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Does Anyone Seriously Think the Tea Party Isn’t in Decline?

10:33 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

My recent post ” For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat” has some disputing what I consider the established fact, that the Tea Party is in decline both in terms of overall popularity as well as in the numbers of people who identify as members of the movement. Simply put all one need do is Google “tea party identification” and there are more than ample references, including several from the right wing leaning Rasmussen Reports and Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”, of what I pointed out is a now established fact. That said, here ya go:

“Tea party identification nationwide. Now 22%, was 32% at time of the 2010 election”.; http://t.co/oDThWeYIEC”

Rasmussen Report of 1/7/13: “Only eight percent (8%) now say they are members of the Tea Party, down from a high of 24% in April 2010″
“Just 8% Now Say They Are Tea Party Members”; http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/january_2013/just_8_now_say_they_are_tea_party_members

“While polls show Tea Party identification dropping from 24 percent in 2010 to just 8 percent today, there have been key wins.” – “Tea Party Says ‘Don’t Write Our Obit Just Yet”; http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2013/February/Tea-Party-Says-Dont-Write-Our-Obit-Just-Yet/

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze: “while the Tea Party had once enjoyed 24% popularity, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, only 8% of Americans now identify themselves as members of the Tea Party…While that is the lowest it has been in the three years” – “Why Are Some Conservatives Targeting the Tea Party as a ‘Cancer’; http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/02/06/why-are-some-conservatives-targeting-the-tea-party-as-a-cancer/

“Tea Party Identification In Texas” (February 2010 – October 2013); http://laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/poll/features/tea_party_id/slide1.html

Does anyone have any evidence that the Tea Party isn’t in decline either in popularity or membership?

As far as to whether or not the Tea Party has declined where the numbers make them count, that will be answered definitively in the 2014 elections. Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report has already predicted that 14 congressional seats that were leaning Republican are now leaning Democrat and 80 races are now more competitive for Republicans as a result of the Tea Party backed shutdown disaster. However, from what we can discern more recently, based on last weeks results one would ask the question as to why the Tea Party backed candidate in southern Alabama lost in a district where a Tea Party victory should be a lay up? Could it be that the numbers there that make them count where they once did no longer exist? Thus citing the quote which was shown to me so as to prove that the Tea Party isn’t in decline: ” Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.”; one can only conclude that the Tea Party movement’s power seems to be on the wane. If it were otherwise the movement would have more than a school board victory in Colorado to boast about. The fact that this Colorado issue was their only victory speaks volumes as to their declining power as it is during off year elections that the politically active are supposed to have outsized effects on results. The fact that the Tea Party has produced yet another miserable showing at the polls is proof positive of their declining real power both inside and outside of the GOP.

And as far as citing a post from Tea Party Patriots, or any other movement related organ for that matter, as to why they lost in Virginia, well that’s not exactly an objective source or a good place to look for an explanation. Again in Virginia, as in Alabama the operative question would be: “If the Tea Party is so popular and robust and they exist in numbers that make them count, then why did a clear backed Tea Party favorite fail to win?” Surely all of those who identify with the Tea Party movement know the ill affects of spending on political races, as well as the motives of the GOP Establishment, and they should have been unswayed by the lack of commercials for Cuccinelli and firm in their support for him yet he still lost. If members of the Tea Party don’t exist in sufficient numbers to make them count in Virginia, and most certainly, in Alabama where do they exist in sufficient numbers to make a political difference?

I’ll state again what I said in my last post “Ever since the high water mark of the Tea Party movement in 2010 the path forward nationally has been nothing if not downhill.” Till someone can prove me wrong either by showing me a turn around in the numbers of people who identify with the movement or the movement’s winning more elections than it’s losing I will not be convinced of this rather hallow argument to the contrary. As coach Bill Parcells said of football teams: You are what your record says you are.” That’s true in politics too and any counter argument to the contrary is just so much pap.

As for the Tea Party members holding on in districts where they in fact have a foothold I would say that that is simply a function of gerrymandering and amounts to nothing more than artificial political life support. In the long run, due to demographics and the need of the Republican Party to win elections so as to remain competitive, this is nothing but a fleeting moment politically for the Tea Party movement. It can not be sustained over the long haul, especially in a public that is sick of political gridlock and demands answers to the myriad set of problems now facing the nation.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/11/13

Sources:

For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat; http://my.firedoglake.com/sjgulitti/2013/11/06/for-the-tea-party-another-election-another-defeat/;

Cook Report Moves 14 House Races Toward Dems; http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/17/1248429/-Conservative-Cook-Report-Moves-14-House-Races-Toward-Dems

Cook Political Report: Damage Assessment; http://cookpolitical.com/story/6435

The IRS Scandal and the False Hope of Tea Party Revival

1:05 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Amid all of the sound and fury bubbling up from the IRS examination of the various conservative organizations there’s hope among the Tea Party faithful that this controversy will somehow breathe new life into their movement. But will it be enough to reinvigorate a movement considered to be in disarray, if not politically stalled? Yes the vast majority of Americans holds the IRS in low esteem and is troubled by the revelations that the agency has, if nothing else, tangled rightwing organizations in excessive red tape, even if it hasn’t moved to cripple them altogether. However, as Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times pointed out, this isn’t the first time that an administration has used the IRS against the opposition, even though, to date, there’s no evidence that President Obama ordered any such action.

