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“The ‘Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress Initiative”: The Bernie Camp’s Really Bad Idea of A ‘Tea Party Of The Left’

From a great distance, the news that volunteers associated with Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign are turning their attentions to the herculean task of organizing progressives for midterm elections would seem to be exciting news for all Democrats. Without question, the close alignment of the two parties with groups of voters who do (older white people) and don’t (younger and minority people) participate in non-presidential elections has been a big part — along with the normal backlash against the party controlling the White House — of the massive Republican gains of 2010 and 2014. The prospect of heightened midterm turnout from under-30 voters alone could be a big and important deal for the Donkey Party.

But the closer you get to the Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress initiative — the new project by recently laid-off Bernie staffers to create a revolution in Congress beginning with the 2018 elections — the less it looks like the instrument for a difficult but achievable task and the more it looks like the product of a very strange set of beliefs about American politics. It’s not focused on boosting progressive turnout in general elections, but on recruiting and running candidates in Republican as well as Democratic primaries who meet a rigid set of policy litmus tests. The idea is very explicitly that people alive with the Bern can literally elect a “brand-new Congress” in one election cycle to turn public policy 180 degrees. Or so says key organizer Zack Exley:

“We want a supermajority in Congress that is fighting for jobs, criminal justice reform and the environment,” Exley said. “Most Americans actually want that, and I think we get it by running Dems in blue areas, Republicans in deep red areas, and by running independents wherever we didn’t defeat incumbents.”

Republicans, too?

Corbin Trent, another former Sanders staffer, said bringing Republicans on board is “the key to it being a successful idea” and there’s enough overlap between Sanders’ platform and tea party conservatives to make the PAC’s goals feasible.

Reality television star Donald Trump’s current status as the Republican front-runner demonstrates that GOP voters are eager for candidates who, like Trump, criticize the corrupting influence of money in politics and the impact of free trade deals on American workers, Trent said.

“This will allow Republicans to say ‘Yeah, I’m a Republican, but I believe climate change is real and I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists,” he said. “It will allow people to think differently in the Republican Party if they want to pull away from the hate-based ideology.”

Yes, that was what I feared: The discredited notion that lefties and the tea party can make common cause in something other than hating on the Clintons and Barack Obama is back with a vengeance. And worse yet, Donald Trump — Donald Trump — is being touted as an example of a Republican capable of progressive impulses because he shares the old right-wing mercantilist hostility to free trade and has enough money to scorn lobbyists. Does your average Trump supporter really “believe climate change is real” and disbelieve that “all Muslims are terrorists”? Do Obamacare-hating tea-partiers secretly favor single-payer health care? Do the people in tricorn hats who favor elimination of labor unions deep down want a national $15-an-hour minimum wage? And do the very activists who brought the Citizens United case and think it’s central to the preservation of the First Amendment actually want to overturn it?

It’s this last delusion that’s the most remarkable. If there is any one belief held most vociferously by tea-party activists, it’s that anything vaguely approaching campaign-finance reform is a socialist, perhaps even a satanic, conspiracy. These are the people who don’t think donors to their political activities should be disclosed because Lois Lerner will use that information to launch income-tax audits and persecute Christians. The tea folk are much closer to the Koch brothers in their basic attitudes toward politics than they are to conventional Republicans.

But there persists a sort of “tea envy” in progressive circles. Here’s Salon staff writer Sean Illing in a piece celebrating Brand New Congress:

Real change in this country will require a sustained national mobilization, what I’ve called a counter-Tea Party movement. While their agenda was nihilistic and obstructionist, the Tea Party was a massive success by any measure. And they succeeded because they systematically altered the Congressional landscape.

Well, you could say that, or you could say the tea party’s excesses cost Republicans control of the Senate in 2012, and produced an environment that’s made Donald Trump and Ted Cruz the GOP’s only two options for this year’s presidential nomination. Indeed, you can probably thank the tea party for the likelihood of a very good Democratic general election this November.

But that will again produce excellent conditions for another Republican-dominated midterm in 2018. It sure would make sense for progressives to  focus on how to minimize the damage in the next midterm and begin to change adverse long-term turnout patterns. Expending time, money, and energy on scouring the earth looking for Republican primary candidates willing to run on a democratic-socialist agenda will not be helpful.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 29, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Progressives, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sorry, Teabaggers”: America Really Loves These Liberal Policies

I keep hearing Joe Scarborough go off on how the great unwritten story of this election season is how far left the Democratic Party has moved—a drum he’s been beating for months now. The idea, I suppose, is that this will be the Democratic Achilles’ heel this fall; that the whole topic is one huge Drudge siren that no one has bothered to look or listen for because everyone is so fixated on the Republican chaos.

