Posts Tagged ‘ Tea Party

That Crazy Right Wing

My father just emailed me about the debt-ceiling agreement and I wrote back about some of the feelings I’ve had today. Since I went on a bit, I thought I would put my thoughts up here:

My rep voted no, but it’s hard to avoid feeling like this was theater. The Republicans and Democrats each let enough members of their caucus off the hook that they could cast a phony protest vote when the outcome was not in doubt. Republicans should have been forced to get a majority from their own caucus, so the Tea Party couldn’t indulge in any fiction about this deal not being what they want. And if they really were so extreme they couldn’t pass it by themselves, that should have been Obama’s cue to say, “I can’t reason with these people,” and go the 14th Amendment route.

I have been discussing this online and reading reactions and I have reached the conclusion everyone, but particularly liberals, puts far too much emphasis on what people say and not enough on what they do. All last night I was hearing that this deal was better than a default, and the Democrats had no choice but to bargain with the hostage-takers. I could not disagree more.

The current GOP, like North Korea, derives much of its bargaining power from the belief that it is crazy enough to do anything, regardless of the cost to themselves or the country. From the rhetoric and symbolic maneuvers, yes, they do indeed seem crazy.

But deeds and outcomes tell the real story. The Republican Party has pushed the country to the brink repeatedly, and each time it extracts positive outcomes. It profits by its extremism so consistently that any argument that their actions are irrational is false on its face.

Note that the TARP went through under a Republican president with Republican votes in the House and Senate. Oh, they hate bailouts, but they only drew a line in the sand after the banks had received their money. When it came to mortgage relief or financial reform, they turned into radical anti-government insurrectionists.

They threated a budget shutdown in December, and walked away with the Bush tax cuts extended and major budget cuts. Then they say they are ready to see the country default, and get another massive round of cuts, and a commission that they already vow will not be permitted to mandate tax increases.

I believe someone is crazy when they do harm to themselves and their loved ones. Perhaps Tea Party foot-soldiers do burn with fanatical zeal. But as a movement, they have never known defeat. This does not happen by accident. It is a product of cold calculation, and they will continue making those calculations until the Democrats force them to either see their rhetoric through or acknowledge they have limits.

But we don’t have Democrats like that. Perhaps Pelosi. Certainly not our president.

Last Call for Debt Increases

It looks like we may have a debt-deal. It is a bad one in every respect.

I have neither the time nor inclination to begin cataloging the ways in which Barack Obama has been a disappointment. With civil liberties, global strategy, and the economy he has proven beyond doubt that his judgment is unreliable and his motives dubious. Now he seems intent on co-opting the GOP’s extreme agenda. I don’t know why. Perhaps his centrism is such that he is desperate to find any middle-ground, even if it lies only between Madness and Lunacy.

The debt-deal will require House and Senate Democrats to vote for it. This is what I wrote my congressman:

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure with the debt-ceiling agreement President Obama appears to have struck with the GOP leadership in the House and Senate. It is now clear that we are still in a recession, there was never a significant recovery, and all economic reason dictates that this is a time for the government to stimulate the economy through spending. Compassion dictates this is a time to extend the social safety net, with aid to the long-term unemployed and homeowners struggling with their mortgages (those few who have not already suffered foreclosure). Yet at such a time, President Obama is agreeing to slash entitlements, with the guarantee of more cuts down the road, all in exchange for the absolutely routine and unremarkable act of increasing the debt-limit. The reason, we are told, is because the House Republicans will refuse to raise the debt-ceiling, and therefore deal a body blow to the country’s credit and the economy as a whole.

Congressman, this situation is intolerable. What’s most galling is that this agreement will require the complicity of Democrats like yourself. Speaker Boehner cannot deliver enough GOP votes to pass this odious bargain. Are Democrats, currently in control of the Senate and White House, really going to vote in favor of wrong-headed economic policy and cruelty to the millions of Americans who need jobs and welfare? How will you ever ask for our votes again if you not only fail to prevent this agreement, but actually guarantee its success?

