Sunday, September 19, 2010

Midterm Madness: Newts and Grizzlies on the Rise



Virgil wants to know, how much do you really understand, or care, about what's happening politically in this country? Because once a system tumbles off a ledge and goes catastrophically bad, he says, it is very hard to return it to its earlier state. Usually it's impossible. Indeed, it may already be too late. However, my beloved alligator assistant is definitely sounding the alarm. Watch out, he says, because the newts and grizzlies are taking over. Not paying attention while this is happening is the equivalent of drinking hemlock. Metaphorically speaking, recent midterm nomination results have produced a new gusher that could well destroy the country, much as the unstoppable oil threatened to do for months in the gulf. Virgil says you can't let the bad wipe you out, but if our government snaps, which it shows every sign of doing, it will remain snapped forever.

I was glad to see that President Obama was imnmediately on to the danger. In his weekly radio address this Saturday, he also sounded the alarm--although I fear few people were paying much attention:

"Back in January, in my State of the Union Address, I warned of the danger posed by a Supreme Court ruling called Citizens United. This decision overturned decades of law and precedent. It gave the special interests the power to spend without limit – and without public disclosure – to run ads in order to influence elections. Now, as an election approaches, it's not just a theory. We can see for ourselves how destructive to our democracy this can become. We see it in the flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names. We don't know who's behind these ads or who's paying for them. Even foreign-controlled corporations seeking to influence our democracy are able to spend freely in order to swing an election toward a candidate they prefer."

This was my first thought as well, once the election results were in. The real story playing out in front of us all in real time, is that the Tea Party, meant to be seen as an outsider and leaderless insurgency haphazardly run by "we the people," is actually being orchestrated and bankrolled by wealthy individuals, powerful lobbyists, and corporations who want nothing less than to take the government down. (So what else is new?) Only this: given that the Tea Party just ate the Republican Party for breakfast, it now has the Democratic Party on the menu for lunch. Does that worry you? Maybe not, but it definitely worries me.

For some Democrats, the election by Republicans of patently unqualified and rogue candidates like Christine O'Donnell to run against them in November was an occasion for positive rejoicing. The question being bandied around all week was whether or not this represented an "implosion, or fracturing, of the GOP (and was therefore good for Democrats), or whether something more sinister is going on-- the ascendancy, for instance, of Sarah Palin as the new leader of the Republican party and a sharp shift in its center of gravity to the Far Right. It was, after all, her endorsement of these various rogue candidates that seemed to carry them to victory.

In Senate races, Tea Party candidates were winners in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Alaska, Kentucky, Delaware, and Florida, all of them overcoming rivals, like the moderate Republican Mike Castle in Delaware, who is well liked in the state and had the full backing of his party. Most Republicans still consider Palin unelectable, though her staffers, it seems, are working under the assumption that she's running. And make no mistake: if a nobody like Christine O'Donnell can win the Republican nomination for Joe Biden's old Senate seat in Delaware, well, nothing should be beyond our wildest imagining. (Look for more on Christine O'Donnell in the next installment of my "Newts and Grizzlies" thread.)

Time magazine's latest cover story on the Tea Party depicts a giant tea cup with a limp GOP elephant slumped inside, its trunk dangling perilously over the side. The elephant looks to be nearly drowning. (A perfect image, I thought, of co-optation.) Now that the Tea Party has taken over the GOP, its motto (as put forward by Rush Limbaugh) is: vote for the person farthest to the Right.

Former master-mind strategist for the Republican party, Karl Rove, was openly aghast when O'Donnell (who looks and sounds just like her sponsor, Sarah Palin) actually won the nomination. "She's nutty," he said, adding that she would lose the seat, and maybe even possible control of the Senate as well, for the party. Palin then took care of him sweetly, in one of her better barracuda moments, sending this sugar-coated message straight to the jugular: "Bless his heart," she declared. "We love our friends there in the machine...I say 'Buck up.'"

She's right, Karl. I think you should buck up, because things are not all that bad out there for your crowd. You've trained your minions so well that within twenty-four hours, they had all (including even you) closed ranks in support of every Tea Party candidate and their radical agenda. "Let there be no mistake," announced Senator John Cornyn, "the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and I personally as the committee's chairman, strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees." After which he promptly sent a check for $42,000 to her campaign. Meanwhile, John Boehner has already invited Tea Party activists to help "drive the debate" in Washington and help shape the legislative agenda. Inside the tea cup, Republicans are hanging on for dear life.

Karl, you and I both know there is no individual GOP candidate. There is only the lockstep party you created, committed to Obama's failure even at the expense of the country. So take heart from the words of your fellow Republican, David Brooks:

"It doesn’t matter that public approval of the G.O.P. is now at its all-time low. It doesn’t matter that the Tea Party rhetoric is sometimes extreme. The poll suggests that roughly 50 percent of Americans haven’t thought about the Tea Parties enough to form an opinion. They’re not paying attention because they don’t see it as one of the important dangers they face. Who knows? Maybe they even sort of like the fact that a ragtag band of outsiders is taking on the establishment and winning."

Enjoy your hemlock, folks. And while you're at it, don't forget to buy the tee-shirt.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

sick with what is happening here...I'm sure you read the artilce a few weeks ago in the New Yorker about the Koch brothers who are bizillionaires who are behind alot if not all the Tea Party rallies, I'm willing to bet they are funding SP with millions to spread her toxic waste to the ignorant masses...they are just who Obama was referring to. what I want to know is what is happening to equalize this madness for the democrates? where are our outraged leaders? sickening...hate the t shirt! ha. kp

Paul Wartenberg said...

What is happening is that a political party (The Republicans) in a two-party system is being systematically taken over by their more fringe element (the Far Right who think we're still fighting godless communism and that we should remain on track to finish Ronald Reagan's grand 100-year Republican rule). Because our political system is based on two-party rule (the election process is ruthless against third party alternatives), this means our political discourse is unbalanced in the worst way. Given also that the election process has turned into a billion-dollar industry bought and paid for by lobbyists, there's very little the people can actually DO to fix what's clearly broken. Even the possibility of vast majorities of Republicans fleeing the party in terror if more crazies gain nominee slots won't mean the end of the party: the GOP is getting too much money to ever die off. And given how the elections are rigged and how the electorate can be scare-mongered, the Republicans will never be enough in the minority at both the federal and state level to slap some sense into the party. Worst of all, any reforms that should be enacted to fix this logjam of Crazy will never happen because the Democrats simply won't make the fixes: they themselves can profit from the broken system in their own way (and fear any changes now will hurt them when they slide into minority-party status later).

If we're lucky, enough states will enact their own reforms via public amendments and referenda: such as state amendments forcing fair districting (to lessen party-bias gerrymandering) and better accountability for elected officials. But again, the game is rigged... The best we can do now is MAKE SURE THE CRAZIES NEVER GET ELECTED INTO OFFICE. Even one of them - Miller, Rand Paul, Angle, O'Donnell - will be enough to cause irreversible damage at the national level.
Please tell me there's a Democrat running against Issa in CA...