With five years having passed since the first tea party rally in 2009, MSNBC host Ronan Farrowinvited two liberal guests on his program to discuss the impact the tea party has had on American politics and its potential to continue to shape events. Tara Dowdell, a political strategist and self-described progressive, warned her fellow liberals that it would be a mistake to write off the tea party because they are likely to have an outsize impact on the coming midterm elections.
Farrow began by briefly recapping the history of the tea party. Afterword, he asked University of Lehigh professor James Peterson what power the tea party has retained to shape American politics. Peterson said that the tea party’s “legislative impact may be waning or may have peaked.”
“The shutdown seemed to be a real moment where they stumbled out of the gate, shot themselves in the foot, pushed the country to the brink, and people started to say, ‘What’s happening here?’” Farrow agreed.
“I think that the tea party should not be underestimated,” Dowdell insisted. “I think that progressives, like myself, have made the mistake of laughing at them and being very dismissive of them.”
“That’s very dangerous,” she added.
Dowdell insisted that, while the tea party has been a “double-edged sword” for the GOP, the upcoming midterm elections provide the tea party with a good environment to drive up turnout and have a major impact on electoral outcomes.
Ann Coulter sat down with Sean HannityWednesday night to talk about the birth of the tea party movement five years ago this week (borne from and whether it still has the same kind of power and influence it did years ago, most prominently when a tea party wave helped bring in a Republican House in 2010.
And while the two agreed the tea party is still a big force, Coulter immediately went after people she believes are manipulating tea partiers for their own benefit, “tricking Americans to send them money.” She said these tea partiers keep railing against the establishment GOP with the risk of tanking their chances of taking back the Senate.
Hannity shot back that they’re just sticking to principle, but Coulter insisted you can’t repeal Obamacare if you don’t first take control of Congress. She shouted, “Fight to give them a majority, then we will repeal Obama and have Keystone!”
She concluded that there are “shysters and con men” ruining the tea party, and no one should donate a penny to them if they have any interest in helping the cause of the Republican party.
Just weeks after calling Senator Tim Scotta ventriloquist’s dummy for the GOP, NAACP official Rev. William Barberis going after the right again, this time saying the tea party uses minorities as “mouthpieces” to promote their agenda.
According to The Washington Post, in a conference call Tuesday, Barber said, “They frantically seek out people of color to become mouthpieces for their particular agenda.” This statement echoes what he said previously about Scott, that “the extreme right wing” found a black man who “articulates the agenda of the Tea Party,” saying that “a ventriloquist can always find a good dummy.”
“It amazes me that people are concerned about a metaphor that says, whether you’re [South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley or whether you’re Gov. [Pat] McCrory of North Carolina or [North Carolina Senate candidate and Assembly Speaker] Thom Tillis or Sen. Scott — it has nothing to do with color… The issue is: Who are you a mouthpiece for when you fight the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?”
Tea Partier and frequent litigant Larry Klayman said in an interview with World Net Daily on Thursday that he is considering filing a lawsuit against the news network CNN after an embarrassing interview with anchor Don Lemon and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin earlier this week.
Not only did Klayman tell WND head Jerome Corsi that Lemon should be fired for being a “well-known ultra-leftist African-American political activist who pursues a LGBT sexual agenda,” Right Wing Watch reported that the Tea Party leader said that the interview was the culmination of a plot against him by formidable forces.
“What CNN did to me yesterday was a hit piece orchestrated against me by the Obama White House with the direct involvement of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to discredit me and to turn the public against Judge Leon’s court decision that the NSA is violating Fourth Amendment rights,” Klayman said to Corsi.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon — appointed by George W. Bush — found in favor of a suit by Klayman and fellow right-wing activist Charles Strange alleging that the National Security Agency’s metadata spying program is unconstitutional.
Toobin read from p. 39 of Leon’s ruling, which quoted Klayman as saying, “I think they, the NSA, are messing with me.” The judge wrote that Klayman “then went on to explain that he and his clients had received inexplicable test messages and emails, not to mention a disc, containing a spyware program.”
