Tea party damages a Democratic delusion

September 24, 2010


— When facing a tsunami, what do you do? Pray, and tell yourself stories. I am not privy to the Democrats’ private prayers, but I do hear the stories they’re telling themselves. The new meme is that there’s a civil war raging in the Republican Party. The tea party will wreck it from within and prove to be the Democrats’ salvation.

I don’t blame anyone for seeking a deus ex machina when about to be swept out to sea. But this salvation du jour is flimsier than most.

In fact, the big political story of the year is the contrary: that a spontaneous and quite anarchic movement with no recognized leadership or discernible organization has been merged with such relative ease into the Republican Party.

The tea party could have become Perot ‘92, an anti-government movement that spurned the Republicans, went third-party and cost George H.W. Bush re-election, ending 12 years of Republican rule. Had the tea party gone that route, it would have drained the Republican Party of its most mobilized supporters and deprived Republicans of the sweeping victory that awaits them on Nov. 2.

Instead, it planted its flag within the party and, with its remarkable energy, created the enthusiasm gap. Such gaps are measurable. This one is a chasm. This year’s turnout for the Democratic primaries (as a percentage of eligible voters) was the lowest ever recorded. Republican turnout was the highest since 1970.

True, Christine O’Donnell’s nomination in Delaware may cost the Republicans an otherwise safe seat (and possibly control of the Senate) and Sharron Angle in Nevada is running only neck-and-neck with an unpopular Harry Reid. On balance, however, the tea party contribution is a large net plus, with its support for such strong candidates as Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Joe Miller of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah. Even Rand Paul, he of the shaky start in Kentucky, sports an eight-point lead.

Nonetheless, some Democrats have convinced themselves that they have found the issue with which to salvage 2010. “President Obama’s political advisers,” reports The New York Times, “are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by tea party extremists.”

Sweet irony. Fear-over-hope rides again, this time with Democrats in the saddle warning darkly about “the Republican tea party” (Joe Biden). Message: Vote Democratic and save the nation from a Visigoth mob with a barely concealed tinge of racism.

First, this is so at variance with reality that it’s hard to believe even liberals believe it. The largest tea party event yet was the recent Glenn Beck rally on the Mall. The hordes descending turned out to be several hundred thousand cheerful folks in what, by all accounts, had the feel of a church picnic. And they left the place nearly spotless — the first revolution in recorded history that collected its own trash.

Second, the general public is fairly evenly split in its views of the tea party. It experiences none of the horror that liberals do — and think others should. Moreover, the electorate supports by 2-to-1 the tea party signature issues of smaller government and lower taxes.

Third, you would hardly vote against the Republican in your state just because there might be a (perceived) too-conservative Republican running somewhere else. How would, say, Paul running in Kentucky deter someone from voting for Mark Kirk in Illinois? Or, to flip the parties, will anyone in Nevada refuse to vote for Harry Reid because Chris Coons, a once self-described “bearded Marxist,” is running as a Democrat in Delaware?

Fourth, what sane Democrat wants to nationalize an election at a time of 9.6 percent unemployment and such disappointment with Obama that just this week several of his own dreamy 2008 supporters turned on him at a cozy town hall? Their only hope is to run local campaigns on local issues. That’s how John Murtha’s former district director hung on to his boss’ seat in a special election in Pennsylvania.

Newt Gingrich had to work hard — getting Republican candidates to sign the Contract with America — to nationalize the election that swept Republicans to victory in 1994. A Democratic anti-tea party campaign would do that for the Republicans — nationalize the election, gratis — in 2010. As a very recent former president — now preferred (Public Policy Polling, Sept. 1) in bellwether Ohio over the current one by 50 percent to 42 percent — once said: Bring ‘em on.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com


Paul R Getto 7 years, 9 months ago

My, Mr. Shewmon, up early with the vituperation, aren't we? Both sides are out-of-touch, fear-mongering bloviators. Who knows how all this will work out? The R's may regain power; if they do it will be interesting to see how their new 'Contract on America' works out. At least they picked a new name which should remind some of the flag worship we encourage as a display of 'patriotism.' The ideas, however, are much the same as the failed program the Newtster promoted in the 1990's. His legacy does live on, however, in the constant name-calling he promoted as a debating tool.

mom_of_three 7 years, 9 months ago

"now we have a president that daily engages in the blame-game and bashing."

I think that could describe any president we have ever had

ivalueamerica 7 years, 9 months ago

The Tea Party helped shatter my delusion that America can put aside color, religion and sexual orientation and instead judge a person by the content of his or her character.

No matter how many people vote that way, it does not make their racism and bigotry correct and acceptable in a civilized society.

ivalueamerica 7 years, 9 months ago

Tom, you of all people, I remember well your quote about how are black people and Mexican American people....trying to bypass racism.

