Has the tea party ‘jumped the shark’?

President Obama announced last week plans to speak next Wednesday night to Congress in order to propose a bi-partisan set of steps to address the number one issue facing the country: jobs.   When such a request is made, normally the decorum is for the Congress to accept — having the President come to speak on the biggest issue facing the country, and to offer suggestions on how to move forward is a big deal.

Instead, after initially signalling acceptance (which is why the White House went public) Speaker Boehner changed his mind, and decided that he would not accept Obama coming on Wednesday and instead invited him for Thursday.   This would mean he’d have to speak earlier since at 8:30 EDT much of the country would be watching the Packers-Saints game, a rematch of the Super Bowl to open the 2011 NFL season.

The reason was totally political.  First, many Republicans are still in a tea party “take no prisoners” mood, and rather than working to solve the country’s problems their most important job is to try to defeat and humiliate Obama.   If they can make him change the date of his speech he looks weak, and they act big and tough.  It’s rather pathetic, but apparently for some this brings great satisfaction.

A less convincing reason is that a Republican primary debate was being held.   I believe a few have already been held, and primary debates in the late summer of the year before the election are hardly big events.   Viewership is limited to only the political junkies, and it’s on cable.   In terms of relative importance, the debate is meaningless — and could easily be moved if they really wanted to.

So the President again is reaching out to Republicans, set to offer a bi-partisan approach on jobs, and Boehner is again acting childish.   The GOP muffed a huge compromise that would have cut spending by $4 trillion and brought non-military domestic spending to the lowest level than anytime since Eisenhower, all because they couldn’t accept closing a few tax loopholes on the very wealthy.   Given the massive shift of wealth from the middle class to the most wealthy, the idea that the cost of getting the budget in line should be born by the working middle class and poor while those who benefited the most and have the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world should play nothing is perverse.

The left hated Obama’s compromise.   They correctly noted it was the kind of compromise you’d expect a moderate Republican to propose, with Democrats proposing an increase on actual tax rates.   Obama knew that was impossible for the Republicans to support so he offered something he thought anybody could accept.

Nope, the GOP is in a no-compromise, slash and burn mode, with tough talk, bravado, and anti-Obama rhetoric that reaches absurd heights not seen since the right’s attacks on Clinton in the early 90s.    Perhaps a bit drunk on the success of the 2010 election, it’s all political, all partisan, and more extreme than the Republican party at any time since the early fifties.   It’s not all Republicans, it’s just that the tea party wing has the moderates running scared.

Eisenhower once responded to a Democratic call to cut taxes by saying cutting taxes when you have budget problems is wrong — Eisenhower was trying to keep the budget under control.   Republicans always had the anti-tax wing of the party, but it was small; the tea party partisanship, often very extreme, anti-government and ideological, rarely dominates the party.    Again, only in the early 50s during the McCarthy era has the GOP drifted into such extreme territory.   Fiscal conservatism traditionally trumped anti-tax ideology for conservatives.

Most people know I was once a Republican.  I was a state officer of the South Dakota College Republicans.   I was at the Detroit convention that nominated Ronald Reagan, and I worked for a Republican Senator in the eighties.   It’s not just that the party moved away from me, though I did like Ford and Dole, but I also started to study advanced economics and political science, and realized that a lot of the free market slogans of the GOP are simply wrong.   The market is not magic, without a state to regulate and guide it the powerful elite will dominate and control — third world conditions happen without a good legal regulatory system.    Those who try to defend a total free market approach always drift into abstract theroy; it doesn’t work in the real world.   I also rejected the Jerry Falwell “moral majority” idea, which seemed to be big government at its worst — trying to implement religious ideals with the power of the state.

Yet I resisted the Democrats.  I voted third party most of the time and yearned for a perspective where community is taken seriously and ideology gives way to practical problem solving.   There is a wing of the Republican party that believes that way (Jon Huntsman is probably the best example – and I’ve voted for both my moderate Republican Senators), but right now they are being shouted down by the ideologues.   Preisdent Obama (and earlier President Clinton) are moderate/pragmatic Democrats who often angered their left wing, but yet have been villified as “socialists” and “unamerican” by the far right.    Talk radio sets the meme, and many on the right follow, egged on by partisan blogs.

John Boehner’s snub of the President is the latest example of this effort to humiliate, put roadblocks in front of, and refuse to compromise with the Democrats.   For the left wing of the Democratic party, this is fine — it proves that you can’t work with the Republicans like Obama is trying to do, so therefore it’s better to simply match their partisanship and play hardball.   Obama’s resisted that.   I believe he sees the office of the Presidency as above that — and he’s right.