While the wild eyed voices on Capitol Hill have been bellowing for the impeachment of the president, the more level headed among them, and among conservative political pundits, have counseled caution least the Tea Party claque in Congress overplay its hand with negative consequences for 2014. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a meticulously detailed piece outlines the vast differences between Watergate and the current IRS controversy. It is an analysis that undermines the very argument being made by the far right for the impeachment of President Obama: “Those who bother to read these historical snippets will find many important departures and only tenuous parallels between the Obama Administration’s IRS affair and Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era IRS scandal. A principal distinction is the ingredient of direct presidential involvement. President Nixon was the fulcrum, the visionary and the principal conspirator in his various capers to use the IRS as a political weapon. Nixon personally directed and persistently harangued his staff to audit, investigate and gather dirt on his enemies for personal purposes. Nixon went to reckless extremes even punishing IRS agents who refused to participate in his vendetta. A mean-spirited viciousness and his contagious enthusiasm for law breaking were also distinctive Nixon bailiwicks. In contrast, there is no evidence that Obama even knew of the IRS investigations which were presided over by Donald Shulman, a Bush appointee. The most recent evidence indicate that the Tea Party audits resulted not from intentional political targeting of conservatives from the sheer preponderous of Tea Party applications among the hundreds of 501(c)(4) tax exemption requests that deluged a tiny understaffed IRS field office.”

But while it’s important to note the fact that, to date, the current scandal doesn’t even come close to approximating the severity of Watergate as an assault on the Constitution, there is evidence that Tea Party organizations have pushed the limits of what was politically legitimate. That in turn has increased the attention given these groups by the IRS, which isn’t necessarily unwarranted or beyond the pale of legitimate agency operations. In the article “Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics”, referenced below, two political reporters, Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo, detail the many activities undertaken by conservative organizations over the past few years that have given rise to legitimate questions on the part of IRS agents who have conducted these examinations. Have those agents been overzealous, perhaps, but at the same time those agents wouldn’t be looking into these groups if they didn’t have a reason to believe that somehow these organizations hadn’t run afoul of the law. The IRS simply doesn’t have the luxury of excess manpower with which to carry out such a political wild goose chase no matter who might have requested such a thing. Likewise the claim by conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, a tireless critic of Barack Obama, that conservatives generally have been singled out for IRS harassment has been debunked prima facie as well by Nate Silver, as referenced below.

With all of the above being understood, what affect, if any, has the IRS scandal had, to date, on the public perception of the Tea Party movement as a whole? Is there any reason thus far to believe that this controversy is breathing new life into the Tea Party? Presently the answer is emphatically no. Jon Cohen and Dan Balz of the Washington Post, analyzing the results of the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll concluded the following: “The IRS scandal has brought the tea party back into the spotlight, but it has done little to change the public’s impressions of the political movement. In the poll, 40 percent of all Americans say they support the tea party movement and 43 percent oppose it, numbers stable back to last year. A record high of 17 percent express no opinion on the question. About 73 percent of conservative Republicans say they support the movement, but that’s the lowest percentage to say so in polls going back more than two years.” Moreover, when you go inside the results of this poll 74 percent of the respondents saw the IRS actions as inappropriate and 56 percent of respondents see this activity as deliberate harassment; 54 percent see the Federal Government as threatening the individual rights of the average citizen.

One would think that for all of the public discomfort being generated by the actions of the IRS that the American people would see anew some value in the Tea Party and its ideas. Ironically that has proven not to be the case. Likewise you would think that these same Americans would now be looking to throw Obama, the far right’s new Nixon, under the bus but that hasn’t happened either. Obama’s poll numbers have actually edged up since this controversy began. In fact if you examine the bulk of the data compiled by PollingReport.com, referenced below, the Tea Party movement has seen, in net terms, its popularity and acceptance decline overall since 2010 and it is, thus far, in no way positively affected by the current spate of scandal and revelation.

One would ask why, with all the unpopularity surrounding the IRS and big government generally and with all of the sensational media coverage and the mainstream media’s new found interest in challenging the Obama administration, why is it that the Tea Party seems to be getting little if any traction from all of this? I think that to for many informed observers the answers are self-evident if not outright obvious. For one thing, even though Americans are wary of “too much government” they have little stomach for deliberate government gridlock and when it comes to gridlock they see the Tea Party movement is the chief culprit in affecting the dysfunctional state of affairs that has come to characterize Washington D.C. generally and Capitol Hill in particular. Gridlock aside, the Tea Party’s penchant for economic austerity works to the movement’s disadvantage as this economic policy has come to be seen as a failure, even among serious conservative thinkers in organizations like the American Enterprise Institute. Finally, the movement is now beset by scandal as well, its onetime Congressional standard bearer Michelle Bachmann has decided not to run for reelection with a scandal of her own as a backdrop.

