Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Tea Party's Threat to Republican Solidarity

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, one of the truly bright cabinet members of the past 25 years, has an absolutely fascinating look at where the Tea Party came from in today's HuffingtonPost. His conclusion is that much of the Tea Party has existed under other names since ... well, for a long time. He also believes that this splinter group could well fracture the Republican Party permanently, which would not necessarily be good for government in the U.S.

Reich quotes Michael Lind as saying that the latest version of the TP "is less an ideological movement than the latest incarnation of an angry white minority -- predominantly Southern, and mainly rural -- that has repeatedly attacked American democracy in order to get its way." He talks of the construction of Southern states that send most of the Tea Party members to the House (Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri) but doesn't note that others who share the radical philosophy--like Virginia's 9th and 6th District representatives Morgan Griffith and Bob Goodlatte and party leader Eric Cantor of Richmond--are as good as there.

Reich talks extensively about the differing views of traditional Repubs and the TP Repubs and they are not slight. It's almost like another party.The differences range from belief in global warming, evolution, abortion, gay marriage, states' rights, the Department of Education's usefulness, the federal deficit vs. jobs.

Reich writes, "In other words, the radical right wing of today's GOP isn't that much different from the social conservatives who began asserting themselves in the Party during the 1990s, and, before them, the 'Willie Horton' conservatives of the 1980s, and, before them, Richard Nixon's 'silent majority.'" I would suggest they predate even that, going back to the roots of the KKK, the civil rights and women's rights movements of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, through today. Theodore Roosevelt--who would be called a "Godless Socialist" today was thought of that way in 1912, too, when he was, essentially, thrown out of a party because he was too liberal. And that was a much less conservative bunch than the TP repubs.

Reich suggests that the modern movement likely began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is when the redneck whites of the South began deserting the Democrats. Then, he says, "The watershed event was Newt Gingrich's takeover of the House, in 1995. Suddenly, it seemed, the GOP had a personality transplant. The gentlemanly conservatism of House Minority Leader Bob Michel was replaced by the bomb-throwing antics of Gingrich, Dick Armey, and Tom DeLay. Almost overnight Washington was transformed from a place where legislators tried to find common ground to a war zone. Compromise was replaced by brinkmanship, bargaining by obstructionism, normal legislative maneuvering by threats to close down government -- which occurred at the end of 1995." That's where we stand now, a time when closing the government seems like a normal thing to do.

Reich writes, "America has had a long history of white Southern radicals who will stop at nothing to get their way -- seceding from the Union in 1861, refusing to obey Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, shutting the government in 1995, and risking the full faith and credit of the United States in 2010. Newt Gingrich's recent assertion that public officials aren't bound to follow the decisions of federal courts derives from the same tradition."

There's a line the GOP should not cross, says Reich (without saying where it is; I thought it was crossed decades ago) because "We need two political parties solidly grounded in the realities of governing. Our democracy can't work any other way."

Look at Washington right now for evidence he's right. Nothing--except maybe the agreement among Republicans and Democrats that pornography must be defended--is working.



  1. Dan, Thanks for your comments. You are so correct. The complextion of Washington has so changed. They don't want to represent the people, they want to be true to the party. We really need to do something different.

  2. I'm not convinced that splitting the Republican party in two would be a bad thing....