The legal analyst said that even the judge who granted the suit thinks that Klayman is a victim of “tin-foil hat paranoia” and a “lunatic.”
“He had some fantasy that the NSA was after him,” said Toobin. “This case is not about Larry Klayman. It’s about the metadata program that affects everybody, but the idea that Larry Klayman is the representative is simply outrageous.”
Klayman said on Thursday that all of this is an orchestrated hit on his credibility.
“This was a Clinton thing as much as it was an Obama thing,” he said, accusing Lemon of being a “shill” for the DNC.
“Obama and the Clintons know this was a key decision, and they don’t want us to have any oxygen,” he said. “The DNC wants to cut me down to size.”
The Obama administration, he said, is carrying out “the worst violation of constitutional rights in America history.”
“The entire segment with me yesterday was structured as a hit piece, designed to bring in CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin whose job was to call me a lunatic even though he appeared not to have read Judge Leon’s decision,” he insisted, and as a result he is contemplating filing a defamation suit against the network.
Earlier this year, Klayman announced at a rally during the government shutdown that a coup was going to sweep President Barack Obama out of office on November 19. Pointing toward the White House, the former Freedom Works leader ordered Obama to “put the Koran down” and “come out with your hands up.”
Klayman’s November 19 “coup” rally, which he promised would bring millions to the capital and send Obama “back to Iran” turned out to be around 130 people carrying signs and voicing various complaints against the Obama administration, from “birthers” to anti-Islam activists like “Ground Zero Mosque” opponent Pamela Geller.
1. Justice Antonin Scalia: “The 14th Amendment protects all races, not only the blacks.”
No friend of affirmative action, voting rights protections, or anything he deems “racial entitlements,” the high court’s least inhibited conservative was at it again this week during oral arguments in a case in which advocates for minorities are challenging Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action in college admissions. The case reached the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court held the ban violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection guarantee, in that it prevents minorities from lobbying for racial preferences, when other groups can lobby for their favored programs, Huffpo explained.
A lawyer challenging the ban argued that the original goal of the 14th Amendment was to protect minority rights against a white majority.
Scalia begged to differ. “My goodness,” he said. “I thought we’ve held that the 14th Amendment protects all races. I mean, that was the argument in the early years, that it protected only—only the blacks. But I thought we rejected that. You say now that we have to proceed as though its purpose is not to protect whites, only to protect minorities?”
A little history: the 14th Amendment was approved three years after the end of the Civil War, and it was definitely about protecting the rights of former slaves. Scalia has not made any secret of his view that the country is all done with that racism stuff. If anything, the pendulum has swung too far the other way, he seems to think.
In February, Scalia said Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” He later joined the majority in voting to strike down the provision, which quickly led to several states enacting voter ID laws that are blatantly discriminatory.
Wonder how he’ll vote this time.
2. Confused Republican thought the debt deal included money for Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
With all the dopey things said and done by intransigent Republicans in last week’s shitstorm of dopey intransigence, Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney earned his place right up there in the pantheon. When the 11th hour deal to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government was struck between Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, it did not have much trouble getting through both houses of Congress. But there were those Republicans deluding themselves that they could fight on.
Rep. Mulvaney of South Carolina was one—and among his objections? The deal, he said, included funding for Joseph Kony’s Uganda-based Lord’s Resistance Army. Now, that would be pretty evil if it were true. Kony is an exiled war criminal with a messianic complex known for kidnapping children, and turning them into sex slaves and soldiers who kill their own families. The funding, if Mr. Mulvaney had read a little closer, was a small amount earmarked to the Pentagon which is funding African troops trying to capture Kony and end his reign of terror and atrocity. Ohhhh…oops. It seems Sen. David Vitter isn’t the only Republican in Congress Harry Reid could legitimately claim was not playing with a full deck.
3. Tony Perkins: Democrats are the theocrats for wanting to help the poor.
This will be news to biblical scholars. The Bible apparently says that government should have no role in helping the poor. Expressly forbids it.