The essence of American democracy has always been compromise and it has been at those junctures in American history where the practice of compromise broke down that our democracy has been seen to fall short, sometimes with disastrous results, the Civil War being the most obvious example. In the current era it has been the Tea Party movement that has epitomized the belief put forth by Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser of pre-Civil war fame, who famously stated, “If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” Today the American people know that there is little in the way of real political progress being made in Washington D.C. They see the Republican Party and the Tea Party specifically as the reason why. Furthermore, after three plus years on the American political scene, serious Tea Party missteps at the level of Republican Presidential politics and in Senate races have cast Tea Party politics and politicians in a less than flattering light. All one need do is think back over the clown fest that was the 2012 Republican primaries or some of the absurdities surrounding Tea Party backed candidates for the U.S. Senate during the last two election cycles and it’s not hard to see why, even in the wake of the current scandals and with issues that play right into the anti-government creed, that the Tea Party could still fail to benefit from this current state of affairs.

Scandals have rocked Washington before and they will rock it again. That said there’s another reason that the current round of scandal may fail to reinvigorate the Tea Party movement. The reason for this is that voters have had over three years to get to know the movement and there seems to be little coming out of it that those who don’t already support it find compelling. In fact if you go back inside the data in PollingReport.com you find that the numbers prove that those respondents who claim they don’t know enough about the Tea Party have been halved since data collection began in 2010, sometimes falling to single digits. It could be that even though the average American is disgusted with the state of American politics, those same Americans may see the Tea Party movement as part of the reason for that disgust and therefore the movement isn’t seen as part of the solution. After all one of the chief complaints about Washington today is gridlock, a word synonymous with the Tea Party and that’s not a good thing.

If the aforementioned is in fact the case, and I for one strongly believe it is, then there is little in the way of hope to be had from all of this that will ultimately bode well for the Tea Party. Yes voters can punish the Obama and the Democrats in 2014 at the ballot box, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve finally and firmly embraced the ideas of the Tea Party and the far right. We can see a replay of the 2010 elections which I believe to have been nothing more than a protest against the perceived excess of the first Obama administration rather than a rejection of progressive ideas. For if in fact the 2010 elections had been a rejection of the essence of the first Obama administration there would have never been a second one and as we all know it was Barack Obama and not a champion of the far right who was elected in November of 2012. In other words, as far as the fortunes of the Tea Party movement are concerned, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same.

Steven J. Gulitti
30 May 2013

Sources:
IRS targeting scandal a political ‘gift from heaven’ for Tea Party groups; http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/299765-irs-scandal-a-political-gift-from-heaven-for-tea-party

Tea Party Looks to Gain Momentum in IRS Scandal Aftermath; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/tea-party-irs_n_3302392.html?ref=topbar

Sam Tanenhaus: The Government’s Worst Face; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/sunday-review/the-governments-worst-face.html?pagewanted=all

Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/us/politics/at-irs-unprepared-office-seemed-unclear-about-the-rules.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

IRS Scandal Letters: Other Offices Sent Requests To Target Tea Party Groups, NBC News Reports; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/irs-scandal-letters_n_3349174.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?

Trio of Scandals Puts Obama, Holder in Hot Seat; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/05/republicans-media-bare-down-on-administration-facing-two-scandals.html

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Obama and Nixon: A Historical Perspective; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/obama-nixon-watergate_b_3305611.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?

Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/us/politics/nonprofit-applicants-chafing-at-irs-tested-political-limits.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Nate Silver: New Audit Allegations Show Flawed Statistical Thinking; http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/new-audit-allegations-show-flawed-statistical-thinking/?ref=politics
PollingReport.com: The Tea Party; http://www.pollingreport.com/politics.htm
Obama’s rating steady in face of controversies, likely buoyed by rising economic hopes; http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-21/politics/39402441_1_benghazi-attack-president-obama-irs-action
Obama, politics, IRS and Benghazi; http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/05/21/National-Politics/Polling/release_237.xml
Obama’s poll numbers hold up despite the storm of scandal; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/302451-obamas-poll-numbers-hold-up-despite-the-storm-of-scandal

A Solidly Republican House Crashes Down on Grover Norquist

6:54 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

At this point all I can do is laugh when I think about how some of my friends on the far right were naive as to think that sensible Republicans in Congress had failed to heed the message of the 2012 election and the current political realities borne therefrom. The latest development in the fiscal cliff drama show to what degree some on the right have regained their senses and moved back to the center, in the direction of much needed compromise. Quoting political commentator Jennifer Steinhauer: “Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans…The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day. They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation’s debt.” Clearly and unequivocally the resolution of the fiscal cliff represents a major defeat for Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies as well as a significant victory for president Obama.

