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“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

“An Incongruous Spectacle”: Dave Brat’s Win Over Eric Cantor Exposed The Unholy Tea Party-Wall Street Alliance

The Tea Party wave that built around the country in 2009 and 2010 was fueled by many thingsresentment over foolhardy homeowners getting mortgage relief, backlash against the Affordable Care Act, and anxiety over federal spending. But if its rhetoric was to be believed, the movement was also driven by a healthy dose of old-fashioned anti-Wall Street populismanger over the TARP bailouts, the AIG bonuses, the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute any of the bankers who’d brought us close to ruin.

Something funny happened, though, as the pitchforks made their way to confront the money changers at the temple: Wall Street and big business co-opted them. It turned out that some elements of the Tea Party movement were much more opposed to Obama than they were to self-dealing CEOs and bankers, and perfectly willing to join with the latter to fight the former. This quickly produced the confounding spectacle of a purportedly populist uprising that was working hand in hand, and in many cases funded by, the business elite. And the nexus for this alliance was the Republican leadership in Congress. When Republicans were trying to block the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, they took Frank Luntz’s devious advice to label the bill a “bailout” for the banksdeploying Tea Party rhetoric to attack a bill that was in fact bitterly opposed by the bailed-out banks. In recognition of this effort, Wall Street in 2010 swung its campaign spending sharply toward GOP candidates, including many running under the Tea Party banner.

And when the Tea Party wave reached Washington, after the Republican rout in the midterm elections, who put himself forward as the new arrivals’ standard bearer within the House leadership? None other than Eric Cantorthe top recipient of financial industry money in Congress, the longtime protector of one of the most notorious Wall Street favors of all, the tax loophole for the carried-interest income of private-equity and hedge-fund managers. It was an incongruous spectacle, but so muddled had the right’s populism become by that point that the opportunistic Cantor was able to brazen his way through it. It was he who goaded the insurgent congressmen to make the raising of the debt-ceiling limit in June of 2011 their big stand against Obama: “I’m asking you to look at a potential increase in the debt limit as a leverage moment when the White House and President Obama will have to deal with us,” Cantor told the rank-and-file in a closed-door meeting in Baltimore in January 2011. It was he who undermined Speaker John Boehner’s effort to reach a grand bargain with Obama to pull the nation back from the brink, by riling up rank-and-file conservatives against the deal. It was a brilliant display: in one fell swoop, Cantor was able to protect the financiers’ carried-interest loophole (which Obama sought to close as part of the deal) at the same very time as he was serving as the champion of the Tea Party insurgents.

Now, Cantor’s game is up. Many, such as my colleague John Judis and the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, have already noted the right-wing populism in the rhetoric of Dave Brat, the economics professor who upset Cantor in Tuesday’s primary. But what is particularly significant about Brat’s victory is that he deployed this populism against the very man who had perfected the art of faking it. “All the investment banks in New York and D.C.those guys should have gone to jail,” Brat said at one Tea Party rally last month. “Instead of going to jail, they went on Eric’s Rolodex, and they are sending him big checks.” Liberals have for some time now been decrying Cantor’s hypocrisy in posing as the tribune of the common man, but here was a fellow Republican calling it out (without, it should be noted, the assistance of any of the self-appointed Tea Party organizations that have been so willing to make common cause with their anti-Obama allies on Wall Street). Yes, some conservatives have for the past few years been making noise about “crony capitalism,” but somehow their examples of this scourge most often tended to be Democratic-inflected rackets, such as the failed solar energy company Solyndra, rather than Republican-tinted ones such as, say, the private lenders who were making a killing acting as taxpayer-subsidized middle-men in the student loan market.

This is why we should be grateful for Dave Brat, beyond the schadenfreude of seeing a widely disliked congressional leader brought low. Yes, Brat’s win will add new kindling to the Tea Party cause just as some were declaring it burned out, thus further reducing the odds of legislative progress in areas such as immigration reform. But his win has, at least momentarily, also brought some clarity and integrity to the insurgency. Here was anti-Wall Street populism in its pure form: aimed, for once, at the right target.

 

By: Alec MacGinnis, The New Republic, June 12, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Tea Party, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Replacing One Disingenuous Politician With Another”: Dave Brat, Eric Cantor’s Career Killer, Nowhere Near Ready For Prime Time

Dave Brat—the college economics professor who pulled off a stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District—was taking a victory lap through the land of talk TV this morning when he ran into a buzz saw in the guise of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

Spending the first part of the interview happily discussing his position as a free-market supporter, all was going according to Brat’s script until Todd dared to ask the Republican nominee some actual questions on national policy.

Chuck began by tossing Professor Brat a softball, asking whether the candidate supported a federally mandated minimum wage.

Bear in mind that this is a candidate, an economics professor, who had spent the majority of the interview up the point of Todd’s question, extolling the virtues of a free market. Yet, when asked for his position on a federal minimum wage he struggled to avoid the question, obviously afraid of angering any voters who might be listening or create any news he felt could be harmful to his chances in November.

Smelling blood in Brat’s lack of a solid response, Todd pushed him for an answer, causing Mr. Brat to reply—

“ I don’t have a well-crafted response to that one.”

