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“The Tea Party Is Abandoning Paul Ryan”: It’s No Longer A Matter Of ‘If’ The Full Movement Will Turn On Him, It’s When

When Mitt Romney chose Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate in the 2012 presidential election, the tea party was ecstatic. “It’s a big step toward what the tea party has been trying to accomplish,” Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, said at the time. “It gives people a reason to be more enthusiastic about the Republican ticket.” But just two years later, Kibbe and his fellow tea party activists are singing a different tune: Ryan has betrayed the movement.

The first significant break between Ryan and the tea party came at the beginning of this year, when he collaborated with Senator Patty Murray, the Democratic chair of the Senate Budget Committee, on a budget that avoided another government shutdown. That deal replaced $65 billion of the sequester over the next two years by requiring federal workers to contribute more to their pensions, implementing new fees on airline tickets, and cutting spending a decade from now. While the deal actually reduced the deficit by $20 billion in total, the far right was furious. “It is disappointing to see Chairman Ryan forget lessons learned this past spring, when House Republicans united to win reasonable spending limits in the face of President Obama’s hysterical predictions that even modest cuts would harm our nation,” said Tim Phillips, the president of American for Prosperity. Erik Erickson, of Red State, wrote “Bend over America, here it comes.”

If Ryan hoped to recover any good will with his famous budgetthe one he releases each year as head of the House Budget Committeethose hopes were quickly dashed. Sarah Palin called it “a joke” and other tea party leaders criticized it for insufficiently cutting spending. Those comments are tough to square with the previous praise tea party leaders have heaped on Ryan. The “Path to Prosperity” is one of the main reasons that they were thrilled with Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate, and the 2014 Ryan Budget is just as conservative as in the past. (Only in this version and the FY 2014 one was Ryan able to balance the budget in ten years.)

Things have only grown worse since then. In July, Ryan confirmed their suspicions when he announced a new deficit-neutral antipoverty program. In doing so, he effectively disowned his budget, which proposes huge cuts to programs for low-income Americans. Tea party groups have yet to weigh in on Ryan’s proposal, but it’s hard to see how they’d approve. If the spending cuts in Ryan’s 2015 budget were too small, then his antipoverty agenda, which doesn’t cut welfare spending at all, won’t be acceptable.

This past week, Ryan has hit the media circuit to publicize his new memoir, The Way Forward, in which he puts more distance between himself and the tea party. He has eschewed the phrase “makers and takers” and even rejected his previous analogy of the social safety net as a “hammock” that “lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” Ryan’s repudiation of these phrases will be seen as yet another dismissal of the tea party worldview.

The final straw may have been his description of the government shutdown. In The Way Forward, Ryan calls that political strategy a “suicide mission.” As Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney write in the Huffington Post, Ryan’s account whitewashes his actual role in the shutdown. He was more supportive of it than he admits. But the message is clear: The tea party’s strategy hurt the Republican Party and should not be repeated. This has not gone over well on the right. In Politico Magazine, Scottie Nell Hughes, the news director of the Tea Party News Network, writes, “[W]e of the grassroots GOP are in no mood to hear that our push for defunding Obamacare and using the debt ceiling to force President Obama to curb reckless spending had all the wisdom of a Japanese kamikaze.”

“If Paul Ryan does not have enough tact to forgo insulting the conservatives within his own party,” she added, “then I have serious doubts he has the wisdom and judgment needed to lead the GOP to victory in 2016.”

Ryan’s fall from grace on the right is emblematic of his transition from ideologue to practical policymaker. In the process, Ryan has received a better reception on the left. At The Week, writer Ryan Cooper called it a “marked improvement from his previous efforts.” But this transformation is not without its costs: Ryan is no longer the tea party golden boy.

“I’m very disappointed in Paul Ryan,” Judson Phillips, the founder of the Tea Party Nation, writes in an email. “He has a raging case of Potomac Fever and his only goal now seems to be embracing John Boehner’s freshly laundered white flag of surrender.”

Ryan has not yet alienated his more conservative colleagues in Congress. And many activists, particularly those less attentive to the daily happenings in Washington, may not have even noticed his betrayal. But repeatedly this year, Ryan’s actions have made it clear that he is distancing himself from the tea party. It’s no longer a matter of if the full movement will turn on him. It’s a matter of when.


By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, August 21, 2014

August 24, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Reverse Mortgage Industry Of Politics”: How The Tea Party Became As Corrupt As The Beltway It Loathes

This week, ProPublica released a report on the financial (and moral) corruption of a Tea Party group operating under the name Move America Forward, which was founded by one Sal Russo. Russo also helped start the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, aka the Tea Party Express. Move America Forward has run fake drives to give care packages to troops, stolen images of other charitable campaigns and passed them off as its own, and trumpeted a nonexistent partnership with Walter Reed Hospital — all while funneling very real millions to itself. The group is an industry leader at taking your Tea Party sentiments (if you have them) and turning them into profits.