And what of those Republican Congressman who voted to let tax rates rise? Remember how often we’ve been told that almost every Republican in the House had signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge.” Quoting Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Habberman: “…given the lopsided Senate vote in favor of the tax-hiking measure, as well as the 85 GOP House members who voted yes, members of the GOP have violated the party’s no-new-taxes orthodoxy for the first time in two decades. It’s a significant concession in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s November defeat and a potentially existential moment for a party that has prided itself on a defiant and dogmatic dislike of tax increases. What remains to be seen is whether that is merely a tactical retreat — bowing to the unique circumstances of the fiscal cliff — or a more meaningful cave-in on the part of Republicans who believe that their anti-tax platform has become politically unsustainable, particularly after a presidential cycle in which the party found itself caricatured as the puppets of the rich and powerful.” Perhaps it was the fact that a large majority of Republican Senators had voted for a tax hike that finally drove home the political reality to the 85 Republican Congressional legislators who decided to follow suit. Why even such staunch conservatives as Congressman Paul Ryan and Senators Patrick J. Toomey and Tom Coburn voted in favor of raising taxes. The fact that, in the face of a growing fiscal crisis, that Republicans voted to raise revenue via tax hikes, should come as no surprise as 2012 election exit polling showed 75% of the voters supported said increases, including a large minority of those who voted for Mitt Romney. Fox News contributor and prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer opined: “This is a complete surrender on everything” and “a rout.” Not surprisingly, Norquist himself appeared on the cable circuit claiming to Anderson Cooper, among others, that the “deal was technically not a pledge violation”, but then what would you expect to hear from a guy who just went off of his own political cliff.

Many on the right have been seen to try to spin this defeat as a tactical maneuver that takes taxes off the table thereby enabling the G.O.P. to be more hard-nosed in dealing with the debt ceiling / spending cuts debate that we’ll be revisiting in a few months. But this too may amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Again quoting Burns and Habberman: “The president’s party, meanwhile, has no intention of easing up on a GOP they believe is in serious disarray. And while Republicans take heart from the hope that they’ll have more leverage in the next showdown, emboldened Democrats say the demand for “balanced” deficit reduction — meaning both spending cuts and new taxes — remains a challenge for their foes. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, called the fiscal cliff deal “a band-aid on a serious wound” for Republicans. “The sane wing of the Republican Party recognized the GOP was playing a losing hand badly on taxes in a way that was deeply damaging to the Republican brand,” Garin said. “The Republicans will find themselves in a similar mess going forward if they insist on entitlement cuts while resisting new revenues from closing loopholes and tax breaks for those at the top.”

In the final analysis, when the spin and the political posturing is put aside there is one simple fact that comes through as the dust settles in the aftermath of the fiscal cliff and that is that Barack Obama has just cashed in on some major political capital and the sensible conservatives knew he had it to use and fully intended to use it. Obama ran, in part, on solving the fiscal crisis by raising taxes on the richest among us and won. America had two clear choices to pick from and they didn’t pick the conservative version. Much has been made of the fact that the G.O.P. had held onto the House but they only did so as a result of redistricting. In terms of absolute votes cast for those running for Congress, across the nation as a whole, “Democratic candidates for Congress won 1.1 million more votes than Republicans, according to a tally of the popular vote kept by David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report.” The Republican leadership in Congress knows that winning as a result of map making means a lot less politically than does winning by popular appeal and presently the G.O.P. ranks near the low end of its historic popularity. More importantly, the American people have demanded compromise and they indicated that they are clearly fed up with Tea Party obstruction on Capitol Hill. This had to be a motivating factor for Republicans as it is they, not Obama and the Democrats who would have been blamed for the country’s sliding back into a recession. In the end President Obama wound up giving less in the way of concessions than he would have just two weeks ago when he bargained with John Boehner in search of a deal and dramatically less than he would have back in 2011 when he and the Speaker were on the verge of a “Grand Bargain.” Such is the measure of the political shift that has taken place since the Tea Party victories in 2010 and Obama’s re-election this past November.

Steven J. Gulitti
1/2/2013

Sources:
Jennifer Steinhauer: “Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff”; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/us/politics/house-takes-on-fiscal-cliff.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=todayspaper

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal”; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/john-boehner-eric-cantor_n_2395593.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=010213&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei: “BEHIND THE CURTAIN — Why the GOP caved: The politics are horrible on the backside of the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/playbook/

“Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill”; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cliff-bill-is-a-bitter-pill-for-houses-tea-party-adherents-to-swallow/2013/01/01/5345286e-544d-11e2-8e84-e933f677fe68_story.html

“GOP anti-tax policy goes over the cliff”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/gop-anti-tax-policy-goes-over-the-cliff-85657.html

Charles Krauthammer: “Cliff deal a ‘rout”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/krauthammer-cliff-deal-surrender-85656.html?ml=po_r

“Why President Obama, Mitch McConnell took the deal”; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/why-mcconnell-obama-took-the-deal-85655.html#ixzz2Gr6BLtPZ

“Obama hails tax bill, warns GOP not to pick fight on debt ceiling”; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/275123-obama-hail-cliff-deal-but-warns-gop-on-debt-ceiling

“How Maps Helped Republicans Keep an Edge in the House”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/po

Tea Party Turncoats

1:04 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

What happened to the steadfastness of Tea Party backed Republican Senators? We are all too familiar with how Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) ditched that state’s Tea Party shortly after getting elected in 2010 and since then has been pretty reliably one of the few moderate Republicans left in the Senate. This morning Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson appeared on “Meet the Press” to endorse Mitt Romney over the other ”born again” conservatives who have been parroting conservative talking points in an effort to appear to be genuine conservatives. Likewise Marco Rubio (R-FL) another newly minted Republican, who also drew support from the Tea Party movement, has thrown his support behind Romney.
 
