Monday, August 08, 2011

Not Solely The Tea Party

To the Obama administration, a valiant John Boehner stood tall against the tea party nutcases. The House Speaker might as well have been part ML King, part Gandhi, part Nelson Mandela, the way top Democrats pictured him resisting the tea party and its Panderer-in-Chief, Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

But the real obstacle to financial sanity, as observed Sunday on The New York Times editorial page, was

the Republican Study Committee, 178 fiscal hard-liners who make up two-thirds of the entire caucus (including many of the Tea Party members). Its chairman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, was one of the biggest obstacles to a deal and refused to support it.

It is this larger group that Mr. Boehner and his lieutenants fear the most. The Tea Party alone could not topple the speaker. But the Republican core could.

The demonization of the tea party is understandable, perhaps an effort to divide the GOP, setting its far right majority against its extreme far right. And maybe Democrats, recognizing growing dissatisfaction in the nation with the movement, believes it can marginalize the tea party out of existence.

But that is misplaced anger. Most (32 of 60) members of the Tea Party caucus put aside their ideological extremism to vote with a majority of their party and side with corporate America in supporting the debt agreement signed a couple of days later by the President.

And now, albeit a bit late, comes some common sense from some of its members outside the Beltway. The day before The Times' editorial, Politico reported

For tea party activists, the super committee smacks of everything they railed against in the last election cycle: Concentrated power in the hands of lawmakers who might be inclined to make closed door deals involving trillions of dollars.

Organizing a rally at his congressman's office, a 35-year-old tea party member complained "The super Congress is antithetical to what America is supposed to be.....small elite group having override powers for the rest of Congress … is anti democracy. It’s anti-American.” Similarly, a leader in a 9/12 group in Florida, uncertain whether the super-committee will " be accountable to us or to Congress," remarked "it's Congress' job to deal with this. There's enough committees."

Sunday, Senator John Kerry and presidential adviser David Axelrod, both justifiably angry about the debt ceiling negotiations and Standard and Poor's disgraceful downgrading of U.S.A. debt, pressed the case of tea party omnipotence. On Meet the Press, Kerry argued “I believe this is, without question, the tea party downgrade," about the same time Axelrod on Face The Nation maintained "The fact of the matter is that this is essentially a tea party downgrade. The tea party brought us to the brink of a default."

If they want to believe this, O.K. Politically, it might even be a winner. But it's not accurate. Though the tea party is more an Astroturf, than grass roots, movement, Democratic leaders and the mainstream media rarely so identify it and their efforts to finger it for blame deflect attention from the role of the Republican Party itself in tearing down the economy.

Somehow, President Obama has been able (unfortunately) to resist the left of his party and back a program antithetical to the latter's wishes. Speaker Boehner, however, has been pictured as willing- but unable- to resist the right of his party. But as The Times explained

Through a combination of fear and fervor, Republican leaders in Congress and in the presidential campaign have lined up behind a radical new strategy in which all major decisions are made under threat- to shut the government in April, to implode the economy in July, to cut off money for the Federal Aviation Administration in August. Party leaders have said they will do this again and again, in perpetuity.

It would be comforting if it were just a minority of a minority. Instead, it is a major political party, aided and abetted by its big donors.

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