Unfortunately, the continuing success of Sal Russo and the Tea Party Express is emblematic of a larger failure of the American right — and perhaps the larger project of American self-governance.

Earlier this year, The Daily Caller‘s Alexis Levinson reported that other Tea Party groups that had raised millions spent up to 80 percent of their money on operating expenditures, salaries, consultants, and mailing list companies, which were often owned by the people who ran the groups themselves. The Tea Party is essentially a landlord class; its fiefdom is the truly felt convictions of others.

There is nothing new about this. The Tea Party gained traction in an environment defined by massive resentment and fear directed at the Obama presidency, disgust at the bailouts of the Bush and Obama eras, and the wreckage of a Republican electoral defeat, all of which was especially conducive to the growth of parasite groups like the Tea Party Express.

In February of 2010, I reported a story from a “Tea Party Convention” in Nashville, hosted by the for-profit group Tea Party Nation. Leader Juddson Phillips left his job as a lawyer to draw a salary. Tickets for this grassroots uprising cost more than $500. The great motive behind it was transforming the organizers into richer men and political kingmakers in their state.

This gross profiteering is not unique to right-wingers. Political consultants do hilariously weird things. John Weaver, a consultant who advises prominent Republican candidates to enact his own distaste for conservatives, pulled an all-timer when he convinced his candidate’s campaign to pay him, partly, through a corporation that shared the exact same name as that of another consultant’s business. That helped to hide how well he was doing — until it didn’t.

People who give themselves to full-time political activism deserve some recompense for their work and expertise. And of course, even the most populist of political movements will attract, and even require, professional leadership from without. After all, even punk rock bands require “the suits” to handle business and arrange for the to-be-destroyed hotel room. Even St. Paul demanded payment for his services.

But there was something especially galling about the level of self-dealing enrichment and deception at the head of the Tea Party movement, particularly because the movement started as a disgusted response to the self-dealing enrichment and deception in Washington.

Profiteering has been an acute problem almost right from the beginning for the Tea Party. It is like the reverse mortgage industry of politics: making money by giving an awful deal to an older, whiter customer base, then leaving town just as the fools realize it leaves them with nothing.

It’s easy to write them off as just another bunch of opportunists. But the endemic corruption of this movement should trouble the American right, if not the American conscience. The conservative diagnosis of Washington’s brokenness is that Americans have outsourced the task of self-government to a managerial class in Washington, a corruption that has transformed our nation’s capital into “the Beltway,” a shorthand for D.C.’s toxic culture of cronyism.

The populist right’s instinctive response — the Tea Party — immediately became just another added layer of cronyism. A grassroots corruption. Really, a weed. If the American people have outsourced their self-government to Washington, the conservative movement made another dirty deal, allowing itself to be entertained in outrage carnivals run by for-profit activists. Excepting the exceptions, the populist right’s response to dishonesty and graft was to generate another set of swindlers who wear flag-lapel pins, lie to their faces, and help themselves to the cash.

Yes, we built that. And H.L. Mencken laughs. Self-government is just another product, and no one can be bothered to read the fine print.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, Senior Correspondent, The Week, August 8, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Tea Party, Washington Beltway | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fox News Adopts George Zimmerman”: Few Have Done More To Help Trayvon Martin’s Shooter Than Sean Hannity

The case may be Florida v. George Zimmerman, but it might more aptly be called Florida v. George Zimmerman and the conservative media, as the accused killer has found devoted defenders on the airwaves of Fox News and in the digital pages of conservative blogs.

Few outside Zimmerman’s defense team have done more to help him than Sean Hannity, who on Friday declared that Zimmerman had already won the trial. “As far as I’m concerned, this case is over,” the Fox host said after playing testimony from a witness who said he saw Trayvon Martin beating Zimmerman “MMA style.” The day before that, Hannity said on his radio show that the judge should dismiss manslaughter, let alone the second-degree murder charges.

“So the question is why are we here? And the answer to that question is purely political. Politics influenced the decision, the media influenced the decision,” Hannity said, succinctly revealing why the conservative media has found itself vocally defending someone who admitted to killing teenager Trayvon Martin. It goes like this: Liberals and the media made hay out of the fact that Zimmerman was initially not charged in the killing of Martin. Liberals and the media are bad. Therefore, Zimmerman must be good.

Hannity and others have sought to portray Zimmerman as the real victim here, of a left-wing media “lynch mob,” a term used by Ann Coulter, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, David Horowitz, and conservative watchdog Accuracy in the Media, among others. When NBC aired an edited 911 call that made Zimmerman look racist, that was all the proof conservatives needed.

And if reflexive hatred for the media wasn’t enough, add to the volatile mix gun rights and perceived racism against whites. “Mr. Zimmerman — who, again, the New York Times refers to as a ‘white Hispanic’ and the rest of the media has now picked that up, ’cause that fits the template. You need white-on-black here to gin this up,” Rush Limbaugh said last year on his radio show. Hannity couldn’t help but bring up the New Black Panthers in an interview with Zimmerman, which focused on how unfortunate it was that the defendant’s name had been dragged through the mud.