So what happened to these senators and their commitment to smaller government, less government intrusion in our lives and conservative orthodoxy? Have they fallen for the rhetoric of this season’s Republican contenders and forgotten the particulars of their personal political track records? Apparently that seems to be the case as Romney is the architect of Obamacare, and in the words of Tom Friedman, who also appeared on “Meet the Press”,” Romney is running against everything he has stood for in his entire life.” Conservative commentators have said repeatedly that when the G.O.P. nominates moderates and strays from conservative orthodoxy they lose. Thus in throwing their support behind a moderate in conservative clothing aren’t Senators Johnson and Rubio following the exact same course that has led to conservative failure in the past? Moreover, in making an argument against Obamacare’s central principle, the individual mandate, today’s conservatives are standing against a principle that was championed by the Republican Party fifteen years ago and was endorsed by Mitt Romney in a 2009 health care debate.
 
That there is a degree of ideological confusion within the ranks of the Republican Party is beyond denying. But one thing is for sure and that is that the desperation among conservatives to see that Barack Obama is a one term president has led conservatives like Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio to abandon solid conservative positions and throw their support behind a bona fide moderate in the person of Mitt Romney. In doing that, Johnson, Rubio and others may be setting up the Republican Party for further internal conflict as Romney will have to tack back to the political center in order to be attract moderates and independents in the general election. That movement back to the center will only serve to further anger the far right of the G.O.P. If Romney loses in November the old complaint about nominating moderates as a formula for defeat will once again be a topic of discussion in the post mortems on the right. If he wins its unlikely that he will lurch back to the far right if he wants to have a successful presidency. Mitt Romney already has a blueprint for using and abandoning the far right, that would be the political strategy of Scott Brown. Either way you dice it, for Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio and others like them the die is cast and their claims to be staunch conservatives are now more than a little suspect.
 
SJG
4/1/12

The Unintended Consequences of Citizens United?

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Quoting Arianna Huffington:”Though the country is sorely in need of solutions, and the public hungry for real debate, that’s not what was served up in Iowa [or in New Hampshire] – either by the candidates or the vast pack of media covering their every word. What we got instead was a deluge of attack ads, largely financed by the super PACs allowed by the Citizens United decision. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 264 super PACs have been spawned for the 2012 race and they’ve already spent almost half of the $32 million they’ve raised. Perhaps this disconnect between what people are really concerned about and what the candidates are talking about is why only 17 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going” Campaign 2012: The Disconnect Widens; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/new-hampshire-2012_b_1196161.html

So this brings up the question of what may be one of the great unintended developments resulting from Citizens United: Has its effect spawned an avalanche of intraparty attacks within the conservative movement that may cripple if not badly hamper the prospects of many of the remaining 2012 contenders? We saw Gingrich upended in Iowa and the same thing is already happening to Santorum. Now when Citizens was decided there was much jubilation on the right and dismay on the left as it open the doors for folks like the Koch Brothers to spend as much as they wanted to influence elections. And yes, the same is true for labor unions, Hollywood stars and George Soros.
 
But look at what is happening within the G.O.P. thus far. The unlimited amounts of money flowing into the primary process is creating unlimited opportunities for the well financed candidates, particularly Romney, to bury their competition alive in negative attack ads thereby closing out alternative conservative positions and leaving the radicalized Republican base with several inconvenient choices. The far right may very well be faced with voting for a Republican moderate, staying home which may result in the reelection of Barack Obama or voting for a third party splinter candidate which would amount to a vote thrown away. Then there’s also that ineffective procedure of the write in vote which serves as nothing more than a symbolic protest as the voter can say he performed his civic duty without having to take any responsibility for who is actually elected as it probably would never be his guy.
 
Now since Mitt Romney is a moderate and progressive Republican who has the most to spend and has thus far effectively done so, the unintended consequences of Citizens has, to date, been to short circuit those Republicans to the right of Romney. So that begs the question, if Romney has most of the money to spend on attack ads and the more conservative contenders are woefully underfunded, will Citizens United work to the detriment of the radical right and ensure that we have an election between two progressives, one a Democrat, the other a Republican? Moreover what does it say about the much feared influence of the likes of the Koch Brothers and other wealthy conservatives if their money flows to moderate and progressive Republicans thereby starving the radically right-wing contenders of needed funding? Could it be that America’s wealthy elite knows that some degree of progressive measures are required and desirable in a modern democracy and that the agenda of the radical right is just to extreme to be workable? Is this an indication that these same conservatives were happy to have the support of the radical right as a brake on Barack Obama’s thrust to the left but now that his momentum has slowed, they’ve largely shunted the right-wing radicals to the political periphery? While this may not seem all that evident now, the far right will have a hard time competing if it can’t keep up with the money flowing into the Romney camp or the Obama reelection campaign either, for that matter.
 
