Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Primal Elderly Scream


Dems notch huge win in Florida special election. Ruh-roh. And it was a "referendum on healthcare reform," too.
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Republican backlash over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul had little effect in the nation's first U.S. House race of 2010.

Florida Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch handily won Tuesday's special election to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler after his underdog GOP opponent attempted to make the contest a referendum on the massive health care bill.

"We've heard for months that tonight ... is a referendum on health care, it's a referendum on the (Obama) administration, it's a referendum on what direction this country is going," Deutch told supporters. "Let me tell you something, what we learned today is that in Broward County and Palm Beach County, Florida, the Democratic Party is alive and well."

So sad when a right wing talking point fails. Eagerly await the mainstream media's 24/7 coverage of this event. Oh, wait. Silly me, elections are only important when Republicans win.

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Heh. Red State's Eric Erickson tells Tea Partiers: "See ya, suckaz!" He's dropping his protest signs to campaign for Republican Party candidates--and tells everyone else to do likewise.

Come back into the fold, chickadees. Apparently you're scaring people.

Oh and by the way, all of those "independents" and "Democrats" supposedly in the Tea Party -- you think they're going to campaign for GOP candidates now? Of course, none of those people ever really existed. The Tea Party is, was, and always has been a conservative movement, not the "non-partisan" group Dick Armey claimed it to be.

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The Tea Parties have been with us for a year now. But despite our media’s fascination (some might say addiction), I maintain that from an electoral perspective, they are a rather weak brew. Andrew Sullivan explains it better than I could:

From all I can see, the Tea Party movement is not simply about the size and scope of government. If it were, it could be a useful force in our politics, if it only spelled out honestly how to balance the budget without raising taxes. (Even Rand Paul won't be drawn on specifics.) It is a movement about identity politics, in which the US Constitution is an emblem of a certain demographic, and that demographic is as much about the Christianist right as it is about fiscal responsibility. Gingrich hit the two pillars of what they hate: "secularism" and "socialism." 

Secularism isn't atheism; it is the principle that religious disputes and political disputes should be regarded in separate categories, for fear of unresolvable sectarian conflict (i.e. culture war). Anti-"socialism" means ... well I'm not sure what exactly. Abolition of social security? Medicare? More tax cuts? I wish I knew.

I don't think it has any real traction or coherence apart from a cultural revulsion against modernity, a majority-minority country, separation of church and state, and an abstract loathing and suspicion of anything to do with government. When they offer us some concrete proposals or policy options, I guess we can make a judgment as to the impact on the GOP. But right now, it feels like a primal, and somewhat elderly, scream.

In other words, “Offa my lawn!” This is not a recipe for electoral success, and indeed Tea Party candidates have not fared well so far. From the Wall Streeet Journal:

Grassroots support remains vigorous, as evidenced by the thousands of tea-party activists who gathered Saturday in Searchlight, Nev., to protest the health-care law and urge the ouster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Yet despite thronging primary races across the U.S., true tea-party candidates have stumbled at the polls. In the March 2 Texas primary, 18 incumbent Republican House members faced multiple challengers, including a flock of tea-party faithful. The incumbents won handily, with only one garnering below 60% of the vote.

If Tea Party candidates can't win in Texas, where can they win? Missouri? Nope: One of the Tea Party’s biggest failures was in St. Louis County, where last week voters overwhelmingly approved a half-cent sales tax increase to expand mass transit in the county. Tea Partiers rallied against the measure in an organized campaign which was a massive FAIL:

As you can see when comparing this election (with the tea party as the primary opposition) and the last election (when the tea party did not yet exist in its current form), every single county increased it's support for the sales tax! The tea party considered this across the board loss "not too bad," and claimed that John Burns did a "remarkable" job.

Let's hope they continue to run "remarkable," "not too bad" campaigns for a long time to come!

Back in February in St. Joseph, Missouri, Tea Party candidate Jason Gregory lost a race for the state House by 30%.

It seems to me the only electoral “victory” our media can point to for the Tea Party is Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts. While the Tea Party Express endorsed him, Brown himself never claimed to be part of the movement, and has thrown the Tea Party under the bus by voting for the despised $15 billion jobs bill and declining to appear at a Tea Party rally with Sarah Palin. If this is the Tea Party’s big “win” the honeymoon is clearly over.

I really don’t understand the media’s fascination with a movement that has shown little electoral traction with the majority of voters, brought just 600 people to its first national convention, and has been dogged by charges of racism, intolerance and radicalism. The Tea Party’s candidate for New York governor just got busted forwarding racist e-mails and pornography, adding to the movement’s freak show element and repulsing most independents and moderates.

Conclusion: unless the Tea Party can stand for something besides rage, they won’t find much election success outside a few nativist backwaters.