; GOP Friend, Foe, or Foil? on Technorati.

Many people scoffed when the Tea Party first appeared on the political scene last year. The nascent movement was labeled “fringe” and dismissed as inconsequential. But now, more than a year and a half later, polls show around 20% of Americans claim to be a part of the Tea Party. The growth and success of the movement cannot be denied. Thus far, the GOP has been the beneficiary of the movement’s enthusiasm. But as we press nearer the November election, one serious question remains unanswered — is the Tea Party really helping or hurting the GOP?

When the movement originally began to gather steam, certain prominent figures in the Republican Party took notice and positioned themselves to leverage the excitement. Former House Majority Leader, Dick Armey was amongst the first, throwing the support of his FreedomWorks behind the Tea Party, he embraced the movement and helped craft their “Contract from America” in time for “Tax Day” 2009.

Sarah Palin was another early proponent. The former Republican candidate for vice president actually resigned her post as Governor of Alaska three months after the “Contract” was formed and soon thereafter became a vocal advocate of the movement. The half-term governor solidified her position as co-figurehead of the movement, sharing her influence with Fox News political barker Glen Beck, when she appeared as the keynote speaker at the Tea Party’s inaugural convention this past February.

The first fruits of the movement were harvested shortly before the convention, when Scott Brown rode a Tea Party endorsement into being the first Republican elected to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since 1972. Tea Partiers basked in the glory of the first successful candidate, but in certain ways, the thrill was short-lived. Being more than a little moderate for the Tea Party, before February was done, Brown split from the GOP and became one of five Republicans to vote in favor of the jobs bill.

Since February, much more has happened. Sarah Palin has been fully engaged in the Tea Party speaking tour, often handing out her sought after endorsement and amassing a respectable record of primary victories. To date, Palin has made 43 endorsements of which 24 have been for Tea Party candidates, and 23 have been women and 21 men. She’s presently batting nearly .700 with 25 victories and only 11 losses, and just over half of the wins were by Tea Partiers.

But in the midst of the reverie surrounding the trail of victory are growing concerns that the momentum may be taking the Republican Party far right — right off the edge of a cliff. Four of Palin’s endorsees, including her most recent, are signaling cause for alarm. One early endorsement, Rand Paul of Kentucky, spoke out against portions of the Civil Rights Act that made it illegal for business owners to discriminate against customers on the basis of race. Another of her Tea Party candidates, Sharon Angle of Nevada, ran on the “transitioning out” of Social Security and the elimination of the “unconstitutional” Department of Education.

Palin’s more recent endorsements include Joe Miller, Senate candidate from Alaska, another advocate for privatizing Social Security and eliminating the Department of Education, who also believes that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. But the crown jewel of Palin’s string of primary victories has to be Christine O’Donnell, who formed a successful underdog campaign and beat former Republican Congressman Mike Castle to be Delaware’s Republican candidate for the Senate.

O’Donnell, who also ran for the Senate in 2006 and 2008, is an avowed fiscal conservative who has spoken strongly against “spending money we don’t have,” yet seems to have trouble practicing what she preaches. Accused of criminal activity, the records indicate that O’Donnell misappropriated campaign funds, spending the money on personal expenses. She is on record stating that “America is now a socialist economy” and is on video talking about her teen years dabbling in witchcraft and how she believes that scientists experimenting with cross-breeding have created mice with “fully-functioning” human brains.

Obvious to the most casual observer is the fact that all of these Tea Party candidates are empty vessels. They consistently take positions popular to the far-right and routinely state opinions with little to no basis in reality. Not a one of this gang of four believe that global warming is an issue for America. They are all against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Each of them is in favor of radical shrinking of the federal government and further cutting of taxes without being able to articulate how they would achieve the balanced budgets they promote. They’re all against cap and trade, in favor of the repeal of the healthcare legislation, and none of them will speak to the media except under the protected umbrella of Fox News.

These bagger candidates are the Frankenstein monsters of the leadership of the Republican Party. People like Armey, Gingrich, McConnell and Boehner seem to think that words and rhetoric are transitory, that they can spread whatever lies, distortions and half-truths they wish in order to promote their positions and obfuscate the truth. But the fact is that speech has creative power: it triggers emotional and intellectual responses that impact perception, direct opinion and in the end define political “reality.”

The problem for these Republicans is that their complete lack of veracity and substance has created a movement fueled by belief in a veneer of talking points. There is no substance beneath the surface. Guys like McConnell and Boehner, Gingrich and Demint all know how things really work, but none of them have spoken the truth in years. When you profess to support average people but in reality sacrifice them for the top 2%, you can’t speak the truth. So, now the dishonesty of these self-serving manipulators has taken the form of an army of zombies who have nothing to offer but the talking points through which they were created.