This comes straight from the horse’s mouth, Tony Perkins, head of the right-wing Family Research Council, in a radio interview with conservative host Janet Mefferd. He then follows what can only be termed a rather bizarre train of thought to its illogical conclusion which is that it is the liberals who are trying to establish a theocracy in this country, not conservatives, because liberals want government to help the poor. Wait, we thought Christianity forbids that. Color us confused.
Perkins’ organization does have a unique take on the Bible and its treatment of the poor. Another spokesman for the group recently said there is “nothing more Christian” than eliminating millions of food stamp recipients from the government rolls.
But in this round Perkins does not merely want to stick it to the poor, he wants to flip the whole argument about which group is conflating church and state. It’s those liberals, you see. “They accuse evangelicals of wanting to create a theocracy, which is the farthest thing from the truth, when in fact, they are treating the government as if it had divine instruction from God to be a form of theocracy.”
4. S.C. official: Trans people should be put in camps.
It is tempting to suggest: Don’t drink and tweet. Well, we don’t know for sure that drinking was involved, but the former head of the South Carolina Republican Party went a bit bonkers with some recent rants on Twitter about transgender people and the people who support them.
“There are people who respect transgender rights,” Todd Kincannon tweeted this week. “And there are people who think you should all be put in a camp. That’s me.”
People? Or you?
Kincannon further opined that transgender people are “sick freaks” who should be “locked up in mental institutions and their care paid for by the state.” He thinks this shows his compassion for these “sick freaks.”
This Kincannon fellow has a heart as big as all outdoors. Previously, he’s drawn attention to himself for calling it a shame an Iraq veteran did not come home in a body bag, mocked murdered teenager Trayvon Martin, and scoffed at the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But in another tweet, he said his hatred was limited: to commies.
Good to know.
5. Tea Party leader suggests “class action suit” against “homosexuality.”
While most rational people interpreted this week’s events as a rather strong rebuke to the Tea Party, Tea Partiers really didn’t feel too bad. So at their Tea Party Unity event on Thursday, Chairman Rick Scarborough floated another novel idea for the assembled haters and nut jobs to rally behind now that the darn federal government is reopened: filing a “class action lawsuit” against “homosexuality.”
Now, how exactly would that work, you might ask? Or, maybe more to the point, how does that even make sense? Here goes:
“Homosexuality,” argued Scarborough, a former Baptist minister, “is much more likely to lead to AIDS than smoking is to lead to cancer. And yet the entire nation has rejected smoking, billions of dollars are put into a trust fund to help cancer victims and the tobacco industry was held accountable for that.”
So, similarly, the gay industry, whatever that is, could be held accountable.
The tea party, Sarah Palin, and Ted Cruz tried to hijack the Million Vet March for political and personal gain, and event organizers condemned them for politicizing the march.
According to a message on their website, the problem began when a local DC organizer turned the march into a tea party rally, “The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington DC was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain. The core principle is about all Americans honoring Veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner.”
It is our official position that the purpose of this march and the accompanying rallies is focused on the re-opening of the Veterans memorials and keeping them open. While we understand that a Constitutional republic requires the equilibrium of checks and balances to maintain the democratic process, the memorials, monuments and parks built in honor of Veterans should NEVER be closed, blocked or restricted from use. We take the official position that no government office holder shall have ability to abridge the freedom of access to these hallowed grounds.
We have, as a group, been prevented from certain groups that have piggy-backed off our grassroots efforts, to effectively create a comprehensive media message campaign. We made the mistake of trying to partner with some Washington insiders that thwarted many of our genuine concerns for keeping this apolitical and grassroots. While we support many of those groups common causes for Veterans, we do not support the manner in which they go about it. We chose instead to not incite or create panic.