The truth is clear, they signs at the tea party events, the posts form their leaders.

You can pretend it is not there, but you are known for being a liar...so why would anyone expect you to change now.

booyalab 7 years, 9 months ago

I resent that. I voted against Obama because he was half white, not because he was half black. He just wasn't black enough.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Well we all know the uninformed Tea Party wants to do away with Social Security. Based on what?

When politicians want to help their special interest campaign contributors they start spreading lies painting pictures of gloom and doom

Meet the perfect example...

Social Security Q&A Separating Fact from Fiction

BY DOUG ORR The Magazine of Economic Justice available at: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html

The former president GW Bush completed a 60-day, 35-state tour to spread fear over the financial solvency of the Social Security system and promote his plan to allow workers to divert nearly a third of the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax into private investment accounts.

Did president Bush actually lie to the public about Social Security?

Yes. President Bush repeatedly said that those who put their money in private accounts are "guaranteed" a better return than they'll receive from the current Social Security system. But every sale of stock on the stock market includes the disclaimer: "the return on this investment is not guaranteed and may be negative"--for good reason. During the 20th century, there were several periods lasting more than 10 years where the return on stocks was negative. After the Dow Jones stock index went down by over 75% between 1929 and 1933, the Dow did not return to its 1929 level until 1953.

In claiming that the rate of return on a stock investment is guaranteed to be greater than the return on any other asset, Bush was lying. If an investment-firm broker made this claim to his clients, he would be arrested and charged with stock fraud. Michael Milken went to jail for several years for making just this type of promise about financial investments.

In fact, under the most likely version of the Bush privatization proposal, a 20-year old worker joining the labor force today would see her guaranteed Social Security benefits reduced by 46%. Bush's own Social Security commission admitted that private accounts are unlikely to make up for this drop in guaranteed benefits. The brokerage firm Goldman Sachs estimates that even with private accounts, retirement income of younger workers would be reduced by 42% compared to what they would receive if no changes are made to Social Security.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

President Bush also misrepresented the truth when he claimed that Social Security trustees say the system will be "bankrupt" in 2042. Bankruptcy is defined as "the inability to pay ones debts" or, when applied to a business, "shutting down as a result of insolvency." Nothing the trustees have said or published indicates that Social Security will fold as a result of insolvency.

Until 1984, the trust fund was "pay-as-you-go," meaning current benefits were paid using current tax revenues. In 1984, Congress raised payroll taxes to prepare for the retirement of the baby boom generation. As a result, the Social Security trust fund, which holds government bonds as assets, has been growing. When the baby boomers retire, these bonds will be sold to help pay their retirement benefits.

If the trust fund went to zero, Social Security would simply revert to pay-as-you-go. It would continue to pay benefits using (then-current) tax revenues, and in doing so, it would be able to cover about 70% of promised benefit levels. According to analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a 70% benefit level then would actually be higher than 2005 benefit levels in constant dollars (because of wage adjustments). In other words, retirees would be taking home more in real terms than today's retirees do.

The system won't be bankrupt in any sense. On this point, President Bush was "consciously misrepresenting the truth with the intent to deceive." That is what the dictionary defines as lying.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 9 months ago

Old news, bub. This thread is about something that is happening now, not what the wild-eyed commies over at dollarsandnonsense posted 5 years ago.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

Will you teach me to goosestep so I can fit in with ya'll?

mom_of_three 7 years, 9 months ago

and pretty soon, you will find out that the tea party doesn't necessarily know what they are talking about...just like every other political party and group

jonas_opines 7 years, 9 months ago

Hey, this column is about the democratic delusions, not the delusions held about the Tea Party by other groups or individuals.

Besides, maybe he actually wanted to say "no recognized plans or discernible goals."

Ya'know, besides Liberals Are Bad, mm'kay.

whats_going_on 7 years, 9 months ago

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pace 7 years, 9 months ago

The only delusion this democrat had was the staid and respectable republicans would reject the fear and hate of the the tea party. One should never expect the best from a mob or crowd. People will need to be brave. We needed to work together to repair the damage to education, environment, economy caused by unregulated corporations and government budgets raided by the decade of wars. We didn't get bi party cooperation, people standing up, instead we got the mob surrounding the screaming shills, all blame no answers. out for the fast buck and keep it white crowd. I think the tea party has a very good chance to become a valid voice in the next election, one that yells and drowns out others, One who doesn't propose solutions to the immigration problems but imagines machine guns mounted on jeeps running in the desert shooting at human silhouettes as if they were rabbits. Ones who think the federal government should keep their hands off medicare and social security. I won't accuse them of being a bunch of egg heads, and I admit their anger is real, The are an angry mob. chasing after democrats, the monster that started the economic breakdown, that started the war, that blocked immigration laws .. I see Palin and Newt now with their torches, saying this is all the democrats fault, and the mob following her.