Palin, Paul, Angle, O’Donnell, or Miller, it doesn’t matter. None of them have a clue beyond their “government is bad” rhetoric. They all actually believe that tax cuts pay for themselves. They buy into “small government” blindly, without even evaluating what it might mean. The country needs thinkers, and the Tea Party is giving us winkers. What will they do when more than a sound bite is needed? Sadly, they’ve all gained power because American culture is so easily exploited, never looking for substance or asking for facts. Hopefully, they will fulfill their Frankenstein destinies and ruin their creators before they have a chance to govern and take a real toll on the nation.

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Sep 182010
Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...
Image via Wikipedia

Article first published as Thirty-one Cowardly Democrats on Technorati.

President Obama took the initiative earlier this month to use his bully pulpit and give the Democratic base a reason to get out and vote in November. He started the final weeks before the election out stumping and defining the differences between the parties. Democratic voters could feel the momentum start to build. But one week later, the cowardly lions on the left began their customary collapse, and with their tails between their legs decided to join ranks with the Republicans.

To his credit, the President first took the podium in Milwaukee on Labor Day and revealed his $50 billion infrastructure plan. Two days later he came out swinging in Cleveland and attacked the Republicans on everything from their obstructionism to their factitious support of small business. He focused much of his message on the $250,000 line drawn in the sand over the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts and set the stage for an 8-week fight over who really represents the middle class.

But obviously not up for the fight, on Wednesday, 31 Democrats broke ranks and signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi advocating for the extension of all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for the top 2%. The letter starts with “In recent weeks, we have heard from a diverse spectrum of economists, small business owners, and families who have voiced concerns that raising any taxes right now could negatively impact economic growth.” In other words — we don’t have the courage of our convictions and believe that we may lose votes if seen as supporting tax increases.

The single page letter goes on to attempt to justify the cowardice, stating that the upper tax brackets include only 2%-3% of tax payers, but that “they are responsible for 25% of national consumer spending.” It states further that 70% of our economy is driven by consumer spending, therefore “this is not the time to jeopardize further growth.” Of course ALL of these statements are true, but the conclusion is a non sequitur fallacy.

People in the group in question would be reporting $250,000 or more in taxable income. By definition they would already have the money to continue their 25% of consumer spending. They are obviously not the people being adversely affected by the economic collapse or they wouldn’t be reporting such high income. Contrary to what the letter implies, most economists agree that the money saved by this group would largely be set away in savings and have no impact on stimulating the economy. Besides, as the President has articulated, the rich would still be receiving the very same tax relief on the first $250,000 as everyone else.

The letter also offers up the same tired Republican distortion regarding the overlap of the top 2% and small business. Reciting statistics stating that “up to one-third of high-income taxpayers are small business owners,” these Republicrats assert that expiring the cuts for the rich will cost jobs and harm the recovery. Of course they know better than that. They know that only 2%-3% of real small businesses fall in to this category. They know that the “small businesses” in this group are actually the largest law firms, hedge funds, and other elitists that employ very few people. This is pure “I’m not a tax raiser” politicking.

Liberals need to seriously consider whether or not there’s anything on the planet more cowardly than a congressional Democrat. This entire maneuver is because they’re worried that the mean old Republicans might spin their support of tax cuts for only the middle class into perceived support for raising taxes, even if on the rich . . . poor Democrats. So, instead of saying, “Hell yes! We support relief for the middle class,” the Democrats are willing to bow down again. Football fans will recognize their strategy in the many NFL teams who go into a “prevent” defense in the fourth quarter to protect a lead, and ALWAYS wind up losing. Democrats play not to lose while the Republicans play to win.

Democrats need to learn that public opinion follows spin, so instead of letting the Republicans do the spinning, the damn Democrats need to get out there and tell the story. The only reason the Republicans get away with adhering to a strict loyalty to the upper 2% and still get elected is because the Democrats allow them to get away with a constant barrage of fact-free propaganda. Republicans by necessity use distortion, hyperbole and outright lies to obfuscate their true agenda, but the Democrats are too afraid to expose them, fearing that public opinion may not roll their way.

Now, even on an issue where the Democrats are obviously acting on behalf of 98% of the population (whether the people know it or not), these cowardly 31 are still too timid to push the agenda. What exactly do these mice stand for?