Nonsense. To the extent that the Democratic Party has moved left, it’s mostly as a consequence of following, not leading, public opinion. So if the Democratic Party is left wing, then the American people are too.

Let’s start with some of Bernie Sanders’s positions. Sanders is in all likelihood not going to be the nominee, but a reasonably high percentage of rank-and-file Democrats support him (although not that high—remember that much of his support is from independents). So what are the main things he’s saying?

1.That the system is rigged in favor of the 1 percent. That’s not left wing, that’s just a statement of the obvious. Everyone agrees with that; not least the 1 percent themselves, who are investing billions of dollars in this election in the hope that things stay that way. Anyway, for those who need such things, here’s a poll result from this month. Is the system rigged? Saying yes, 85 percent. Saying no, 4 percent. Supporting the GOP position that the 1 percent needs more tax breaks so they can trickle it down to the rest of us? Well, they didn’t even ask that one.

2. That Citizens United is corrupt and should be overturned. Here, the Sanders position (really the Democratic Party position, since virtually the whole party holds it) doesn’t fare as well. I mean, only 78 percent of America thinks Citizens United was a bad decision; 17 percent take the Republican view that it was well decided.

3. That the minimum wage should be $15 an hour. Here’s one poll of many showing high support for that—63 percent. Also, 82 percent support indexing it to inflation. The Republican position that any increase is a job killer isn’t even asked, but based on those who “strongly” oppose an increase, it would seem to be a view held by around 10 percent of Americans.

4. Free college tuition. This one’s tighter, but even here, a poll last year showed people supporting it by 46-41 percent. That same poll showed more generally that people agreed with the idea, much more broadly reflective of the position of the Democratic Party, that no one should have to go into debt to attend a public university, by 62 to 29 percent. Radicals!

5. Free health care. This does less well, but still wins a plurality of 39-33, with the rest undecided.

Again, Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat, the Democratic Party isn’t going to be nominating him. But I use his positions because generally speaking they’re to the left of Hillary Clinton’s, and large majorities and pluralities support even them. Levels of support for Clinton’s versions of the above policies run higher. For example, she gets attacked from the left for saying the minimum wage could be $12 in rural and less expensive areas. Well, fully 75 percent support that, 12 points higher than the 63 percent who back a $15 minimum.

What about some of Clinton’s signature proposals? Paid family leave, is that radical? If so, 185 countries are left wing. Chad—Chad—gives mothers 14 weeks, paid at 100 percent! As for the polls, 79 percent of America is irresponsibly left wing on this question.

I could go on and on. I don’t want to turn the whole column into the March of the Poll Numbers. But OK, here’s one more. Marijuana legalization—maybe that’s radical? I mean, after all, it’s drugs. Nope, sorry; 58 percent support legalizing pot. The story is the same on same-sex marriage, contraceptive rights, and a whole bushelful of things.

Here’s what I’m getting at: The Democrats’ new positions look radical if you can only look at the world through a Beltway-specific, and indeed Capitol Hill-specific, lens.

Because if Congress is what you see when you see America, then you see a place where roughly half—no, more than half—of the people think that raising the minimum wage is radical, or that health care is a privilege you have to earn, or that climate change is a fantasy (or a Chinese conspiracy, as Donald Trump has been telling it), or that everyone up to and including schoolteachers ought to carry loaded guns.

Out in the real country, only crackpots think these things. As I’ve shown above, 70 percent of Americans agree with these non-left-wing, common sense positions. But the crackpot community is dramatically overrepresented in Washington and skews the way all these things are discussed and described on shows like Morning Joe.

So no, these positions aren’t radical. Or come to think of it, if they are, then it is because the American middle class has been somewhat radicalized. After the meltdown and the good-but-not-good-enough recovery, the people in the middle, making from $35,000 to $70,000 or thereabouts, said “We’ve had it.” They’ve spent 35 years treading water, watching the rich have a party while listening to politicians tell them that the money for their needs just wasn’t there. They’re sick of it. There’s a lot about Sanders I’m not crazy about, but it’s obvious why he’s struck such a nerve.

And this fall, Clinton can’t succumb to this “radical Democratic Party” frame for a second. It’s not radical to tell the 1 percent the party’s over. It’s radical—in the other, malevolent direction—not to.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 26, 2016

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Public Opinion, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“An Emotionally Abusive Relationship”: Tea Partyers Love The Constitution So Much — They Want To Blow It Up

Sometimes I think tea partyers are in an emotionally abusive relationship with the Constitution.