I think this may be the point where the right wing of the GOP has jumped the shark.   As the rhetoric remains shrill, and Obama takes the bully pulpit to make a call for bipartisanship to solve the country’s problems, the Republican primary is going to give the Democrats oodles of material for the general election.    Given what I wrote about a few days ago on the 13 keys, Obama is in a stronger position than Republicans realize.   Moreover, his current disapproval ratings are driven up by people on the left who are disappointed with Obama’s  centrism.   Most will come home in 2012, especially in swing states during an emotional campaign.   And don’t forget the way the Republicans are making it relatively easy for Obama to get Latino votes — their stance on immigration or in some cases “English as the national language” make a group that should lend the Republicans considerable support a solid Democratic bloc.

A defeat in 2012 (especially if a significant number House seats are lost — which is very possible) would be a repudiation of the tea party rhetoric and the extremist wing of the party.     Right now the extremists know they have power in primaries and are scaring the moderates.   I suspect this is their peak.    Obama got Bin Laden, had success in Libya and may have success in Syria before the election.   As he makes a push on jobs there is some evidence that the economy is slowly moving forward.   Given how bad economic conditions have been, Obama’s personal popularity has remained surprisingly high.   If the Republicans lose, moderates like Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown (if he gets re-elected) and Jon Huntsman can offer a new vision for the party and be poised to have a couple very good election cycles.

Because if the GOP is Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry…well, that appeals to a small segment of the population and is not the stuff of a major party.

  1. #1 by plainlyspoken on September 2, 2011 - 03:38


    I’m curious if the first three paragraphs are factually based or just your personal opinion?

    • #2 by Scott Erb on September 2, 2011 - 13:06

      The third paragraph is obviously my interpretation of why this was done. I believe the first two paragraphs are factual. I’m going on press reports about Boehner changing his mind, I obviously wasn’t there and haven’t truly researched it. It does sound to me like the White House felt that Boehner had agreed. Boehner does deny it.

      • #3 by plainlyspoken on September 2, 2011 - 18:55

        Thanks Scott, appreciate your reply.

        As to this whole “issue” – it is ridiculous that it has been put out into the news cycles and become a story of any importance. The whole thing is nothing more than an item to stir political discord, to keep the political aggravation going.

        You’d think from some of the commentators that this incident has the same weight of say, attacking Libya.

  2. #4 by Jeff Lees on September 2, 2011 - 06:06

    The Tea Party’s approval ratings has plummeted even from 6 months ago. The Tea Party is now more unpopular then either the Democrats or the Republicans. If the Democrats are smart, they’ll paint the Republicans as Tea Party radicals, and I think the current Congress playing right into that image. My hope (but not really my expectation) is that Obama will come out of this “jobs speech” with a clear and concise message and plan that flies in the face of the GOP Congress, and he’ll sticks with that message through 2012.

  3. #5 by pino on September 2, 2011 - 13:33

    John Boehner’s snub of the President is the latest example

    First and foremost, I’m anti-Obama to be sure, but Boehner’s behavior is poor here. When the President calls a meeting, you attend. This is silly.

    Okay, with that disclaimer:

    President Obama announced last week plans to speak next Wednesday night to Congress in order to propose a bi-partisan set of steps to address the number one issue facing the country: jobs.

    1. Obama has been on vacation for 10 days. If this speech is THAT important, he should have cut his vacation short and given it. If we can wait for him, he can wait a day. And for him to schedule this during the debate is pure politics.

    Shame on Obama.

    2. There will be nothing bi-partisan about his plan.

    If they can make him change the date of his speech he looks weak, and they act big and tough.

    And in that, they succeeded. This was an exercise in power. Using power, authority, is a skill. Obama is unskilled in the use of power.


    Given the massive shift of wealth from the middle class to the most wealthy

    Scott, there is no massive shift of wealth. The middle class continues to increase their wealth as they always have.

    Preisdent Obama (and earlier President Clinton) are moderate/pragmatic Democrats

    Have you read Obama’s books and his beliefs? I haven’t, however they are in route from Amazon as we speak, to see what Obama believes?

    • #6 by Scott Erb on September 2, 2011 - 14:47

      Not sure about cutting his vacation short — I suspect it was a working vacation preparing the jobs plan. It probably wasn’t ready (and the speech probably isn’t yet complete). I bet they were working on this during the “vacation” (and as with any President, vacations mean they work 8 hours a day instead of 14!)