While a Romney victory in November wouldn’t be exactly what the Democratic base wanted, the precluding of a Tea Party backed presidential victory by the election of Mitt Romney would surely be a consolation prize for the defeated Democrats. If that’s the case then Citizens United will have harmed the radical right far more than it harmed any other element within the American political system. I Think it goes without saying that few if any on the left or the right ever saw this as the likely outcome of the Citizens United decision.
 
 
Steven J. Gulitti
1/17/12

For the Radical Right, a Defeat in New Hampshire

10:46 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Tonight’s outcome in New Hampshire represents a significant setback for the fortunes of the Tea Party movement along with the rest of the radical right as Republican moderates have captured the bulk of the votes cast in the contest. When you combine Romney’s take with that of Gingrich and Huntsman what you see is that collectively Republican moderates received a total of 65.6% of the total vote count. Conversely those candidates who are popular with the radical right were only able to secure 39.3% of the votes cast. That means that two thirds of the voters voted for a candidate that’s not likely to do anything for a radical conservative agenda or its supporters other than use them for their vote and thereafter bid them farewell a la Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). See the graph from Associated Press below.
 
While nothing is ever cast in stone in the world of American politics, no candidate in modern times who ever won both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary failed to win his party’s nomination. Suffice it to say that the leadership of the Republican establishment can only be much relieved by these results as it suggests that voters may be moving back to the center after having flirted with the Tea Party and the radical right. That Tea Party affinity may have produced dramatic electoral gains in 2010 but it has also created gridlock in Washington, a tarnished image of the Republican Party and electoral defeats in 2011. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Republican establishment, which is well aware of the Congressional G.O.P’s low standing in the eyes of the public, attributes much of that low standing to the impact of the Tea Party caucus on Capitol Hill. Now with Mitt Romney’s fortunes apparently on the rise the Republican leadership can only hope that he can power past right-wing radicals in most of the remaining primaries thereby rendering any prospect of a Tea Party backed candidate moot. With that development the Republican Party can plan a campaign to defeat Barack Obama in November that would have been otherwise futile had a Tea Party backed candidate been the front runner.
 
In a prescient article that appeared before the 2011 elections, Matt Bai interviewed uber-Conservative William Kristol who said a “large number of Republican primary voters, and even more independent general-election voters, will be wary of supporting a Republican candidate in 2012 if the party looks as if it’s in the grip of an infantile form of conservatism.” Bai himself noted the following: “Given such fast-deteriorating conditions, [in the economy] many Republican veterans have come around to the view that they aren’t really going to need the perfect presidential candidate, and perhaps not even a notably good one. With Chris Christie having taken himself out of the running — again — earlier this month, the field of candidates now appears to be pretty much set, and none of them are likely to inspire any reimagining’s of Mount Rushmore. But maybe all the moment requires is someone who can pass as a broadly acceptable alternative — a candidate who doesn’t project the Tea Party extremism of Michele Bachmann or the radical isolationism of Ron Paul. “If we have a Rick Perry versus Mitt Romney battle for the nomination, it’s a little hard to say, ‘Ooh, the party has really gone off the rails,’ ” Kristol told me just after Perry entered the race, a development that essentially ended Bachmann’s brief ascent. Establishment Republicans may prefer Romney to Perry, but their assumption is that either man can be counted on to steer the party back toward the broad center next fall, effectively disarming the Tea Party mutiny.” Well it goes without saying that tonight’s results bring the Republican Party a step closer to the establishment’s goal of a party that appeals to the broad middle of the American electorate, particularly the non aligned independents, while at the same time adding increased downward momentum to the faltering Tea Party movement. Thus it would appear that tonight’s real winners are the old line establishment Republicans and the real losers are the Tea Party crowd, the Ron Paul libertarians and the rest of the radical right.
 
Steven J. Gulitti
1/10/12
 
 
 
Results for New Hampshire Republican Primary (U.S. Presidential Primary)
Jan 10, 2012 (92% of precincts reporting)
Mitt Romney 90,918   39.3%
Ron Paul 52,842  22.9%
Jon Huntsman 38,963  16.9%
Newt Gingrich 21,742     9.4%
Rick Santorum 21,562 9.3%
Rick Perry
1,612
0.7%
Michele Bachmann
 325
0.1%
Other
3,104
1.3%
 
Sources:

Is There Any Bottom To the Tea Party Decline?

5:46 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In the run up to the 2010 elections and in the aftermath, I theorized that the net effect of the Tea Party on the Republican Party and American politics in general, would be negative. Like many others, I detailed the turn in the tide in the movement’s popularity in “The Fading Allure of the Tea Party Movement”. Also like many others who follow this most intriguing of American political phenomenon’s, I have chronicled the continued fading fortunes of the Tea Party movement. As such I am not surprised in the least at the newest findings that point to the continued decline in the popularity of the Tea Party movement: “More Now Disagree with Tea Party – Even in Tea Party Districts”; recently released by the Pew Research Center.

