March 24, 2015 by Thomas Hauber
Jonathan Swift stated, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” Author John Kennedy Toole titled his comic novel with part of this quote, but it doesn’t take a genius to convene the Dunces. They materialize on cue whenever progressives appear. It’s interesting to note that despite identical far-right complaints against government for decades, there was no Tea Party during the reign of George W. Bush
The “Tea Party” name was coined in early 2014 by CNBC regular Rick Santelli, who in a famous on-air rant criticizing Obama administration fiscal policy, threatened to stage a modern “Tea Party” by throwing bad mortgage securities into Lake Michigan. Since then the Tea Party has evolved into a vocal and powerful political force that wishes to throw the entire New Deal into the drink. The Party’s ostensible philosophy emphasizing personal freedom, economic freedom and fiscal responsibility attracts a rabid ideological following. Every other word in the Tea Party vocabulary is Freedom and Patriotism with ample use of Eagles and Flags. Despite the ring of a Libertarian almost Jeffersonian brand of classic liberalism, where one’s rights and freedoms are inherent and absolute, (where government does not grant rights but exists solely to protect them) Tea Party language cleverly codes for a highly restrictive agenda.
Earlier this year, in a small seaside resort in Myrtle Beach, the Party “tore away the curtain of secrecy” (their own words) and opened their pre-convention event to the general public. Well over a thousand convened to hear a host of potential Republican Party Presidential candidates rant, rave, and serve up a Carolina version of Surf n’ Turf… Red Herring and Red Meat.
Waffling is political suicide and the Tea Party has never been accused of that. Attendees were in for a treat as such luminaries as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and a confederacy of retired generals, brain surgeons, ex-cops, Reaganites, Heritage Foundation founders and legislators took turns revving up the crowd.
Three of the principals, US Representatives Gomert (R-TX), Brindenstine (R-OK) and Duncan (R-SC) unsuccessfully led an earlier movement to oust Coppertone poster-boy and current House Speaker John Boehner while Donald Trump hammered the Speaker and all other politicians. They just ”talk, talk, talk and don’t DO anything,” droned the Donald, reciting a litany of Tea Party pet issues: ObamaCare, Benghazi, birthing and anti-immigration. Santorum curiously took his turn trashing “rich” people like Mitt Romney who don’t relate to family-values Catholic/Christians like him. Rick probably takes credit for Romney’s exit from the 2016 presidential race.
Crowing too loudly an also be dangerous, but when Ted Cruz turned his rabid father Rafael loose on the confab the crowd went wild. Rafael is a “birther” (himself born in Cuba) who suggested, “Obama go back to Kenya.” Rafael is a Christian nationalist, like Institute on the Constitution (IOTC) CEO Jake MacAulay, who blatantly advocates the US be a theocracy, believing not only the Bible but the Constitution was inspired by God and that church and state separations should presumably be changed to reflect that.
By far the premiere demagogue in America is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who in his opening remarks said that he was glad to be in South Carolina. He had been in Washington, said Ted, but that it was “…good to finally be back in America.” Ted wants to be President and there’s no better place to launch a racist fundamentalist campaign than South Carolina, birthplace of the Nixonian, Reganite “southern strategy.” Ted warned against heading for the “Bushie middle” and advised standing tall for his Ivy League, ostrich boot, hard to be humble, smirky, all-white version of The American Dream.
The parade of lesser kooks droned on. Ex-Woodstock Georgia Chief of Police David Bores claimed ISIS was responsible for the unrest in Ferguson Missouri. Cowboy-hatted ex-cop “Wild Bill” Finlay who loves to “make liberals scream” had the cojones to call Obama, both MLK and the entire Black Caucus “race-baiting promoters of division and hatred.”
After a few minutes with these guys, anyone who doesn’t regard the Tea Party as a fundamentally all-white, racist, homophobe, xenophobe, born-again Christian club dedicated to maintaining a strict fundamentalist and provincial view of life in America just isn’t listening.
Back when the Tea Party first formed I snuck into their on-line ranks out of curiosity (clearly a ringer) with a Godfather-like desire to “keep my enemies closer.” The Tea Party Patriots website required one to register and be accepted based on an unspecified set of qualifications. I signed in under a fictitious name, Bobby Lambeck, a character in the movie “The Manchurian Candidate,” (somehow appropriate) and apparently met the minimum predictable qualifications of an angry white male — a Veteran living in rural Oregon and griping about taxes.
I began by lurking in the discussion forums and soon found a select few TP officials were initiating all the topic threads. I tried pointing out the membership was being manipulated into voting for candidates that would surely screw them in the end. No sooner would I get he conversation properly aimed at bankers, Wall-Streeters and corporate greed heads than a mysterious hall monitor would steer the thread back against big-government liberals and Democrats. I was soon placed on somebody’s list and was eventually prevented from signing in. I queried them repeatedly but was told my comments did not follow submission guidelines and I was effectively banned.
After about six months I began receiving unsolicited TP emails and somehow found a link that let me register under a different name. This time, more subtle, I made some good points without exposing myself. Still the thread topics were instigated and directed to invariably elicit an adolescent brand of pile-on, backslapping joke, sarcasm and ridicule. I never received a direct response to any of my posts. Only once did a not so obvious “hall monitor” claim I sounded like a “progressive troll.” I righteously countered with my patriotic military credentials. I was not banned but finally gave up the fruitless postings out of sheer boredom. Either I was being redacted or nobody was really listening.
Interestingly enough the early Tea Party eventually realized it was being manipulated by the big money establishment Republicans and began attacking the moderate wing of its own Party for not being partisan enough. Today virtually every mainstream Republican is being opposed in their primary by a more rabid Tea Party candidate.
Nationally the Tea Party has been holding its own mock conventions warning the larger GOP to get tough and even more Conservative. Buoyed by the GOP success in the off-year elections and believing it can really win this time, the TP faction is now strong enough to virtually vet and possibly veto any and all potential choices for national office in 2016. Mitt Romney was scared off early and in leaving warned that the GOP needed new blood, a direct reference to the RINO Jeb Bush whom the establishment just might be choosing to run against Hillary Clinton, the odds-on Democrat favorite. What looked like an early Bush-Clinton reprise of 1996 is now less likely. The Tea party will simply not allow it.
This is both good and bad news for Democrats. A Tea Party candidate for President is probably too radical for most Americans (for now!) with Hillary (if she is the nominee) likely campaigning as a hawkish centrist who could overcome the angry white male vote with a combination of party faithful, the female vote and enough scared undecided to win. Should Hillary falter somehow, the result could be devastating for Democrats who with a weak political bench, would be forced to nominate a virtual unknown whose less effective campaign organization and meager finances might more easily be outshouted and out-campaigned by a strident Conservative message. We might then get another anti-progressive dunce as President, who with congressional support this time could attempt to lay waste the entire progressive legacy.
With less than a year before the first caucuses, the real battle for the Republican nomination is in full swing. My W&C early-on prediction? Look out for Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin. With his white, middle-class, born again, family-values message, he is a Tea-Partier in Heartland disguise. You have to any fear any politician who is able to turn a classic upper-Midwest progressive state completely around, survive his own recall election and still want to run for President. Stay tuned.