I know the stakes are dire. I know your Republican colleagues are recklessly intransigent and indifferent to the health of the economy under a Democratic administration. I know the grim consequences that would follow failure to increase the debt-ceiling. But Congressman, our failure to take a hard line with GOP extremism has led us to this juncture. It is time to answer the question: do we still have a functioning, two-party democracy, or has GOP extremism finally broken the machinery of government? If the former, then Democratic resistance to this agreement will lead to a better one, perhaps to the clean debt-ceiling increase we should have had all along. If the latter, if the GOP is really willing to harm the entire country in order to advance their agenda of irresponsible tax cuts, then supporting the President as he surrenders Democratic principles only postpones the day of reckoning. It guarantees more pain and suffering along the way, and makes the Democratic Party their agents.

I have learned to expect very little from the President when it comes to fighting for liberal values. I hope that courage and principles still exist among the Democrats of Congress. I hope you and your colleagues will listen to conscience and reason when this deal is presented to you, and vote no.

I will remember this next November, and every primary.

Tyler, My Eyes Are Open

There are some great things about The New York Times. For instance, I have a binder full of great recipes from their food section. And people like Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott make the film section a treat. If The New York Times was a cultural and gastronomical digest, it’d be one hell of a paper.

But a news outlet is responsible for letting people know what’s happening in the world, and occasionally making a judgment about what it all means. Sadly for all of us, The Times treats this responsibility with an unappealing combination of pompous milquetoast smugness (typified by its editorials, and writers like Friedman, Dowd, and Brooks), and an elevation of fair-mindedness to the point of moral cowardice and delusion. The best recent example is probably The Times’ Executive Editor, Bill Keller, who dismissed the significance of the paper’s decision to stop referring to waterboarding as torture the moment the Bush administration told The Times it wasn’t torture.

But there are also web series like The Thread, which purports to provide an “in-depth look at how major news and controversies are being debated across the online spectrum.” We’ll set aside the usefulness of this particular service, which seems to do nothing than add more reverb to the already deafening crosstalk between blogs and opinion writers.

No, what I find telling is this meandering essay on the modern “race card” and who has been playing it lately and how that’s been received. The point of departure for this discussion is an NAACP resolution that calls on the Tea Party movement to renounce the racists among its leadership. After looking at several arguments of when it is appropriate to call someone or something racist, Tobin Harshaw concludes with this irrelevance:

It’s pretty complicated here as well, to the point that this week arguments that were initially about health care, national security and the economy are now all about race… Roslyn Brock, the new chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., told the group’s convention this week that “contrary to popular belief, we do not live in a post-racial society.” Based on this week’s evidence, it seems that nobody much held that belief in the first place.

What raises this from a merely boring article to something banally sinister is its failure to cite one important development in this story. Namely, a leading Tea Party figure writing something obscenely racist. The author, Mark Williams, has since taken it down. But The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates has the original text:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.

And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Sincerely

Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew
NAACP Head Colored Person

This is news. This is not some nut at a Tea Party rally with an Obama-witch doctor poster. This letter comes from the spokesman for the Tea Party Express. Its omission from the Times piece is exactly what makes that piece subtly toxic. Harshaw’s piece asks whether the Tea Party is racist and portrays the entire issue as nothing more than competing points of view. There is no truth, only arguments. So the truth revealed by this communique from Mark Williams, that the NAACP was right about the Tea Party having some seriously racist leadership, doesn’t make it into the final draft.

Coates says something at the end of his post that’s worth repeating here.It speaks to a lot of the way mainstream outlets cover the news now, and the way a lot of us have started conceptualizing issues.

I would not endeavor to speak for anyone but myself when I say that I owe the NAACP a debt of gratitude. I have, in my writing, a tendency to become theoretically cute, and overly enamored with my own fair-mindedness. Such vanity has lately been manifested in the form of phrases like “it’s worth saying”  and “it strikes me that…” or “respectfully…”

When engaging your adversaries, that approach has its place. But it’s worth saying that there are other approaches and other places. Among them–respectfully administering the occasional reminder as to the precise nature of the motherfuckers you are dealing with.