  4. #7 by Scott Erb on September 2, 2011 - 14:31

    The top one percent has increased wealth by 291% in the last 30 years. The top ten percent by 95%. The bottom 60% haven’t even kept up with inflation. Moreover, this is household wealth, when we’ve seen far more two income families emerging as one income can no longer support a family. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown to levels not seen since before the 20th Century. This is the stuff of political instability, ultimately. The wealthy have not used their wealth to increase economic production; instead it fed a debt driven speculative bubble which has led to this question and created a crisis in the US. I’ve posted numerous statistics about the decline of the middle class, I don’t think one can deny that. It certainly hasn’t been growing like “they always have” – if that were the case, we wouldn’t have the crisis that started back in 2007.

    I believe he will put forth a bi-partisan style approach, he has to. Whether or not the Republicans will compromise or simply say “our way or no way” is the issue. He might try to box them in, making “no tax increases at all” the equivalent of “no to job creation.” But let’s wait and see. We can never know Obama’s true beliefs (anything a politician writes or says, or what people write about them have to be taken with a grain of salt). We can see how he governs, and he’s definitely been a disappointment to those on the left who wanted a determined progressive.

  5. #9 by mikelovell on September 2, 2011 - 15:30

    Just my Mr Technical character coming out, but the rematch of the Superbowl would have been the Packers and Steelers….. The Saints and Packers are both NFC teams! Sorry, but I had to do it, Scott.

    • #10 by Scott Erb on September 2, 2011 - 16:02

      I guess that should be the last two superbowl winners. (Or am I wrong on that too? My memory is fuzzy.)

  6. #11 by mikelovell on September 2, 2011 - 16:27

    Yes, you are right on that count. I don’t blame you for getting fuzzy completely. When one’s team never seems to make the Superbowl after so long, we true fans tend to subconciously start blocking things out a bit in order to leave room for remembering the glory days!

  7. #12 by Scott Erb on September 2, 2011 - 17:07

    Somethings I’d like to block out, like this run by Steve Young from your team:

  8. #13 by Scott Erb on September 2, 2011 - 19:04

    Plainly, true — it isn’t a huge issue. But I had to write a blog about something — I’d reviewed old Styx albums and posted Banacek clips, I’m running out of ideas!

    • #14 by plainlyspoken on September 2, 2011 - 19:28

      lol Scott, didn’t mean you. I was talking about the MSM. 🙂

      Now, for the record – I liked the Banacek piece, just as I enjoyed the show (and to date myself some – I saw it in the original run).

      • #15 by Scott Erb on September 3, 2011 - 02:10

        Thanks — it was a great show. By the way, I see your blog now isn’t accessible. Is that because you ended it?

      • #16 by plainlyspoken on September 3, 2011 - 03:10

        Yes. I closed it down for a couple of reasons.

        Primarily i believe no one cares what the middle independents think who want action instead of partisan fighting. The Dems and Repubs are both at fault for trying to shove their visions down the throats of the people, regardless of what the people think.

        I pretty much feel that the experiment called the United States of America has run its course and there should be a concerted effort to change the structure of this nation (I would look into several independent regional groups in a federation with strict controls on what the “federal” government could do). I’d prefer we do this in a constructive and peaceful way, but what I see is unending extremism that is pushing this country into deeper dismay and potential ruin.

        So, I pretty much read now, and comment here and there as the mood strikes me. 🙂

  9. #17 by mikelovell on September 2, 2011 - 20:01

    I remember watching that game, and specifically that play, knowing that God Himself was answering my prayers…. I think I wasted a lot of my prayer business on football as a child. Used up too many, and now thats why He doesn’t grant me the winning Powerball numbers!! LOL

    On a side note in respect to the video, my wifi connection or something must be a bit weak, when I pulled this up, the video section was completely black and didnt even give me an option to play it for over 5 minutes! Thought you had actually blocked out the video on your site as a joke!

    • #18 by Scott Erb on September 3, 2011 - 02:13

      I was living in Minnesota at the time and it was frustrating enough to watch that play. If I had known the prayers of some kid down in Iowa had caused it, then it would have really pissed me off. Seeing Young move and the Vikings miss, I think it had to be divine intervention!

      No, I hadn’t blocked the video (though that might have been a clever joke!) I did try to arrange to shift to a different quantum reality where Young was sacked, but none seem to exist…

  10. #19 by Titfortat on September 3, 2011 - 14:47

    I pretty much feel that the experiment called the United States of America has run its course and there should be a concerted effort to change the structure of this nation(PS)

    When you fund all your wars by borrowing money(like the brits did), you know the end is near. Maybe Osama wasnt as nuts as we think(Cant beat em, bleed their money dry).

    I think the end started when anderson missed the field goal against Atlanta, Im still in mourning over that one. 😦

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