We chose to listen to all Americans and all Veterans that have asked us to keep going on despite the disingenuous politicians, political action committees, talking heads on the televisions and press reports attempting to hijack the message. This included many threats of personal and political attacks on our group’s character, businesses, colleagues and our true intentions. While our hearts were heavy by the disheartening acts of a few powerful Washington elite and political extremists jumping on the opportunity to make money, we decided to stay true to our message of a non-partisan effort to assist Veterans.
Here are Palin and Cruz making the march all about Obama hate:
I suspect that Cruz and Palin were not invited, and a Facebook account of their behavior for one vet who was there fits the description of using the event for political gain, “I was disappointed when Ms. Palin and Mr. Cruz walked up to us to say hello but then walked down to the center to try to use us for they’re own purpose so I left to visit the viet nam memorial ty Brats.”
Tea partiers are proud of themselves for taking an event about veterans and turning it into another platform to showcase their hatred of this president, but they should be ashamed of themselves. The people who turned the march into an anti-Obama rally shamed and humiliated our veterans. Every vet knows that it doesn’t matter what political party a president is from, they are still the Commander in Chief. The organizers of this event may or may not be conservatives, but it is clear that they didn’t want the tea party mob, or Palin and Cruz’s grandstanding at their event.
Veterans are about honor and sacrifice. The Republicans who politicized the event brought dishonor to the very values that our veterans embody. To self-promoters like Palin and Cruz, veterans are nothing more than props to be used for political and financial gain, and they have proud to have tarnished our nation’s veterans with their selfish extremism.
A report conducted by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General found that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) improperly targeted conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status and IRS officials have publicly admitted to relying on inappropriate criteria to screen out the names of organizations that included “tea party” or “patriots” for additional scrutiny. But the New York Times reported on Sunday that some of the targeted groups may have used most of their resources to engage in political activity and backed Republican candidates for office, potentially violating the terms of the “social welfare” designation.
Under the law, 501(c)(4)s cannot be “primarily engaged” in electioneering activity. Though the guidelines for acceptable levels of political activity are unclear, organizations with such designations operate under the understanding that they are prohibited from spending more than 49 percent of their funds or time on political advocacy. Several Tea Party groups that reported unfair IRS scrutiny appear to have overstepped these bounds, the paper notes:
When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.
The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.
And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature.
The IRS is separately reviewing “roughly 300 tax-exempt groups that may have engaged in improper campaign activity in past years, according to agency planning documents” and lawmakers are urging the agency to reconsider the applications of much larger groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. The group told the IRS that any political ads run by the group would be “limited in amount” and “would not constitute the group’s primary purpose,” but it appears to be primarily focused on campaign activity.
As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained on Fox News Sunday, while the IRS’ use of a partisan list to go after conservative groups is not justified, the law requires 501(c)(4)s to be “engaged in social welfare and not politics and campaigning.” “Crossroads was exhibit A. They were boasting about how much money they were going to raise and beat Democrats with,” Durbin said.
With an assist from some long-term demographic trends, House Republicans have redistricted, propagandized and policed themselves into another country.
As a result, they have become unmoored from the political incentives that typically drive law-makers’ decision-making process. Public opinion no longer sways them, and that is creating a potentially insurmountable problem for the party establishment’s efforts to broaden the GOP’s appeal beyond angry old white people.
House Republicans may care about the GOP’s national fortunes in the abstract, but too many are impervious to what the public at large wants because of the nature of the districts they represent. At the same time, a steady stream of spin from the conservative media provides insulation from the realities of American politics, and deep-pocketed outside groups punish Republicans for any deviation from right-wing orthodoxy.
This isn’t just a serious problem for establishment Republicans. It’s ground our government to a halt, as Congress is virtually incapable of action, even on issues where there is something approaching a consensus among the public at large — like universal background checks for firearm purchases, for example. They’re supported by 80-90 percent of voters, but face a steep uphill climb in the House.
How did this happen?
The Great Gerrymander of 2010
In 2012, Democratic House candidates got 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, but came away 33 seats short of the majority – only the second time since World War Two that such a reversal has taken place. That was the fruit of a well-funded, multi-year plan by the Republican State Leadership Committee to take over state houses before the 2010 Census, and control the redistricting process that followed.
