Friday, June 18, 2010

Con-Con Artists

Just Another Constitutional Conservative

How do you know when both the Tea Party brand and the Republican Party have been tarnished? When they start calling themselves “Constitutional Conservatives running on the Republican ticket.”

Kinda like Tennessee’s Lou Ann Zelenik who yesterday chirped:
”I’m so fed up. I’ve worked hard to get Republicans elected and they’ve failed me. I’m worked hard to stand up for our freedoms. I’m running on the Republican Party ticket, but I’m running as a constitutional conservative who believes in our constitution and our free market. We’ve got to stand up."

Zelenik is just the latest right winger to adopt the “Constitutional Conservative running on the Republican ticket” meme. Jeff Hartline is running for Jim Cooper’s seat on that label (of course, he needs to win his Republican primary first). Rand Paul, of course, told Sean Hannity: “I call myself a constitutional conservative.” Sharron Angle is a “Constitutional Conservative Patriot.” Others include Utah’s Mike Lee, Florida’s Robert Lowry, Alaska’s Joe Miller ... they are everywhere, in every state, these Con-Con artists.

It’s so pervasive, I started to suspect that someone at the Tea Party Express advised these candidates to dump their “Tea Party” label, now that it’s been tarnished by the unhinged racists, homophobes and conspiracy theory wackadoos who have become the face of the Tea Party. It’s a neat con, these Con-Cons: a dog whistle to appeal to Tea Party sympathizers without frightening off your more mainstream Republican voter.

Turns out I’m right:

Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, one of the drivers of the Tea Party movement, is suggesting that Republican political candidates should shy away from the "Tea Party" label to avoid harsher scrutiny.

No surprise there. Dick Armey is one of those Texas Republicans who took over the party in the 90s by exploiting identity politics -- these are the folks who (briefly) turned “liberal” into a bad word. These folks tend to focus more on superficialities: image over substance, labels over doctrine. It’s more a marketing campaign than a political ideology. But in this age of the internet, I have to wonder how effective such politics is anymore.

I think it’s interesting to watch the Tea Party suddenly rebrand itself as “Constitutional Conservatives” now that the shine is off the tea pot. I wonder if by next year they will feign outrage at being identified by the “Tea Party” label, much as how today they are outraged at being called Tea Baggers, despite that being the name they originally called themselves.