Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Would You Like Some Kool-Aid With Your Tea?

Okay, so I might've underestimated the appeal of the Tea Party. Their anti-incumbent, non-insider fervor seemed to invigorate the Republican Party during the primaries, though their odds of victory in the 2010 midterms are still up for debate. Of the 70-odd handchosen "Teabaggers" that represent the GOP on ballots across the country, a curious bell curve has developed. About one-quarter of candidates have sizable leads in the polls, an equally sized minority are trailing by at least 10%, but half of them are in close races. In most of the districts where far-right candidates are leading, the majority of registered voters define themselves as conservative anyway, and have been represented by Republicans for most of the past 50 years. So much for crossover appeal.

As a caustic observer with moderate-left leanings, I still feel deeply concerned about the near-future of American government. The greatest drawback to a GOP takeover of either house of congress is that whatever progress was made in the last four years will be erased immediately. If the Democrats do lose both houses, we could probably pin the blame on health care reform; though the sweaping changes were intended to be very gradual, the fact that the health care debate raged on for over a year without any bipartian support might've alienated some moderates and centrists. One would argue that health care reform overshadowed other major issues, like climate change and economic reform. Though I can't say I was ever a big fan of Nancy Pelosi --a career politico that will probably lose her Speaker of the House position, regardless of what happens in two weeks-- I admire her support of PAYGO. Democrats and Republicans have been financing various expenditures with money that doesn't exist for as long as anyone can remember, so to hear that Pelosi backs the concept of "pay as you go" is weirdly encouraging. Sadly, that one sliver of common sense doesn't go a long way.

I will attest that there is a reason to be angry and frustrated now, but the Tea Party doesn't represent all Americans. Not by a long shot. They can't be called populist because they're too polarized and exclusive; they don't fight for a common cause so much as they fight for themselves and a very particular agenda. The Teabaggers claim that they oppose the lackadaisical mainstream GOP, but these two factions do have one similar bond: they both seek a level of power and political sway that they don't fully understand and may ultimately squander. On one hand, the current GOP collectively said "no" and fought Obama's policies with stubborn inertia; on the other hand, Tea Party Republicans will still say "no" but attack with blunt force.

The so-called GOP "Class of '94" was intent on impeaching President Clinton on trumped-up allegations long before the Monica Lewinsky mess, and they lost a great amount of credibility in doing so. The Tea Party candidates want to handcuff President Obama in a similar fashion. They will not respect the opinions and platforms of their political opponents because they refuse to understand them. If the Teabaggers have their say, Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment programs across the country will eventually be drained; they will argue that it'll save money for the US in the long run, but in reality they have no idea how each program works or how they impact our nation's elderly, disabled, and jobless. Whatever regulations were passed to prevent Wall Street from enabling another global financial disaster akin to the Panic of 2008 will be defanged, too. Our government was established in the US Constitution --to a paraphrase Abe Lincoln-- for the people and by the people; sadly, this grass-roots movement run amok have proven themselves to be the wrong people.

Next week: the year in music, 1985.

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