And they gerrymandered with a vengeance. As Princeton University scholar Sam Wang noted, “although gerrymandering is usually thought of as a bipartisan offense… partisan redistricting is not symmetrical between the political parties.”
By my seat-discrepancy criterion, 10 states are out of whack: [Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin] plus Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Texas. Arizona was redistricted by an independent commission, Texas was a combination of Republican and federal court efforts, and Illinois was controlled by Democrats. Republicans designed the other seven maps. Both sides may do it, but one side does it more often.
Surprisingly absent from the guilty list is California, where 62 percent of the two-party vote went to Democrats [which] exactly matched the [proportion of the] newly elected delegation.
Democrats Are “Inefficiently Distributed”
But, as a number of observers pointed out after the mid-terms, even this aggressive effort to redraw districts in their favor wasn’t quite enough to lock in Republicans’ control of the House. This is where the organic trend comes in. Political scientists Jowei Chen of the University of Michigan and Jonathan Rodden of Stamford explain (PDF) that as a result of migration and urbanization, Democrats tend to be “highly clustered in dense central city areas, while Republicans are scattered more evenly through the suburban, exurban, and rural periphery.” This results in what the authors call “unintentional redistricting,” with “a skew in the distribution of partisanship across districts such that with 50 percent of the votes, Democrats can expect fewer than 50 percent of the seats.”
Those two trends have resulted in a dwindling number of competitive districts. As the New York Times’ numbers-guru Nate Silver pointed out, the number of “landslide districts” – which he defined as those that went for one party by 20 or more percentage points than the electorate as a whole – has doubled since 1992, while the number of swing districts has fallen from 155 to just 64 over the same period.
When you look at the racial composition of districts, the trend becomes even more pronounced. According to the Census Bureau, 111 House republicans represent districts that are at least 80 percent white.
I always defended the Tea Party against charges of racism. And then last week, someone with whom I am Facebook “friends” posted something extremely racist and I called her out on it. Immediately, her friends jumped down my throat, calling me a liberal and saying I wasn’t a real tea partier, despite the fact that I was one of 10 people on the first Tea Party conference calls back in January of 2009.
That was just one of many wake-up calls.
Sadly, what began as a genuine opportunity to make this country more free has deteriorated to racist name calling, fear of anyone with brown skin, and an irrational focus on Sharia law.
A chance for Libertarians to reform the GOP
Nobody has been a bigger supporter of the Tea Party than I have been.
In Orlando, I think we had one of the best organized groups. Along with Cincinnati and Houston, Orlando was one of the cities that saw the biggest rallies, the most active tea partiers, and attracted the biggest names to speak at our events. When the left would point to the one nut-job in a crowd of 6,000 with a racist sign and call all 6,000 people racists, the more Libertarian tea partiers like me, would always use ourselves and our groups as examples of of the real, average tea partier.
At our events here in Orlando I met people who said they had never come to a political rally. Even when the left insisted that the Tea Party was just a bunch of GOP activists, I knew better. The people I talked to at our rallies were usually more independent. Of course there were lots of Republicans and some even more conservative members of the Whig Party and Conservative Party, but there were also lots of Libertarians, independents, and Constitution Party members.
I always felt like the Tea Party was going to be the chance for Libertarians to do two things:
First, I thought it was a golden opportunity to show Republicans the hypocrisy of their platform.
Secondly, I thought it was a great chance for us to talk to apolitical, independent folks who were genuinely angry about the bank bailouts: folks who work for a living or own a small business and felt like, “hey, I employ 25 people and no one is going to bail me out. To hell with GM and Lehman Brothers!”
These are people who vote for president every four years but don’t vote in midterm elections. They don’t really care if gays get married or if college kids smoke pot. They also do not want to have their paychecks confiscated to pay for Obamacare. They voted for the GOP in 2010 and made John Boehner Speaker of the House.