To hear the folks on the right tell it, the President is running the country to hell in a handbasket and they are simply pushing back to make sure they save the country from his “socialist” schemes. To hear the far right tell it, even moderate Republicans are intent on destroying the country.
Seems like the position for the left to take would be to oppose all that. Seems like it, but you won’t convince those on the far left of that strategy. No, as hard as the right pushes against the President, the far left is pushing against him just as hard. The folks who should be fighting against the Tea Party’s penchant for handing over control of the country to the rich are instead helping them with non-stop complaints about the President.
There have been a number of posts, including this one, and this one, about how the far left folks are ignoring realities and effectively trying to kill their best hope for continued progress. But what if the reason these folks are doing this is because they see the Tea Party movement’s success and are simply trying to emulate Tea Party tactics to motivate the President to do what they want. If so, they have obviously misunderstood why the Tea Party has been successful: A willing subversion of both the Tea Party movement and Republican values for a greater gain – control Congress and the White House.
Let’s remember that the original Tea Party folks – before millions of dollars were dumped into the game – were about one thing: lowering taxes. Misguided though they were about the reality of taxes, they genuinely believed in that simple message, “lower our taxes”. But that all ended when the Republican Party and the Koch brothers realized there was an undercurrent of anger that could be exploited. That’s when truckloads of money began to be spent on creating a “Tea Party” movement. It didn’t matter how “wacky”, how crazy they appeared – they were carefully molded into groups that supposedly represented the “everyman”.
Republicans candidates realized quickly that they could capitalize on the fervor in the 2010 midterm elections, moving themselves a little farther to the right to be “Tea Party friendly”. In fact, a common tactic was to allow Tea Party rhetoric to dominate the discussion, but when that rhetoric went over the line, it would be off-handedly dismissed as “not representative” or taken out of context, with no demand for retraction or apology. Why? Because it attracted votes that a politician wouldn’t dare to court outright.
So, in the 2010 midterms, a wave of Tea Party-favored candidates came into office, and almost immediately, veteran legislators on the right saw problems popping up. These candidates were sticking with their pledges, regardless of what that might actually do to the country. And regardless of who was in control. These candidates, now elected, had no problem fighting against the established Republicans.
And a funny thing happened. The Tea Party started getting its way, even against the wishes of many Republicans. Which brings up the question – Why?
The answer is as simple as it is disturbing. The Republicans let the Tea Party have its way because their goal has not been to govern. It never has been. Their goal has been to take over the Senate and White House in addition the already controlled House. Once they have taken it over, they call the shots, completely. And to do that, they’re perfectly willing to let the Tea Party have their way. Think of it as the villains in an action movie. There’s the bad guy who says “I don’t believe in hitting women. But my friend here? He has no such compunctions”. And he points to the ugly guy standing next to him, cracking his knuckles. The Republicans don’t have to threaten anything. They just need to let the Tea Party folks have their way. That’s not an idle threat.
Now, the real problem for the Republicans will come if they actually succeed in gaining control of the Senate. Once they’ve let that djinni out of the bottle, it may be impossible to put it back in. The Tea Party will be further emboldened by their success, and will become even more intransigent.
But the Republicans don’t care. They are single minded about their goal, and they can use the Tea Party’s energy to achieve it. They don’t attack the Tea Party, and the Tea Party doesn’t attack them. Instead, they unite against a common “enemy”, and drive the vote to achieve it. They’ll deal with their internal problems once they have that control. Until then, it’s all for one and one for all.
Now, let’s go back to those same 2010 midterms. In contrast to the Republicans and the Tea Party, the far left had been hammering the President virtually since he took office. The President passed a healthcare law that no one else has come close to passing – it wasn’t good enough. He passed consumer credit legislation – he wasn’t tough enough on the banks. Nothing he accomplished – despite the Congress being the “most productive in recent history” – was enough. They didn’t get ALL of what they wanted, so the President was a failure. They urged left-leaning voters to stay home, to send a message. So, while the Republicans and the Tea Party were driving voters to the polls, the far left was trying to punish the administration.
The result, of course, was the Tea Party folks gaining a foothold.
Since then, the bashing has continued virtually non-stop and louder than ever, ignoring the fact that the President now has less power to move things forward and a House that is determined to do just one thing – get him out of office. They talk of “primarying” the President because “maybe the competition will show him where he needs to focus”, as if he didn’t know.
And this is why the Tea Party folks get their way. They and the Republicans understand that you have to have control before you can effect change. Instead, the far left does exactly the opposite – tear down their one hope for continuing the path of change.
Do they have a right, and in fact, a responsibility to push for the change they want? Absolutely. But they’ll never do it with a Republican in office. Never. The strategy of constant complaining is a guaranteed loser. But they can learn something from the Tea Party. And that is to get behind their candidate, their President, and give him back the control he needs to do the work they want. And to celebrate the wins they get, because eventually, the pendulum swings, and the other guys will try to take advantage of it.
The left’s ideas aren’t wrong. But the way they’re trying to achieve them isn’t just wrong, it’s self-defeating. And dangerous.