One day, they proclaim its inerrancy and say it must be loved, honored and obeyed in all its original perfection. The next day, they call for a constitutional convention, arguing that it’s broken, outdated and desperately in need of a facelift.

In other words: I love you, you’re perfect, now change.

This pure, pristine document is so fervently adored by people of the parchment that some carry it around with them at all times — sometimes in their breast pockets, close to their hearts, perhaps to protect them from a stray Second Amendment-protected bullet. They cite it as they might scripture (that is, often incorrectly, and for their own purposes).

They believe that anyone who questions the Constitution’s decrees must be verbally flogged or even impeached. The United States’ sacred scroll must be feared, fetishized and followed to the letter — down to the comma, even — in its original, strictly constructed form.

Indeed, above all other national concerns, this founding document must be preserved as is.

But now a line of thinking has emerged that the best way to preserve the Constitution is to revamp it completely.

Consider Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a tea party darling, who wants to convene a constitutional convention to amend this precious political heirloom.

And not to push through just a single amendment, but nine.

These amendments include: allowing a two-thirds majority of the states to override a Supreme Court decision; prohibiting Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state; and requiring a seven-justice supermajority for Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law. Abbott also demands a balanced-budget amendment, which almost certainly would have been opposed by Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who was the most prolific defender of the Constitution.

These are not minor copy edits.

In a 92-page document defending his proposals, Abbott laments widespread ignorance of the Constitution and argues that his plan is “not so much a vision to alter the Constitution as it is a call to restore the rule of our current one.”

The Constitution itself is not broken,” Abbott writes in italics. “What is broken is our Nation’s willingness to obey the Constitution and to hold our leaders accountable to it.”

In other words, the Constitution says what Abbott thinks it says, not what it actually says, or what the Supreme Court decides it says — so now we just need to rewrite it so that the text fits what’s in his head.

Abbott is not the only right-wing Constitution-thumper to call for reframing the Founding Fathers’ allegedly perfect handiwork.

Marco Rubio, apparently trying to capture more of his party’s fringe, recently announced that on his “first day in office” as commander in chief, he would “put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states.” Its agenda would be to impose term limits on federal legislators and judges, as well as a balanced-budget amendment.

Rubio assured Americans that delegates to such a convention “won’t be able to touch our important constitutional rights.”

Who determines which parts of the Constitution are important and therefore untouchable, and which are unimportant and touchable? Rubio, apparently.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who, along with others, wants to roll back the 14th Amendment to quash birthright citizenship . (In the meantime, he’ll settle for casting aspersions on his political enemies’ birthplaces.)

And Ben Carson — author of a book subtitled “What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties” — has argued that U.S. law is not subject to judicial review from the Supreme Court, contra Marbury v. Madison. (Carson has also expressed other funny ideas about what’s in the Constitution and who wrote it.) Like Rubio, Carson has supported the idea of a constitutional convention, along with fellow Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and John Kasich.

Then there’s Ted Cruz, who devotes a whole section on his campaign website to his pledge to “defend the Constitution” and “restore the Constitution as our standard.”

Cruz, too, has decided that the best way to “restore” the Constitution is by altering it. He supports amendments to require a balanced budget, let state legislatures define marriage and subject Supreme Court justices to periodic retention elections.

These and “many more” unspecified amendments are needed, he told reporters, “because the federal government and the courts have gotten so far away from the original text and the original understanding of our Constitution.”

Because, obviously, the best way to honor that cherished, perfect, original text is by getting rid of it.

 

By: Catherine Rample, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Greg Abbott, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tea Party Turns On ‘Megalomaniac Strongman’ Donald Trump”: A Bridge Too Far For Tea Party Members In Congress

The Tea Party’s infatuation with Donald Trump may be over.

Now, “may” is the operative word, since rumors of Trump’s demise, as you might have noticed, have been a touch overstated. But the Republican presidential frontrunner’s recent call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration has put him at odds with some of the most conservative people on the right—including congressional Tea Party darlings.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Tea Party favorite who won support from Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz in his Republican primary campaign in Nebraska, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to criticize the mogul.

“Monday night was a flood,” Sasse said, referring to Trump’s bombastic campaign-rally speech about Muslim immigration. “Neither are what our people need or really what they, at their best, want.”

Though the senator didn’t mention Trump by name, the allusion was clear as day.