 What this new research shows is the following:

1. “Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationwide, but also in the congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus.”

2. “The image of the Republican Party has declined even more sharply in these GOP-controlled districts than across the country at large…As recently as March of this year, GOP favorability was 55% compared to 41% who say they have a favorable opinion of the GOP. 48% say they now have an unfavorable view…But the steep decline in GOP favorability in Tea Party districts means that these constituencies now view the Republican Party about as negatively as the Democratic Party.”

3. “More Americans say they disagree (27%) than agree (20%) with the Tea Party movement…A year ago the balance of opinion was just the opposite: 27% agreed and 22% disagreed with the Tea Party.”

4. “Nationwide, support has decreased significantly over the past year; now about as many people living in Tea Party districts disagree (23%) as agree (25%) with the Tea Party.” 

 What these findings confirm is that there has been absolutely no resurgence of popularity of the Tea Party movement which has emerged to stanch what seems to be an inevitable long term decline. While sitting legislators on Capitol Hill, who rode to power on what now seems to be a protest vote in 2010, continue to wreck havoc on the legislative process, there is little reason to believe that most of these same people will be back in office after 2012. That is if these findings are at all accurate. Thus for all of the fanfare and theatrics that surrounded the rise of the Tea Party movement, it’s seemingly unrelenting decline seems to be far less dramatic. Perhaps that’s a function of the movement having already lost so much in terms of popularity that the American people have already written it off. After all, the Tea Party movement is no more or less popular than the two major political parties and we all know that Congress and the G.O.P. have favorability ratings that are at an all time low.

SJG

Sources:

More Now Disagree with Tea Party – Even in Tea Party Districts; http://www.people-press.org/2011/11/29/more-now-disagree-with-tea-party-–-even-in-tea-party-districts/

An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2010/10/31/an_impending_and_inevitable_train_wreck

The Fading Allure of the Tea Party Movement; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2011/04/23/the_fading_allure_of_the_tea_party_movement

More Tea Party Hypocrisy

7:59 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Now correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the Tea Party crowd supposed to come to Washington and do away with things like business as usual, excessive and wasteful government spending ad infinitum? I guess if you can grab some loot from those same interest groups that the Tea Party has been railing against from the start, well so much the better. Sounds and seems like business as usual to me. It also smells like more of the same old hypocrisy as well.

Lets take a look at one Tea Party politician in her own words, those of Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN): “I believe the best ideas to solve our nation’s problems will come from people like you, not Washington bureaucrats and special interest groups.” In the words of one Washington watcher: “…while many say Black and her companions have created a split in the Republican Party, it is not visible among the companies and interest groups that are donating to members of Congress.” Thus it should come as no surprise that Ms. Black has accepted $ 418,000.00 from 190 different PACs!

In an article titled “15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington” Aaron Mehta, a staff writer with the Center for Public Integrity and Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics detailed the contribution track record of contributions to fifteen of the most prominent Tea Party freshman showing just how much money each has received. “A joint analysis by iWatch News and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that the 15 freshmen members of the Tea Party Caucus have embraced many of the same special interests that have supported Republicans for years. The fifteen combined have received over $3,450,000 during the first three quarters of this year from almost 700 different PACs.” Well a tidy $3.4 Million plus dollars sounds like real money to me. And does anyone think that that huge chunk of change comes with no strings attached? Hardly, so lets all just be honest and admit that the Tea Party “patriots” are no less corruptible than anyone else who is in Washington and plenty of them are carrying out business as usual just like the veterans.

For some like Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL) two thirds of the money he raised this year came from PACs. The litany of contributors ranges from major American corporations to the American Bankers Association to, of course, the Koch Brothers. Again, quoting the aforementioned article: “Overall, this group of freshmen representatives has become just as reliant on PAC money as their counterparts who have been in the House longer. The median Tea Party Caucus freshman brought in roughly 44 percent of their money from PACs, 43 percent from large individual donors, and 4 percent from small donors who gave less than $200 each. Comparatively, the median House Republican got 46 percent from PACs, 45 percent from large individuals and 4 percent from small individual donors.” Its important to note that small rank and file individual donors amount for a piddly four percent of the total intake in contributions. I guess when the “people” represent such a small portion of your total cash intake there’s no reason to believe that their interests will remain in the forefront for very long.

Oh well, so much for the Tea Party movement being a genuine engine of change in Washington. To date the only visible effect of the arrival of the Tea Party on Capitol Hill seems to be a more intense variety of gridlock than had existed before and just a new set of folks who seem amenable to the pay to play politics that they were supposed to change but seems to have changed them instead. All of this kind of reminds me of the Republican “Revolution” that produced the “Contract with America”. Remember all of those fresh faced Republicans who came to Washington in the 90s and were only going to stay for one term? Well more than a few became professional politicians as well, some are still in Washington. Oh well the more things change the more they stay the same.