Zimmerman’s father wrote an e-book calling the NACCP, the Congressional Black Caucus and other African-Americans the “true racists.” The CBC, for instance, is “a pathetic, self-serving group of racists … advancing their purely racist agenda.”

Indeed, Zimmerman and his family have often egged on the right-wing media’s support, adopting their language about the dreaded MSM. “The media is very good at putting their own spin on what they want the narrative to be,” Zimmerman’s brother Robert said in court earlier this month. “I’m not employed by NBC, CBS, ABC or anybody else. So I don’t have bosses, I just try to be as honest as I can.” In fact, Zimmerman got himself in trouble for being too close to the conservative media when his legal team quit last year, citing a phone call to Hannity that they had not authorized.

At times, things have gotten ridiculous. Fox News even recently speculated that Martin could probably kill someone with the Skittles bag and Arizona Iced Tea bottle he was carrying.

Meanwhile, conservative blogs set to work painting Martin as a dangerous thug. The Daily Caller obtained Martin’s Twitter feed, selecting tweets that made him look most intimidating. For George Zimmerman, his lawyers are not his only defense team.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 1, 2013

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Fox News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Terribly Bad, Good Idea”: Tea Party Group Drafting Sarah Palin To Run For Alaska Senate

“Do the words ‘Senator Sarah Palin’ excite you?”

That’s the opening line of a recent email by The Tea Party Leadership Fund, which is trying to draft the former Alaska governor and past Fox News commentator to run for the Senate in 2014. The fund argues Palin has a clear path to victory in part due to recent polling showing incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, with less than 50 percent of the vote.

But, it being a draft, the group hasn’t talked with Palin about whether or not she’s interested. And Palin – whose PAC didn’t respond to request for comment from Whispers – is believed to be currently residing in Arizona, not Alaska. The fund’s Niger Innis says the interest of Tea Party members in a Palin run, however, is clear.

“We didn’t know that [the draft] was going to catch fire to the degree that it has. And what that tells us is that this is just the beginning,” he says. “It’s gone viral.”

But not all Tea Party groups are enthused about drafting Palin without first gauging her interest.

“I absolutely love her and I think she’s a breath of fresh air,” Amy Kremer, head of Tea Party Express, tells Whispers. “But until she says that she’s going to put her name in… we’re not going to go out there and advocate for her to get in the race.”

Judson Phillips at Tea Party Nation says the 2012 presidential election provided an important lesson about why drafting candidates is a bad idea. “One of the things we learned is that apparently Mitt Romney didn’t really want to be president,” he said. “The last thing the GOP needs is to put candidates who don’t want it.”


By: Elizabeth Flock, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 30, 2013

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Desperate And Delusional”: A Truly Harebrained GOP Scheme To Prevent President Obama’s Second Term

The election is over — but not in the minds of a handful of true-believer conservatives.

A plot has been hatched over the last week to, in a last-ditch effort, deny President Obama a second term and install Mitt Romney as the next president.

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips argued in a column last week at World Net Daily that states that voted for Romney could simply boycott the Electoral College, thereby depriving it of the two-thirds quorum it needs to elect a president. At that point, the House of Representatives would pick the president. And guess who controls the House? The GOP.

The cause was then taken up by Idaho state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R) this week, with Nuxoll tweeting that the scheme is the GOP’s “last chance” to install Romney as president.

The problem? Even if Phillips’s theory were practical — and getting one-third of states to flout the will of the country would be a neat trick — it’s based on a totally false premise.

Phillips cites the 12th Amendment as proof that the Electoral College needs a two-thirds quorum (i.e. having enough states present to conduct a vote), but in fact, the 12th Amendment only governs quorums in the House. There is nothing in the law, it appears, that prevents the Electoral College from electing a president even if some states don’t participate.

In fact, even World Net Daily, the conservative Web site on which Phillips’s column was posted, has acknowledged this fact, adding an editor’s note that says the entire crux of the column is faulty.

“Since this column was posted it has been discovered that the premise presented about the Electoral College and the Constitution is in error,” the website wrote. “According to the 12th Amendment, a two-thirds quorum is required in the House of Representatives, not the Electoral College.”

The scheme enunciated by Phillips, of course, is just the latest bit of conservative backlash against the Electoral College. When Romney was leading Obama in national polls but trailing in swing-state polling, some conservatives called for a national popular vote.

As of now, Obama is winning the popular vote by just more than four points in the swing states, but by about 3.5 points nationally. So while a national popular vote would have meant a slightly closer race, there really didn’t wind up being that much of a difference.

There may be an Electoral College revolt in the coming years, but this won’t be it.


By: Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, November 28, 2012

November 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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