Sasse then proceeded to characterize the mogul in extraordinarily harsh terms while blaming President Obama and other Washington insiders for Trump’s support.

“The people who are supposed to be laser-focused on defending the American people—that is us—mouth silly platitudes that show we’re either too weak or too confused to keep our people safe,” he said. “Then a megalomaniac strongman steps forward, and he starts screaming about travel bans and deportation, and offering promises to keep all of us safe, which to some and I think actually to many more than those of us in this body seem to understand, to some will sound much better than not being protected at all.”

Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican who defeated then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a shocking primary upset due in large part to his tough-on-undocumented-immigration stance, also criticized Trump’s approach.

“You gotta be very careful on lines of thought when you’re conveying these lines to the media,” Brat said. “The right way to go is just to talk about overseas threats, and quantifying those based on what’s in the best interests of American citizens.”

Rep. Randy Hultgren, an Illinois Republican who won his seat in the 2010 Tea Party wave, shared those concerns in a press release that criticized the mogul’s stance as a religious freedom problem.

“Singling out any faith community for the actions of extremists is not conservative, it is hostile to our founding,” Hultgren said.

Off the Hill, other movement conservative firebrands were distressed by Trump’s call for a religious test.

“I think that calling for a religious test is contrary to our founding principles and that our Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves right now,” said Penny Nance, who heads Concerned Women for America.

She added that Trump’s decision to single out Muslims for extra scrutiny undermines the principles of religious freedom that protect other religious minorities—a category that includes, in her opinion, evangelical Christians.

“I think in our society that evangelical Christians are viewed less and less favorably, and we should be very concerned,” Nance said. “It begins a slippery slope that eventually ensnares all of us.”

In the wake of Kim Davis’s arrest and legal targeting of conservative Christian bakers and florists who refused to serve gay couples’ weddings, evangelical Christians—including Nance—have increasingly focused on religious freedom issues. She wasn’t the only conservative to argue that singling out Muslims could result in similar discriminatory treatment of Christians.

Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, also said the real estate baron’s stance is incompatible with the Constitution.

“A religious qualification is unfitting,” he said. “It kind of flies in the face of the founding principles of the government.”

“Our public policy focus should be on ensuring security and preventing those wanting to do us harm from entering our country, not just haphazardly creating religious barriers,” he added.

That said, it remains to be seen if Trump supporters will share Tea Party leaders’ views of their idol.

Billie Tucker, who co-founded the First Coast Tea Party in Florida, said Trump’s foes shouldn’t hold their breath.

“People are very excited to hear somebody speaking out—things that they’ve been thinking and no one will say,” she said. “He is saying a lot of stuff that people think.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, December 9, 2015

December 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Evangelicals, Religious Freedom, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Enemy Number One For The Republican Party”: CNBC Created The Tea Party. Now The Right Wants To Destroy The Network

After Wednesday’s debacle of a debate, CNBC is now the most-hated cable network among conservatives. The fury has grown so intense that on Friday the Republican National Committee broke off its partnership with NBC News for an upcoming February debate hosted by the news titan.

Fun fact: Six years ago, CNBC started the Tea Party movement.

On February 24, 2009, while reporting for Squawk Box from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Rick Santelli (who was briefly featured during Wednesday’s debate) went on a dramatic rant against President Obama’s Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, a stimulus package aimed at helping homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

“The government is promoting bad behavior,” he said. “How about this, president and new administration, why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”

Santelli drew rapturous applause from the floor traders—the “silent majority,” as he described them—when he added that the government should “reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water.”

A true showman in his element, Santelli then turned around to face his audience. “This is America!” he shouted. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” The traders erupted in boos.

The moment read like something straight out of the many Tea Party rallies seen during the 2010 election season.

“President Obama, are you listening?” Santelli boomed. “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” he continued. “All you capitalists show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”

Further cementing what would become the Tea Party’s dominant motif, Santelli added, “I’ll tell you what: If you read our Founding Fathers—people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson—what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.”

And so history was written. Santelli’s call to verbal arms was echoed by conservative commentators and leading activist groups like FreedomWorks, who made the video their rallying cry.

Organizers shifted into gear and within 10 days of Santelli’s theatrics, the first official Tea Party rallies were held in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other cities. A year-and-a-half later, Tea Party candidates won 40 U.S. House elections, taking back power from the Democratic Party.

And conservatives have CNBC to thank.

 

By: Andrew Kirell, The Daily Beast, October 30, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | CNBC, Rick Santelli, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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