SJG
11/22/11

Source: 15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-center-for-public-integrity/15-tea-party-caucus-fresh_b_1101194.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=111811&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Time to Put a Fork in the Bachmann Campaign?

7:06 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Has Michele Bachmann become a Tea Party darling that forgot to heed the dimming of the stage lights? Well apparently that may in fact be the case. As it turns out: “Five of Michele Bachmann’s New Hampshire campaign team released a statement on Monday confirming that they have quit the campaign despite comments by Bachmann and her team that the New Hampshire campaign was still together. The five members, who comprised the entirety of Bachmann’s New Hampshire staff, said that her campaign was “rude, unprofessional, dishonest, and at times cruel” to the New Hampshire staffers.”

Okay so lets all ask ourselves a question, if New Hampshire is the preeminent forum for retail politics and Bachmann’s New Hampshire team has ditched her and she can’t effectively manage her own campaign, then how can a Bachmann administration ever hope to function effectively in leading the United States during a period as challenging as this? The answer of course is that it can’t and it’s high time for her to realize this and get out of the way so serious political contenders can get down to the business of determining who will lead this country after 2012. The time for frivolity is long since past and the time to get down to business has long since arrived. Enough said?

SJG
10/26/11

Sources:

Bachmann’s NH team quits, cites campaign dishonesty, rudeness, cruelty; http://minnesotaindependent.com/90549/bachmanns-nh-team-quits-cites-campaign-dishonesty-rudeness-cruelty

Bachmann NH Team Quits; http://thepage.time.com/2011/10/21/bachmanns-nh-team-quits/

Grass Roots vs. The Tea Party

2:52 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Some conservatives are desperately trying to besmirch the ever growing “Occupy Wall Street Movement” as something other than a grass roots movement and some have gone so far as to say that America’s newest grass roots movement is trying to make themselves look “as grassroots as the tea party.” Moreover, they’re saying that the “Occupy” movement has co-opted the Tea Party slogan “take back our country.” There’s more than one fallacy contained in this analysis, lets take a look.

First, the phrase “take our country back” predates the Tea Party movement by several years. I recall it being used by Republicans who wanted to retake the White House from Bill Clinton on the theory that by having won a plurality, his presidency was somehow not quite legitimate. Odd but one of the few Tea Party candidate’s who won a senate seat in 2010, Marco Rubio of Florida, won by a plurality as well. The phrase was used yet again by Democrats in the 2004 elections as they were enraged by the fact that George Bush was handed the 2000 election by the Supreme Court. Hence there is no way that the phrase “take back our country” is generically a Tea Party creation.

As far as the Tea Party movement being genuinely grass roots, well by now it’s a well known fact that the “movement” has been buoyed up by the money of rich conservatives, PACs and other conservative organizations. Jane Mayer, of the New Yorker in an article called “Covert Operations detailed the support given to the Tea Party movement by the billionaire Koch Brothers. To wit: “A few weeks after the Lincoln Center gala, the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a different kind of gathering…Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas…At the lectern in Austin, however, Peggy Venable—a longtime political operative who draws a salary from Americans for Prosperity, and who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994—spoke less warily. “We love what the Tea Parties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back America!” she declared, as the crowd cheered. In a subsequent interview, she described herself as an early member of the movement, joking, “I was part of the Tea Party before it was cool!” She explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help “educate” Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channeled “more effectively.” And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Koch’s, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.” Beyond the Koch Brother’s there’s the millions of dollars funneled into the “movement” by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks. Then there’s the Tea Party Express and various and sundry other groups. By now all of this is established fact and undeniable as well.

Lastly, if the Tea Party is such a viable grass roots organization then why does it have such low favorability ratings? In April of this year in an article titled “The Fading Allure of the Tea Party Movement” I detailed how the “movement’s” favorability ratings had fallen to the levels of the two political party’s. Moreover, this decline was attributable to the fall off in support among those earning less than $50,000.00 per year, a threshold that represents roughly the mid point in American incomes. Thus it’s no surprise that the Tea Party continues to have low favorability ratings as per PollingReport.com which shows as of September of 2011 some polls show the Tea Party movement polling its lowest favorable and highest unfavorable ratings of all time or darn close to it. When asked “do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party movement only 12 percent of respondents answered yes and when asked if they supported the movement the number is a low 25 percent. Thus even if the Tea Party movement can legitimately be considered grass roots, big money donors aside, it’s obvious that most of that grass has wilted or died off all together. I have asked many of my friends on the right to show me something that contradicts these findings and I have yet to see anything from a legitimate source that shows the Tea Party ascendant.

SJG
10/10/11

Sources:

Covert Operations by Jane Mayer; http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer#ixzz1aQCFuZAK

The Fading Allure of the Tea Party Movement; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2011/04/23/the_fading_allure_of_the_tea_party_movement

PollingReport.com: Politics – Tea Party; http://www.pollingreport.com/politics.htm