Why the Tea Party Is to Government What Cancer Is to a Body

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Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Yesterday Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner added to the fiscal cliff fiasco by announcing the debt ceiling will be reached by Monday or so, and needs to be raised.

And along with the taxes and budget cuts thing is the little detail that the “doc fix” hasn’t been fixed. The “doc fix” is a legacy of the 1997 Congress that ties physician Medicare reimbursement rates to growth (or not) in the GNP. Since 2003 Congress has voted every year to defer changes, meaning cuts, to physician reimbursement rates. The 2012 fix, which was agreed to in the waning days of 2011, will expire at the end of the year, and when that happens physician Medicare reimbursement will be cut by 27 percent.

There’s also a dairy farm subsidy bill that needs extending to keep the price of milk from going up to $6 a gallon.

All of these things — the farm bill, the debt ceiling, the doc fix — used to be passed pretty much without a burp out of Congress, because most of the lawmakers had the sense to know they really didn’t have a choice about it.

But now we’ve got the Tea Party, and all bets are off. The baggers want to hold every bit of legislation they can hostage so that they can further destroy the government they hate. And there’s enough of them in Congress that Congress is now pretty much dysfunctional.

Steve Kornacki writes that the Tea Party really isn’t much of a movement any more as much as it is a mindset.

Defined as a literal movement, with an active membership pressing a specific set of demands, the Tea Party absolutely is in decline. Tea Party events have become less crowded, less visible, and less relevant to the national political conversation. As the Times story notes, the movement’s die-hards are embracing increasingly niche pet issues. The term “Tea Party” has come to feel very 2010.

But if you think of the Tea Party less as a movement and more as a mindset, it’s as strong and relevant as ever. As I wrote back in ’10, the Tea Party essentially gave a name to a phenomenon we’ve seen before in American politics – fierce, over-the-top resentment of and resistance to Democratic presidents by the right. It happened when Bill Clinton was president, it happened when Lyndon Johnson was president, it happened when John F. Kennedy was president. When a Democrat claims the White House, conservatives invariably convince themselves that he is a dangerous radical intent on destroying the country they know and love and mobilize to thwart him.

And if they destroy the rest of the country along with the Obama Administration, so be it.

The truth is, the baggers are just the latest incarnation of the group Richard Hofstadter called “pseudo-conservatives” back in the 1950s and 1960s. Hofstadter wrote,

The difference between conservatism as a set of doctrines whose validity is established by polemics, and conservatism as a set of rules whose validity is to be established by their usability in government, is not a difference in nuance, but of fundamental substance.

Hofstadter continued, quoting Theodore W. Adorno:

“The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.”

And finally,

Writing in 1954, at the peak of the McCarthyist period, I suggested that the American right wing could best be understood not as a neo-fascist movement girding itself for the conquest of power but as a persistent and effective minority whose main threat was in its power to create “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

Now there are enough of them in Congress that nothing rational can be accomplished without the baggers stepping in to screw it up. As Kornacki says, their influence over the GOP lies in their ability to win primaries. Even big shots like Mitch McConnell are afraid of them.

And, truly, this goes deeper than just undermining Democratic presidents. They really do want to drown the federal government in a bathtub. They’ve got it in their heads that just about everything the federal government does, with the exception of the military, violates some sacred principle established somewhere in the mythic past that lives in their heads and which they mistake for history. And they will continue to eat away at everything workable and functional in government until it is destroyed.

They’ve somehow simultaneously staked claims on both “love it or leave it” super-nationalism and “hate the Gubmint” anarchism. If you don’t want to either destroy the government or secede, you can’t be a true patriot.

And of course, the reason these misfits have so much influence is that they are being financed by deep pocket special interests and industries that can manipulate the crazies into opposing taxes and regulations the hyper-wealthy find inconvenient.

We’re doomed.

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13 Comments

12 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 27, 2012 @12:59 pm

    Maybe if tri-cornered hats were all made out of aluminum, we might limit the exposure these people have to whatever signals it is that their fillings get, and transmit those to what passes for their brains.

    I’m starting to wonder if, in Conservative areas of this country, to save money, their local politicians didn’t take some left-over mercury from their corporate pals, substituted it for the more expensive flouride, and put that in their water instead.

    Maybe someone should be investigating that?
    Why not?
    It’s no crazier than any theory coming from the right?

    And yes, we probably are doomed as a country, unless Boehner and the House allow for Senate-created and led legislation to come to the House floor, to see if any of the Republicans can be pulled away from the ‘Caucus of Crazies,” join the Democrats, and have enough votes to pass things. With those Republicans who object, voting “Present.”
    But, THAT ain’t gonna happen. After all, the Senate has a Satanist/Socialist/Fascist/Muslim/Heathen/Atheist majority.

