(Note: This is the second segment in a three part series under the general heading of Recent Currents: From the "Tea Party" to the 2012 Election. Click here to view the first segment.)
What does the Tea Party really want? Is it just about making a case for a smaller federal government? Or is there more to it than that? Does the movement have a real, unstated agenda, which is a poorly kept secret?
Many ordinary citizens would sleep much better at night were they to understand that the Tea Party movement was just about cutting federal spending and the size of the federal government. Interestingly, the Tea Party’s stated platform sounds quite similar to the Bush/“43” agenda for compassionate conservatism at its inception. Which, given how that particular political movement turned out, should give ordinary citizens pause.
Some current events may present ordinary citizens with but a hint of what the Tea Party really wants. One example, in particular, is informative. In the words of Lindsay Graham, the respected moderate US Senator, R-SC, known for crossing political lines to get things done:
'Everything I’m doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo is completely opposite of where the Tea Party movement’s at.' … On four occasions, Graham met with Tea Party groups. The first, in his Senate office, was 'very, very contentious,' he recalled. During a later meeting, in
, Graham said he challenged them: 'What
do you want to do? You take back your
country --- and do what with it? … Everybody went from being kind of hostile to
just dead silent.' Charleston
Another example, subtle as it may be, consists of the present movement among some Republican members in Congress to eliminate funding for National Public Radio (NPR). Congress had passed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which then-President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, creating NPR. Millions of listeners have come to rely upon NPR, which receives about $90 million in federal funding annually. But the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the net savings from defunding the network would be zero. Some say the proposed legislation is no more than an ideological attack on public radio, masquerading as a fiscal issue. For it is well known that Republicans have long been critical of public broadcasting and accuse it of having a liberal bias.
In a final example, in working towards final passage of the new national health insurance law, President Obama had said that all options were on the table, except the status quo, which was no longer working. And as the president had said, Republicans simply offering to do “nothing” was indefensible. Since the system was in need of reform, it was the correct approach. Against the advice of many experts, including some of his own personal advisers, the president braved great political risk, continuing to push the issue. His own perseverance was rewarded. In March 2010 a triumphant President Obama signed into law his landmark national health care overhaul, saying it enshrined “the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.” The passage of this signature legislation had escaped every American leader that has tackled the issue dating back to T.R. more than 100 years ago.
While much of the new law is still unclear, ordinary citizens are made to understand that the main benefits of the law are not designed to kick in until 2014, after the upcoming 2012 presidential election. Among the important benefits include the elimination of an insurance company’s previous right to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, the ability of a child to remain on his or her parents’ family insurance plan to age 26, and documented cost savings of $1.3 Trillion spread over a 20 year period, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (as compared to an “alternative” model where “nothing” was done).
Republicans and Tea Party activists nonetheless want to “repeal and replace” the law, believing, rightly or wrongly, that their success in the 2010 midterm elections was a mandate to do so. But, when asked what their “replace” law should look like, they can cite no additional benefits which the new law does not already contain. They are completely lacking on specifics.
There are yet other examples of what appears to be a secret, hidden agenda: from union stripping bills through the elimination of the right to collective bargaining; to attempts to “privatize” Medicare; to restricting access to the voting booth to those with a valid driver’s license or state picture ID card on the guise of a disingenuous claim of previous voter fraud (designed to make it harder for students, the sick and disabled, people of color, all of whom typically vote the Democratic ticket); to making it difficult if not impossible for a woman to get a legal abortion; to implementing mandatory drug tests for citizens receiving public assistance; to opposing same sex marriage laws; to declaring war on the EPA and the provisions of the Clean Water Act.
These examples may provide but a preview of the real agenda. The results of the 2010 midterm elections are perhaps best viewed in the context of a play in a football game where an offensive lineman moves before the ball is snapped. The official throws the yellow penalty flag, blows the whistle and a false start is enforced. The offense re-huddles. When it re-sets at the line of scrimmage, meanwhile, the play formation itself does not change. It consists of a moral agenda, so indicative of the Neocon religious movement which appears to have effectively infiltrated the Tea Party. The two ideological cousins, the evangelicals and the Tea Party, seem to have fused into a new force which may be more appropriately described as the “Teavangelicals.”
The 2012 presidential election represents the actual play that will be run. Will ordinary citizens allow the Teavangelicals to advance? Or will the Teavangelicals be stuffed at the line, turned back and thrown for a loss?
(The third and final segment in this three part series contemplates the primary features of life among the ordinary following a Teavangelical victory in the 2012 presidential election.)