Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maybe We Were Wrong All Along.

I’m beginning to reconsider some of my previous comments about the growing malignancy gripping the GOP and I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, Glenn Greenwald is onto something when he says the Tea Party movement is a mirror image of the Republican Party.

Could it be that some of us, in our zeal to somehow fit all of this recent insanity into a nice, neat little package complete with a bow – and in the process paint the Republicans as victims of a coup d'état by escaped lunatics from a mental ward – have committed the ultimate faux pas in giving way too much credit where credit isn’t due? Hmm. Pardon me, but I’m beginning to smell a rat, and the sad thing is, I may have inadvertently brought the cheese.

I know, I know, wasn’t William F. Buckley a well-educated, thoughtful man who made passionate arguments and who valued reasoning over rhetoric? Well, that depends on which Buckley you were likely to be watching: the intellectually magnetic personality who graced the “Firing Line” studio or the xenophobic, misogynistic ignoramus who once called Gore Vidal a fag on network television, and who, long before Rand Paul burst onto the political landscape and stuck his foot in his mouth, criticized the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act as a blow against state’s rights.

And wasn’t Ronald Reagan ten times the president George Bush ever was, or, heaven forbid, Sarah Palin ever would be? Wasn’t conservatism, long, long ago, far more lucid and compassionate in its applications? And didn’t it embrace a more transparent and populist narrative than the one we see at so many Tea Party rallies? Wouldn’t the likes of a Glenn Beck be shunned in the vaunted halls of the Grand Old Party say even fifteen years ago? And wouldn’t Newt Gingrich be far more dignified and remotely human than the entity that currently occupies his body? Well, the answer is yes and no.

It’s yes, because, as of late, the current lather that has been whipped up into frenetic heights by groups such as Freedom Works and the Koch Brothers and is consuming not only the Republican Party, but most of the political landscape is something unique in the country’s history. No Republican, conservative or moderate, would’ve been caught dead hanging out with the likes of some of these unsavory characters. They might’ve courted their votes, but they certainly would never have consorted with them. Even Reagan, who got most of the evangelical vote in both 1980 and ‘84, always managed to keep a healthy distance between himself and the likes of a Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

It’s no, because Greenwald is right. Deep down, this is the true heart of the conservative movement in America, only now the mute button is off. We are finally able to see clearly who and what has been driving the Republican bus for quite some time now. Truth is there has never been any such thing as compassionate conservatism. The very term is an oxymoron. The Tea Party in every way imaginable IS the voice of the GOP, and, while it may be a recent phenomenon, built up by special interests who probably didn’t know what they were getting into when they created it, it embodies every single tenant of its parental overlords. To quote Greenwald,

“There are some diverse, heterodox factions which compose a small, inconsequential minority of it (various libertarian, independent, and Reagan Democrat types), but it is dominated -- in terms of leadership, ideology, and the vast majority of adherents -- by the same set of beliefs which have long shaped the American Right: Reagan-era domestic policies, blinding American exceptionalism and nativism, fetishizing American wars, total disregard for civil liberties, social and religious conservatism, hatred of the minority-Enemy du Jour (currently: Muslims), allegiance to self-interested demagogic leaders, hidden exploitation by corporatist masters, and divisive cultural tribalism. Other than the fact that (1) it is driven (at least in part) by genuine citizen passion and engagement, and (2) represents a justifiable rebellion against the Washington and GOP establishments, I see little good in it and much potential for bad. To me, it's little more than the same extremely discredited faction which drove the country into the ground for the last decade, merely re-branded under a new name.”

But, you know what they say about a rose by any other name? Yep, I think old Glenn has hit this one out of the ball park. What the Tea Party movement has really done is removed the shades and let the light of day into the board rooms of the powers that be. Like Frankenstein’s monster, it has turned on its creator and now stands poised to kick in the door of the castle and take its seat on the political throne. But, at heart, there is no difference between the underling and the master, but with one exception: the underling is now calling the shots. Yes, the lunatics have in deed taken over the asylum; and they have become the guards.

And that’s why people like Karl Rove are worried. Not because they and others like them are somewhat more refined, compassionate, and, yes, educated than their boisterous, if ill-mannered, huddled masses. They’re worried because for the first time ever the American public is getting a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of a party that may be old, but is hardly grand. For what the Tea Party has inadvertently done is let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. What used to pass for deliberate obfuscation of long-standing agendas that go all the way back to the turn of the last century, has now become as obvious as a hang nail on a pitcher’s throwing hand. This is no longer your daddy’s GOP, and dear old dad is sweating like a pig on a poke.

Pick your poison. It is now out there for all to see, and with no one to censor them or even filter their message, the very real danger for the Republican Party, regardless of what happens this November, is that moderates and independents will ultimately be turned off by what they see and hear. As of now, they are capitalizing on the fear, frustration and uncertainty of an electorate that is about as fragile as a china plate being hung by a single wire. But, this is also an electorate that’s about as fickle as a food addict on weight watchers. In other words, nothing is set in stone. And with polls showing registered voters swinging back and forth between parties, every undisciplined utterance has the potential for disaster for Republican hopes of taking back Congress.

No wonder even Glenn Beck is calling on his minions to tone it down a notch and put the Halloween costumes away. The recent Republican primary in Delaware, in which Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell beat out moderate Republican Michael Castle, has, in all likelihood snatched defeat from the seeming jaws of victory as far as the Senate goes. O’Donnell has about as much chance of winning that seat as I do sprouting wings and flying myself to San Francisco.

And in Nevada, Sharon Angel is doing her darnedest to make Harry Reid look downright respectable. It’s the same almost everywhere a Tea Party candidate is running against an incumbent Democrat. Polls show two rather revealing trends that are unmistakable and undeniable: 1. People are pissed at the party in power and are leaning towards making a change; and 2. When they get a good look at the Republican candidate they start to squirm a bit at the prospect of what might happen should the GOP actually regain control. Depending on which trend wins out will determine the balance of political power in this country for at least the next two years.

That's it in a nutshell. The next six weeks will basically boil down to perception more than anything else. The sixty-four thousand dollar question yet to be answered is whether this turkey called the Tea Party can be dressed up and made to look legitimate in time to avoid getting roasted for dinner. The fears and anxiety have been stoked by conservative pundits. The Limbaughs and the Hannitys have had their say ad infinitum, Glenn Beck has held his rally to restore America, and now it all comes down to that intangible of intangibles. Karl Rove is right to be worried. A situation like this comes along once every seventy or so years. It would be a damn shame, wouldn’t it, if something as seemingly innocuous as unexpected intellectual honesty and unwelcomed transparency were to crash the party and spoil all the fun.

Tea Party poopers!

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