Call me crazy but I would have thought that a tenured, 18 year economics professor running for Congress on a free market platform might have given some though to the issue of a federally mandated minimum wage at some point before this morning’s interview.

Indeed, one cannot help but wonder whether Professor Brat’s economics students would manage a passing grade in Econ 101 were they to respond to an exam question with “I don’t have a well-crafted response to that one.”—even if that student had not received much sleep the night before the exam (what student ever does?).

Given the reaction by Mr. Brat when facing a question that one would expect a free market expert to have previously pondered, it becomes difficult to avoid the reality that Dave Brat is more of a typical politician than he’s been letting on.

While Brat’s response to an easy question should be distressing to every Virginian who gave him their vote, let alone those who did not, it all got substantially worse when Todd asked Mr. Brat a fairly simple foreign policy question.

“On a foreign policy issue, arming the Syrian rebels. Would you be in favor of that?”

This was, to Mr. Brat’s thinking, going to far. How dare the media quiz a guy favored to enter the House of Representatives in January about his thoughts on a critical foreign policy matter?

For the man who had just toppled the House Majority Leader, a foreign policy question qualified as unfair sandbagging—and Brat wasn’t afraid to say so.

“Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects,” Brat said. “I’d love to go through all of this but my mind is just— I didn’t get much sleep last night. I love all the policy questions but I just wanted to talk about the victory ahead and I wanted to thank everybody that worked so hard on my campaign. I’m happy to take policy issues at any time, I just wanted to call out a thanks to everybody today.”

Really? Talk about a disingenuous response. Mr. Brat had began his interview by launching into the six tenets of Republican philosophy that he claims to hold so close to his heart—six policy positions he was clearly not too tired to recount. Brat then treated Todd’s audience to a lecture on the wonders of a free market—a recitation and message he managed to find sufficient energy to deliver, despite his stated lack of sleep that rendered him incapable of telling us his position on minimum wage.

As Erik Wemple notes in the Washington Post:

“Chuck Todd is the ultimate issues guy. How can you go on his show and wave off a question on substance?”

And, so we are all clear, MSNBC spokeswoman Lauren Skowronski confirms that “No promises were made to Brat in advance of his interview on The Daily Rundown this morning.”

Here is a tip for Mr. Brat—if you are too tired to answer a few incredibly easy policy questions, get some sleep before showing up for an interview. I can assure Mr. Brat that journalists like Chuck Todd—as well as a great many others who do what we do—also didn’t get much sleep last night. And yet, we find that we are still able to conjure up our thoughts along with a few simple questions for the candidate this morning.

Is it really asking too much of Dave Brat to be reasonably prepared to answer those questions?

After all, nobody was asking Brat to provide a full-on presentation of his policy positions—only that he tell us where he stands on minimum wage. And if Brat was expecting an MSNBC interview to be a simple opportunity to share the joy he is experiencing in his big win, voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District should be very concerned, indeed.

Make no mistake—I am truly pleased to see Mr. Cantor sent packing as I have long viewed the Majority Leader as little more than an opportunist who will say or do most anything to gain the support of his party’s many factions while pocketing as many political chits as he can. Cantor’s fealty to Wall Street has been very well documented, often placing the needs of the moneyed interests who fill his offices and his campaign coffers well above the needs of his constituents—something the voters of his congressional district have apparently figured out.

However, the voters of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District now need to ask themselves a question—do they really want to replace one disingenuous elected official with another disingenuous elected official?

When a candidate like Dave Brat suggests that he cannot give a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ when it comes to his position on minimum wage because he didn’t get enough rest last night, how can he be described as anything but another, run-of-the-mill disingenuous politician dodging what should be a no-brainer question?

And if Mr. Brat hasn’t take a moment to think about our foreign policy, he can only be described as a seriously unprepared candidate engaging in political malpractice.

Either way, as the general election gets underway to fill Eric Cantor’s seat under the glare of a national spotlight, let’s hope that Virginians recognize that replacing one disingenuous politician with another does absolutely nothing to advance either their own interests or the interests of the nation as a whole.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Defeat Has A Thousand Fathers”: If A Majority Leader Loses And Everyone Hears It, Who Made The Sound?

If a towering incumbent falls in the forest and no national groups were around to push him, who deserves the credit? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning, historic defeat last night raises the question again of what exactly is the tea party. It’s fair to characterize Randolph-Macon College economics professor Dave Brat as a tea party candidate, but at the same time analysts, activists and lawmakers should remember that included in the universe of people who had no idea this was coming (excepting U.S. News’ Peter Roff) were the national groups that pass for the tea party movement’s establishment.

There’s a tendency to refer to the tea party movement as a homogenous, monolithic enterprise, but the fact remains that there is no “tea party.” Lest I be accused of trying to undercut the conservative insurgent movement, I will note that this is a point I made when “tea party” candidates were getting routed in the Texas and North Carolina senate primaries; movement obituaries should be tempered, I argued then, because the major tea party groups hadn’t shown up for those fights. They showed up in Kentucky in force and lost. They showed up in Mississippi and won. And I would make the same point about South Carolina, where Sen. Lindsey Graham – who is a much more vocal immigration reform supporter than Cantor – cruised to an easy victory last night: Don’t draw too many conclusions from races where one or both sides in the fight declined to engage. “The tea party” isn’t dead because Lindsey Graham is alive any more than it is resurgent because Eric Cantor went down.