Shane Garrett 7 years, 9 months ago

Atten: Washington, the people have been saying for a long time, throw all the bums out. When the powers of the government no longer represent the will of the people it is the duty of the people to replace that government.

beatrice 7 years, 9 months ago

Sadly, once in office, some of these Tea Party types will try to out "Joe Wilson" one another with theatrics and over the top rhetoric -- and the Right will lap it up like puppy dogs on a bowl of milk.

Aiko 7 years, 9 months ago

I have noticed that the "left-wing" are becoming itchy and scratchy lately.

beatrice 7 years, 9 months ago

Guess again. I'm not a sore loser like so many currently on this board. I actually appreciate elections, and if people vote in a slate of conservatives, then best of luck to them.

Besides, I'm not actually in politics, so like everyone else here, I am already "on the sidelines." I just want what I consider to be best for America, and thus far what the Tea Partiers have offered up is far from it. Joe Wilson is far from it. Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney are far from it. I don't really see who the rising star of the Republican Tea Party will be.

Even more importantly to your point, Obama will be President for two-plus more years at least, and quite likely will be re-elected. You may not believe he will be re-elected, and that is fine. Nevertheless, even if the Republicans retake everything in two years, I won't be taking over the role of the whiners and sore losers around here. I'll offer arguments against policies, but it won't be just a nonstop whine as we have going on here now. I've got better things to do. Sorry to disappoint.

Mike Ford 7 years, 9 months ago

I offered up my ex-grandfather as a rascist tea partier on KCUR program on Tea party this week...... YAAAAAAAAAAAAA! I Can tell you now if any Dumblican has a town hall meeting on this joke of a pledge to America.... I know of many people who will make the Tealicans behavior at health care town halls seem nice compared to what we will do... you reap what you sow.... I wasn't afraid of stopping Frau Coulter and I have as much right to disrupt GOP garbage as they disrupted substance... you reap what you sow.. you want it you got it.....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"there are some die hard kooks who are clueless, and will always be clueless. Not naming names, but we know who they are. "

I know this wasn't meant to be self-referential, but.....

beatrice 7 years, 9 months ago

Who are you trying to kid? Your remote is glued to not change from FoxNews and we know it.

whynaut 7 years, 9 months ago

heard this story on NPR the other day. Paints a more reasonable picture of the tea party.


(and to come from such a "leftist" media outlet... whodda thunk it?)

Later, also on NPR, I heard a double interview with a leader from both the Tea Party and Republican party (can't remember who exactly). The part I found most interesting was that the Tea Party lady insisted that, while many of their members are socially conservative, the party was not interested in pushing social issues, but rather a strictly financially conservative platform. The Republican spokesman responded by basically saying that if the Tea Party did not start championing the same conservative social issues supported by the GOP, then they would lose a lot of their backing.

As a liberal, I think it's encouraging to see examples of intellectualism in Tea Party. Democrats (not necessarily synonymous with Liberals) really do need to be kept in check when it comes to fiscal responsibility. The Republican (not necessarily synonymous with Conservative) strategy since the election of the new administration has been one primarily of obstructionist feet dragging. At least the Tea Party members appear that they want some action taken. If they truly can represent a strictly fiscally conservative platform, and avoid getting into shouting matches about social issues, the I welcome their input.

What does frighten me a bit, is that they seem to think the country can be run like a small business. Their talk is very down-home, and I think a lot of down-home Americans can identify with it. But our economy is becoming ever more global and is being driven more and more by information rather than industry. It takes quite a bit of education and experience to be able to wrap your head around it, and it takes good communication skills to explain it to your constituency. I have yet to see that from the Tea Party. Honestly, I have yet to see that from any party, really, but the Democrats typically (but not always) do a better job than than anybody else, so that's why I typically (but not always) vote for them.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 9 months ago

Good post.

My wish is that the tea party movement would be used to achieve immigration reform. Huge majorities of the country want effective immigration control and reform and neither major party will deliver it. Should the tea party find a way to end the illegal immigration invasion humanely (tough controls and tougher sanctions on employers,) they would see mass defections from both the republican and Democratic parties.

Seeing that the tea party movement is largely a front for the rebranding of the gwb damaged republican party, however, I don't think that will happen. The opportunity awaits some smart and enterprising politicians, however.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 9 months ago

I do not know what Krauthammer's prayers are, but it seems like he has a pretty good story narrative going on in his own head.

We shall see.

My guess is the GOP will pick up seats in both houses but will not get enough to take control of either.

Then we will see how much steam the tea party has to continue on.

The "ideas" of the GOP are so obviously just rehashing of their policies that got us into this mess in the first place. To Boehner's credit, he acknowledges this.

Funniest line by Obama in a while: "John Boehner and I have a lot in common. We are both people of color."


whynaut 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm getting tired of the "policies that got us into this mess in the first place" mantra.

