...gang aft agley.
Yesterday, somewhere between 20,000 and 500,000 people journeyed to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to help Glenn Beck "Restore Honor" to the US. The actual number of participants present depends on who is doing the counting. That said, there were a lot of people gathered to hear Beck and Palin and several other speakers give speeches on the need for religion, or something, in this country. Not too many specifics were presented, no detailed agenda produced. So, on the one hand, Beck and Palin drew a boatload of people, but on the other hand, they didn't appear to issue any marching orders other than it would be nice if the attendees prayed and if they tithed.
The much-hyped event didn't seem to have much significance beyond the fact that it happened, or did it?
Part of me would like to dismiss the whole production as nothing more than "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Yet the gathering was sponsored by and loosely affiliated with the Tea Party movement, even if the day was actually mostly devoid of any overt political rhetoric. Now, rational people may argue over whether the Tea Partiers are any kind of powerful, well-organized movement, but the fact is that they have had an impact on national politics over the past eighteen months.
One of the nice things about visiting Watching America
is that one often finds an insight into what is happening in this country which is dramatically under-reported in our national news media. This weekend was no exception. Although written before the "Restore Honor" convocation, an article
in Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau
looks at just how the Tea Party movement is affecting the Republican party in light of the recent primaries. America’s conservatives are about to face a fork in the national road. The tea party movement, originally an extremely colorful group of individuals that wanted less government and less public debt than the Obama administration was giving them, has become a gathering point for right-wing populists. The noises coming from that quarter are rough, not only against Muslims or a president they hate so vehemently, but also against any Republican seeking cooperation rather than confrontation. ...
...So far, the Republicans have profited from the energy of the tea party movement.
But wherever polarizing issues are taken to extremes, the limits of the “conservative tidal wave” become apparent. In Florida, tea party darling Marco Rubio split the Republican Party. He was nominated as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate last Tuesday, but the Republicans still have problems because popular Governor Charlie Crist, a moderate, bolted the party and will run as an independent in November. In Kentucky and Nevada, tea party favorites were also nominated but have since apparently begun frightening centrist voters.
The Palin wing of the party thereby thwarts the Republican Party’s strategy of turning the election into a referendum on Barack Obama. They know that their best chance at the polls has nothing to do with their own strengths but rather is based on dissatisfaction with the current administration.
Unfortunately for both parties, I think the op-ed writer has nailed it. Republicans have been bolting to the right and to the downright wacky in an attempt to keep the Tea Partiers energized enough to actually vote for them. Historically, such movements are short-lived. Even Newt Gingrich lost ground after the Contract With America, although he has conveniently forgotten that part of his personal history. Dissatisfaction with the extremism of the Bush/Cheney administration's interpretation of American Exceptionalism cost the Republicans both the House and the Senate, thereby setting up Obama's victory in 2008.
It is possible that the Tea Partiers have actually given the Democrats a leg up for the 2010 elections, although the party certainly doesn't deserve it. Yes, the 111th Congress and Barack Obama inherited a disastrous mess from the prior administration, one that they all promised to clean up with bold and visionary programs. It was the carry-through that was so dismal.
Yes, we got health care reform, but it was mostly designed by and for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. And, yes, there was that stimulus package, but it was too little to have any real impact on the people suffering the most under the economic meltdown, the average people who lost their jobs and their homes, and who will still be unemployed and homeless in November. Then, to add to the mess, the White House caved to the yowling on the right over budget deficits, so any further stimulus packages are off the table, and even set up a commission to find ways to save money, thereby putting Social Security on the table.
This should have been a walk-over for the Republicans, even though they did nothing beyond fighting every policy initiative presented and thereby paralyzing Congress. All they had to do was point to the cost of the now-mandatory health insurance to the nation as a whole and to the individual voters as well as point to the unemployment numbers. Now, however, incumbents have had to fight hard to keep their jobs, and the ones who were successful in the primary onslaughts now look like foaming at the mouth crazies.
This election is going to be one for the books, or will, if anyone bothers to show up to vote.
Labels: Election 2010, Tea Party