Fortunately, at this point, Speaker Pelosi is holding strong, and still has the support of the majority of Democrats in the house. At least Madam Speaker has some conviction and fortitude. It’s high time that the rest of the Democrats get behind the President and help define why people should vote for them. After all, if the people want to elect a Republican, why would they vote for one who’s a Democrat?

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Sep 162010
20 Dollars art2
Image via Wikipedia

Are the offices of elected officials in America really up for sale? Apparently Meg Whitman believes so. With 48 days left in the auction for the office of Governor of California, billionaire Whitman raised her bid by another $15 million. Her personal total now at $119 million, Queen Meg has set a new all-time record for personal contribution in an American election campaign.

Some people might consider it unhealthy to have a process that allows candidates to contribute without limit to their personal election campaign. Objections asserting that a candidate should be elected based upon their record and policies, not the size of their bank account, are certainly valid. But that’s not the way things work in 21st Century American politics, where corporations are people, facts are optional, and elections are decided by who has the better television ads and sound bites.

For her money, Meg Whitman has assembled a media blitz of attack ads aimed at discrediting her opponent. Attacking both Jerry Brown’s record as mayor of Oakland and governor of California, her campaign has managed to saturate television and radio with an unrelenting barrage of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies.

Fortunately for Meg, lying may be unethical, but it’s not illegal. From her early ad that attempted to illegitimately associate Jerry Brown’s record as mayor with the debacle of misappropriation and graft in Bell, California, to her ridiculously mistitled The Facts: Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a video ad that was virtually fact-free, to her most recent perversions of truth regarding Brown’s time as governor, Whitman has rivaled her contribution record with a performance destined for the liar’s hall of fame.

In Whitman’s seventh attack ad against Brown, she attempts to defame his position on taxes as governor by showing footage of former president, Bill Clinton, during their contentious 1992 Democratic presidential primary battle. In the video, Clinton asserts that Brown had raised taxes as governor — a claim that Clinton has since refuted. As it turns out, the former president’s statement was based on information presented by Brooks Jackson, of CNN, who now openly admits that his data was in error. The Whitman campaign, to their continuing discredit, was made aware of the issue but chose to retain the ad.

Another current Whitman ad, allegedly reporting the “facts” about Jerry Brown, apparently relies on the same erroneous reports of California taxes under Brown, claiming that he supported $7 billion in increases. The truth is that taxes fell under Brown, from an average 6.89% to 6.56%. The ad also claims that Brown was against Prop-13, which he was — because it artificially fixed rates and set a requirement for a two-thirds majority in both state houses to increase any tax. Brown wasn’t against the tax cut, and in fact had tried to get a cut through the legislature that was blocked by Republicans in an election year tactic. The truth is that Prop-13 was a poorly designed 389 word initiative that amended the State Constitution, drained the budget surplus, gutted education and benefitted business far more than the average Californian.

Unsatisfied with distortions only on Brown’s record on taxation, the Whitman ad is facetiously named, “Job Killer.” The job portion of the video starts with the claim that California’s unemployment rate “nearly doubled to 11%” under Brown. The truth is that it did go over 11% in late 1982, when the national rate had climbed to 10.8% because of the recession. But Whitman’s claim that the rate doubled is pure fiction.

According to Whitman’s own website, the unemployment rate before Brown took office was 7.3%, which would equate to only a 50% increase. And the fact is that unemployment started climbing before Jerry Brown took office, with the state losing 140,000 jobs between 11/74 and 3/75 because of the oil crisis and the end of the Viet Nam war. Official records only go back to 1976, when the rate was at 9.3%, and the reason it was higher when Brown left office, even though the state had 1.9 million new jobs created during his tenure, is because of a nagging recession and a growing population. The truth is that Jerry Brown had the best job record of the State’s past five governors.

Election campaigns being what they are, public offices are effectively sold today, but that doesn’t mean that once aware, voters should allow it to happen. There is no other case in American history where it was so obvious that a candidate was trying to buy an office and would stop at nothing in order to get elected. Meg Whitman has spent millions of her own money to inundate California voters with false information. She believes that her veracity is immaterial so long as she can saturate the media. California voters need to ask themselves if this lack of good character is what they really want in a governor.

Meg Whitman cares as much about the truth as she does the good people of the State of California. If she is able to lie and buy her way into the governor’s office, she will most assuredly fight for her fellow elite and bring them prosperity at the cost of the working people of California. Queen Meg believes in tax cuts for the rich and the outsourcing of jobs. Her dubious plan to address unemployment is nothing more than vintage trickle down, and her plan for education as substantive as her “facts” about Jerry Brown. The people of this state need to send Ms. Whitman back into retirement, because if they don’t, they’ll all be seeing red when the Red Queen is done.

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