    And may I suggest that milk companies put pictures of the local Republican Congesscritter on the containers, saying, “You Milk Is Now Over-priced Thanks To Your “Udderly” Rediculous Republican Congressperson, The Dis-honorable Rep. _______________________.”
    And then, on a seperate part of the container, put this message, “Call Your Congressperson, And Ask Why They’ve “Got Milk!”, And You Can’t Afford It? Or Have that Republican Congressperson Give You Some Of Your’s Back – After All, They’ve Been Milking YOU For Years!”

  2. joanr16  •  Dec 27, 2012 @1:27 pm

    They’ve somehow simultaneously staked claims on both “love it or leave it” super-nationalism and “hate the Gubmint” anarchism.

    I think we’re all supposed to camp out under the stars in a field owned by the Koch Brothers, listening to their tales of glory in the free market, until John Galt returns on a golden cloud and rescues us from the communists.

    Or something like that.

  3. Stephen Stralka  •  Dec 27, 2012 @3:05 pm

    There’s a really interesting book by Garry Wills called A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government. He really shows how far back these attitudes go. After all, the Constitution wasn’t ratified without fierce opposition, and a lot of its opponents never were reconciled to it. One of the biggest ironies of the right-wing lunatic fringe is how they try to claim the Constitution as their personal property. They’re really the spiritual descendants of the anti-federalists.

  4. Bill Bush  •  Dec 27, 2012 @6:08 pm

    Incisive post!

  5. justme277  •  Dec 27, 2012 @6:23 pm

    You know this tea party bunch is nothing but hypocrites.. They hate the government and want to destroy it but they sure don’t waste any time cashing that big fat government check they get. They don’t decline the lifetime benefits and pension. They don’t mind the free rent they get living in their offices off of the peoples electric and heat, they don’t mind the free gym memberships. They sure vote themselves big fat pay raises while they decide the rest of us can do with less. They have no problem with 3 day work weeks(if we are lucky) and paid trips. And the people who sent them there? Boy are those suckers ever getting fleeced.

    I hope Obama tells them all to kiss his fine brown behind , gets his pen out and by executive order, cleans this mess up. He can say” Hey I tried to work with these assholes, and they want to play games with the American people and our fragile economy so know I am doing what needs to be done and if you don’t like it , too damn bad. Why? Because my presidential pen says so , thats why.

    If the right doesn’t like it , let em sue..whatever Obama decides via executive order would be law of the land until the supremes say otherwise.Lil bushie jr must have left that pen laying around someplace…if there is any ink left in it , it is time for Obama to start using it.

  6. Bonnie  •  Dec 27, 2012 @6:32 pm

    Incisive post but depressing as heck.

  7. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 27, 2012 @7:13 pm

    justme,
    And I can hear the Conservatives in Congress starting to practice their cries of, “Impeach that Ni-CLANG!”
    Hey, maybe that’s not such a bad idea!
    The more time they spend in the House trying to impeach President Obama, the more he might be able to get done while they’re busy with their entirely pointless task. Maybe they won’t be able to trash the whole country, like they seem to want to.

    Oh, who am I kidding?
    They can impeach, and try to burn the country to the ground at the same time – it’s the only form of multi-tasking most of the might be able to do, besides pick their boogers, find some paste, chew, and swallow.

  8. justme277  •  Dec 27, 2012 @9:08 pm

    O/T but Stormin Norman has died. I can’t figure out how they made a killing machine that was soooo damn cute, but whenever he smiled I was filled with the urge to bake him cookies and pinch his cheeks( after I wiped the murder smutz off of them).

    You know, and I hate to say this, but these things come in threes. I hope I am wrong and I certainly do not wish anyone ill. So we have the great Sen from Hawaii, now Norman..one to go?

  9. erinyes  •  Dec 28, 2012 @9:38 am

    I don’t get depressed by crap like this.
    It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.The sooner Faux Noose, Glen Beck, and the other dipshits quit scaring their followers, the quicker things will improve.

    Justme, as far as “one to go” goes; I’m thinking Poppy is dancing at death’s doorstep.Being over 80 & in the hospital with pneumonia usually has a bad ending.

  10. joanr16  •  Dec 28, 2012 @9:56 am

    whenever he smiled I was filled with the urge to bake him cookies and pinch his cheeks( after I wiped the murder smutz off of them)

    For me, that’s the year 1991 in a nutshell.

    So we have the great Sen from Hawaii, now Norman..one to go?

    Norm’s former boss, GHWB?

  11. Bill Bush  •  Dec 28, 2012 @10:19 am

    The Dec. 29 NYTimes lead editorial is on this fiscal faith issue among Republicans, too.

  12. Swami  •  Dec 29, 2012 @1:45 pm

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/will-gop-keep-denying-lessons-reinforced-by-2012-election/1268060

    Norm’s former boss, GHWB?
    I don’t wish ill on GHWB, but by reading the comments on yahoo relating to his hospitalization there’s a mountain of hostility and anger directed at him because of his son. One commenter wished him a slow and painful death. The sins of the the son are visited upon the father as the blood of innocent Iraqis call out from the grave?

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