Friday, February 12, 2010

A Blended Brew: The GOP Continues to Absorb the Tea Party Movement

After the election and inauguration of President Obama in 2009, it seemed as if tea-party movements began to surface all across the country. These groups strongly voiced their opposition to President Obama and the Democrats and advanced the claims that the country was being steered in a new and radical direction.

Not coincidentally, this was the same time period when Fox News host Glenn Beck was rising in popularity as part of Fox News' new business strategy in becoming the voice of opposition to the Obama Administration. I have written time and time again about Beck's wild and crazy antics over the last year and it is no secret by now that tea-party chapters all over the country look to him as a voice of sanity and reason in their quest to combat what they view as "socialism" and "communism" being forced upon the public. Beck and Fox News fueled and promoted tea-party protests all over the country during the Summer of 2009 and while some local groups were formed at the grassroots, much of the tea-party activity has been funded by corporate and Republican interests.

As the debate over healthcare reform became heated last summer, tea-party organizations began showing up to local town hall meetings to shout-down Congressmen and make hyperbolic and factually troubling claims about the proposed legislation. Not only were people showing up to rail against health care reform, but also to question President Obama's citizenship, claim that the United States was being taken over by Marxists and offer their support for Republican ideas. There was certainly a mixture of viewpoints within this movement and I wrote about this paradox in the protests at the time:

What was once political opposition driven by political figures of the 90's, has now morphed into that same opposition being embraced by national media figures as well as their viewers/listeners thus these views are presented as a genuine populist uprising.

and how this morphed into a brand of "Schizophrenic Conservatism":

This kind of complication manifests itself when you mix legitimate concerns of citizens with interests that work hard to maintain the status quo. These interests include national media figures like Beck, the influence of party interests who are working toward the political goal of defeating Obama, and those who perpetuate so-called "facts" that end up being completely wrong. What results is more than a complete mess. What results is a movement that does not know whether they are coming or going, let alone where they stand.

What has resulted, has been what equates to an identity crisis for the Republicans. Some Republicans are cautious about embracing the tea parties and some Republicans are icons within the movement. Sarah Palin recently suggested that the Republican Party try to "absorb as much of the tea party movement as possible" and South Carolina Republicans have officially started to collaborate with the tea party movement.

As Republicans continue to fund, promote, and work with factions of this movement, there is a disconnect that bubbles to the surface and only exacerbates the mixed identities that all seem to stem from seemingly the same movement. After all, it was the supporters of Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) who held the first tea party way back in 2007. What was different was the libertarian message that was being espoused by Paul and how the Republican Party explicitly rejected their association with this movement. This recent segment of The Rachel Maddow Show features Ron Paul and gets right at this very issue:

These recent tea-partiers seemingly came out of the woodwork after the election of America's first black President and have a much different message than that of the grassroots movement that united behind their support for Ron Paul's Presidential Candidacy. This is the confusion that we are seeing both on a national level as well as locally here in Cincinnati.

Ohio Public Radio did a story this past week that aired on 91.7 WVXU regarding the local tea-party movement and the Republican Party's willingness to accept tea-party candidates and supporters. The story states that Party Chief Kevin DeWine is "throwing out the welcome mat" by stating:

"If that group is concerned about fiscal discipline, fiscal restraint, lower spending and lower taxes, I'll put my candidates up against the Democrat candidates any day when it comes to trying to attract their vote."

This should not come as a surprise to any citizen who has been paying attention to the Cincinnati Tea Part movement. This local organization has embraced Republicans like Steve Chabot who was a featured speaker at a protest in Downtown Cincinnati along with Cincinnati Tea Party founder Mike Wilson back in October. Here is video that I posted at the time of the event:

As Chabot stated in his speech, he is "looking forward to working with" Wilson if he is elected to the Statehouse and if Chabot can reclaim his old Congressional seat. The Republican Party's willingness to absorb those within the tea-party movement is certainly a political strategy to try and harness the Conservative outrage into votes and in instances like we have seen with the Cincinnati Tea Party, they are often willing to throw their support behind long-time members of the Republican Party like Steve Chabot. This is what happens when you have a movement that takes an angry public, whips it into a political fervor and directs that anger into continued support for the same Republican politicians who have had a hand in the mess that we find ourselves in today. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake sums it up the paradox between the old and new tea-party movements quite nicely:

The GOP establishment, on the other hand, struck a bargain for power with corporate America that is totally at odds with everything the libertarians stand for. I’ve often thought they have more points of honest intersection with progressives on the war, civil liberties, accountability and transparency than with the GOP and the “For Sale” sign they’ve affixed to the taxpayer trough.

Ron Paul has been tireless in taking his message to college campuses, and he has tremendous support among younger people who identify themselves as fiscal conservatives but are uncomfortable with the fundies and their gay-bashing. But as the libertarian message is gaining traction, it is being hijacked by the Neocons — and Sarah “bridge to nowhere” Palin leads the parade.

It’s completely incoherent that there are now tea party-identified candidates are trying to oust Ron Paul himself from his seat. I hope the libertarians lay down markers and come down on the side of ending ConAgra’s corporate welfare, and showing Palin and her many bombs to the door.

This piece is cross posted here.

1 comment:

Quim said...

An excellent post. The Republican party really lost it's way during the Reagan administration when southern Democrats started switching over to the Republican party, effectively ushering in the era of the neo-con.