Which brings us back to the national groups, which were apparently as oblivious as the rest of us to what was happening in the Richmond area leading up to yesterday’s election.  The Washington Post’s Matea Gold made this point last night, noting that the major tea party groups spent a grand total of nothing on Brat’s behalf:

But it’s worth noting that many of the national tea party groups that have been the most pugilistic about this year’s intra-party fights have not invested much money into helping the candidates on the ground. As we reported earlier this year, organizations such as Tea Party Patriots and the Madison Project are spending huge sums on fundraising, salaries and consultants, while just putting a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars they have raised into political expenditures.

The fact that Brat took off without the help of those organizations now makes it harder for them to claim his victory as their own.

And National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher made the same observation last night, including this damning anecdote about Jenny Beth Martin, the chief of the aforementioned Tea Party Patriots:

In an extensive interview with National Journal earlier Tuesday, Martin did not mention the Cantor race as among the tea party’s top opportunities in 2014. Hours after his defeat, however, Martin issued a triumphant statement congratulating Brat and “the local tea-party activists who helped propel him over the top.”

Certainly the local tea party activists deserve some measure of congratulations. But what remains honestly unclear – whether you’re sympathetic to the GOP establishment or to the tea party insurgency – is what it means nationally. And what does that say about the national party movement and groups like Tea Party Patriots? Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo told National Journal’s Goldmacher that Cantor’s defeat was a sign of the movement’s strength: “They can strike anywhere. It’s not dependent on a top-down direction.” So where does that leave the top end of that equation? Leading from behind?

To flip the old JFK aphorism around, Eric Cantor’s defeat may have a thousand fathers (and mothers). Political observers would be wise to discern which ones are actually legitimate.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, June 11, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tea Party Scam”: Reminder To Republicans, The Tea Party Is Stealing Your Money

After David Brat pulled a stunning primary upset over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in Virginia’s 7th congressional district on Tuesday, Tea Party groups almost immediately began dancing on the deposed incumbent’s grave.

“The grassroots are taking their seat back at the table and returning accountability to Washington. Votes on Capitol Hill will be heard back in the district,” FreedomWorks for America president Matt Kibbe wrote. “If you stop representing your voters, they will hold you accountable at the voting booth. We are proud to stand with Dave Brat in his election and look forward to working with him to reform Washington, D.C.”

Madison Project policy director Daniel Horowitz took to Twitter to gloat:

Daniel Horowitz @RMConservative

Hey if GOP establishment wants they could move to Mexico and run for office

9:22 PM – 10 Jun 2014

And perhaps nobody enjoyed the victory lap more than Tea Party Patriots chairman Jenny Beth Martin, who penned an op-ed in the Daily Caller bragging that Brat “blew up” the narrative that “grassroots conservatism is on the wane, that the tea party movement has run out of steam and is destined for the ash heap of political history.”

“[A]ctivists who belong to a variety of tea party groups coalesced behind a strong candidate and carried him to victory,” Martin wrote. “It is with them that Brat shares the credit.”

Brat may question how much credit he owes to the variety of Tea Party groups credited by Martin, however. While they are more than happy to spike the football after Brat’s win, Tea Party groups spent exactly nothing to help him during the primary campaign.

Zero dollars.

Brat wasn’t ignored for lack of trying.

“I met with them all,” the Republican nominee said of the major Tea Party groups in a February interview with The New York Times. “But it’s tough. Everybody just wants to see the polls, how much money you’ve raised. But they do not know what’s going on on the ground.”

At least Martin was decent enough to learn Brat’s name before attempting to co-opt his victory. In her statement on election night, Martin congratulated “David Brent” on his win, praising him for defeating “the man many consider to be one of the most powerful member [sic] of the House, second only to Mitch McConnell himself.”

Memo to Republicans: If you give political donations to a woman who doesn’t know the difference between Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, or the House and the Senate, you aren’t a fiscal conservative.

Of course, this is nothing new for Tea Party groups, which have never fully put their money where their mouths are. But in recent years, the Tea Party scam has reached Nigerian prince levels. As The Washington Post’s Matea Gold reported in April, “Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates.”

Tea Party Patriots had a particularly dismal record; of the $7.4 million that the group had raised at the time, just $184,505 went to supporting political candidates. By contrast, TPP paid Martin a $15,000 monthly fee for strategic consulting, in addition to $272,000-plus yearly salary as president of the its nonprofit arm.

Brat’s upset victory proved that right-wing activists can still shake up Republican politics to startling degrees. But it also proved that they don’t need the do-nothing Tea Party groups to do so. That’s a lesson that Martin and her fellow Tea Party leaders hope that the grassroots never learns — because after all, traveling the country to rant about wasteful spending isn’t cheap.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, June 11, 2014

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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