How about some substance? Explain which policies, and why they got us into this mess.

For instance, "the policy" is the deregulation of financial institutions that kept commercial and investment banking separate.

Point out that both parties had a hand in this deregulation that came in the form of a law that was passed by a Republican congress, and signed by Bill Clinton.

Point out that the result of this deregulation was that investment banks were allowed to make riskier and riskier decisions in their own corporate interests with the private savings and investments of American citizens.

Point out that "the mess" we're in is a direct result of these risky decisions.

Point out that the Obama administration and a Democratically controlled congress passed a law this year that puts the regulation back in place and is designed to eliminate the possibility of "too big to fail", which (hopefully) means no more bail outs in the future.

Point out that very few Republicans voted for this new regulation, and had the GOP had as many seats as they expect to have after this coming election, then the bill likely would not have passed and "the policies that got us into this mess in the first place" would still be in place, and investment banks would still be allowed to make high risk decisions with the private savings and investments of American citizens, and that the corporations that were deemed "too big to fail" would only continue to grow.

Forget about blaming the Republicans for "getting us into this mess in the first place", and instead focus more the fact that it was the current, Democratic administration and Democratic congress that has put a fix in place, and if it had been left up to the Republicans, the fix would simply not be there.

Then ask the Republican constituency why they think their representatives and senators voted against the fix.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 9 months ago

whyanut: I agree with your assessment. All of those policies you mention are still part and parcel of the GOP Pledge to America, despite democratic support for some of them.

You forget to add proposing tax cuts without specifics about how they will be paid for, how they will be cut without increasing the deficit.

You also forgot to add deficit spending at previously unprecedented levels to pay for two wars, one a war of choice in Iraq.

Because of Bush and GOP policies and refusal to raise taxes to pay for the wars, every man woman and child in America owes China around $3000 to have these wars fought for them.

Two things decrease the deficit: tax increases and reduction in spending.

The GOP want to continue to cut taxes AND continue to spend on defense and the wars, while waving their hands about efficiency and spending cuts without being specific.

We have heard this before; from GWB. What we got were tax cuts AND spending increases. The current Pledge to America is more of the same.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 9 months ago

Can the country survive another round of republican irresponsibility?

mom_of_three 7 years, 9 months ago

I voted Republican for several elections and could not bring myself to do so in the last one. I don't see the Tea Party or any of the current Republicans saying anything of substance, (and can point out the lies without having to look them up), although I am disappointed in some of the Dems, too.
I will be glad when politicians decides to do what is best for the country, instead of continually voting against the other party simply because they are the other party.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 9 months ago

Charles, charles, Charles!

often I agree with you and my own conservatism is aided by your thoughtful consideration of current issues.

however, sometimes you're an establishment republican, as in this article.
note: True, Christine O’Donnell’s nomination in Delaware may cost the Republicans an otherwise safe seat (and possibly control of the Senate) and Sharron Angle in Nevada is running only neck-and-neck with an unpopular Harry Reid. On balance, however, the tea party contribution is a large net plus, with its support for such strong candidates as Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Joe Miller of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah. Even Rand Paul, he of the shaky start in Kentucky, sports an eight-point lead.

---if you'd be more honest about O'donnel and Angle, they certainly can do the same as the good guys in FL/AK/KY/UT etc.
if Paul can turn it around then certainly Angle and O'donnel can too.

and, a plus, conservative women sure are a lot more attractive than liberal womyn!!!

consider: playboy centerfold featuring Nancy Pelosi? or ... playboy centerfold featuring Sarah Palin?

centerfold featuring Mad Maxine Waters [sorry, that just takes the breath away!]; or ... centerfold of Condi Rice who wouldn't do it because of her excellent values anyway!

centerfold of judge Sotomayor? or centerfold of Michelle Malkin? http://michellemalkin.com/


then of course there's Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, et al.

... hmmm! maybe somebody should do a blog about the Right on good looking women.

Charles! just take a look.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 9 months ago

Interesting point, BG.

Seems in order for a woman to be successful among right-wingers, she must be a looker.

This says more about right wingers than it does about the relationship between looks and political views. I am sure there are many dog women right wingers who are never heard from. They are kept from the cameras.

Seems petty and shallow, but then they are right winger after all...

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

Jean Kilpatrick comes to mind. Although not 'a looker' she was a beautifull pol!

jumpin_catfish 7 years, 9 months ago

Bush got the crap beat out of him and on some occasions he deserved it. Now Obama has proved that he wasn't up to the job so let the beatings begin. That's how it works in this country but here is the deal, congress is the problem and term limits should be imposed by voting the bums out, all of them who have been there longer than four years.

independant1 7 years, 8 months ago

Yup. term limits imposed by the voter, that is the solution. A vote against the incumbent is a vote for term limits..

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