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‘Palin Power’ and the Tea Party Juggernaut

September 16, 2010

The lady in red advanced to the podium, signaled a triumphant thumbs-up and flashed a jubilant, wide-open smile. Her audience clearly adored her and whooped merrily in her honor.

Youthful, charismatic and unabashedly feminine, with a plume of straight brown hair cascading past her shoulders, she spoke glowingly of “citizen-politicians” who would “make our voice heard in Washington, DC, once again.”

“Don’t ever underestimate the power of ‘we the people’,” she warned the infidels, with a somewhat alarming emphasis on the word “ever.” Proclaiming her dedication to homeland security, debt reduction and the welfare of veterans, she announced that “a united ‘we the people’ will win our country back.”

Just a routine stump speech by former VP candidate and current Tea Party darling Sarah Palin, right? Wrong.

This particular “lady in red” was Christine O’Donnell, the surprise victor in a bitterly fought Delaware Republican primary contest for Joe Biden’s vacant Senate seat. A spirited candidate with zero political experience and an alleged penchant for embellishing the facts, O’Donnell triumphed over former Delaware Gov. Mike Castle with a combination of Tea Party fervor, sheer grit and a helpful endorsement by the original “mama grizzly,” Sarah Palin herself.

And you thought there was only one Sarah Palin: That's Delaware primary winner Christine O'Donnell at left, the original mama grizzly at right.

What does the surprise victory of a lone Sarah Palin clone tell us about the current state of our political fabric? Plenty. O’Donnell’s triumph was simply the latest tremor in a remarkable seismic shift that’s reshaping the Republican party.

As the results of the 2010 primaries trickle in from New York, New Hampshire, Alaska and elsewhere, it’s clear that we’re witnessing the ascendancy of the party’s populist right-wing Tea Party element and the expulsion of its veteran centrist elite. The fringe is now the core… the beating heart of contemporary Republicanism.

O’Donnell actually chastised the respected, conscientious Castle for “selling out” to the “moderate wing” of the Republican party. The man had the nerve to vote with Obama 60 percent of the time! Apparently the new ideal would be hyperpartisan obstructionism carried to an even more unproductive and obnoxious extreme. (Hey, at least it would be hyperpartisan obstructionism in the name of “the people.”)

Toward the end of her victory speech, O’Donnell quoted Thomas Jefferson on democracy:  “When the people fear the government there is tyranny. When the government fears the people there is liberty.”

Well, the Tea Party is definitely striking fear into the heart of the government. So I suppose we should be thankful for our liberty. Yet I can’t help but feel that we’re headed for even more trying times ahead.

What happens, finally, when “the people” take over our government? Sounds like overdue justice in the abstract — I’m all for giving more power to “the people,” aren’t you?

But which people are we talking about? Probably not blacks, Muslims or illegal immigrants — though the Tea Party is nowhere as racist as its detractors insist. It’s just that most of those overheated right-wing enthusiasts happen to be white Christians who hail from the vast, rolling expanses between the big cities. Sarah Palin’s people.

Pundits are minimalizing the Tea Party’s chances of victory over the Democrats in November. But they also minimalized the Tea Party’s chances of snatching the primaries from moderate Republicans. So much for the clairvoyance of pundits.

Let the Delaware primary serve as a wake-up call to moderates on both sides of the political aisle: we need to start generating some excitement or we’re as doomed as the dodo and the daily newspaper — doomed to be shunted into irrelevance by fired-up extremists who refuse to hear opinions that veer from the mandatory script.  This is not a healthful development for a representative democracy.

The Tea Party faithful are on fire; we moderates need to catch some of their grassroots heat and use it to transform the political center. Let’s face it: we’re living through a depression. Most of us are disgruntled and even disgusted: disgusted with politics as usual, disgusted with representatives who cater to lobbyists and their fistfuls of dollars, disgusted with career politicians who place partisanship above principles in the great hierarchy of public values.

We need to realize that moderates can be — ought to be — movers and shakers, too. Complacent political hacks deserve to be voted out. More than ever, we need nonpartisan thinkers and doers with the guts to rise above pandering and factionalism… and the vision to dream of a reunited America.

Come on, fellow moderates, centrists, independents — whatever we choose to call ourselves. We’re reasonable, we’re indispensable, and our country needs us. Let’s roll.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. tadcf permalink
    September 17, 2010 9:31 am

    Important Announcement: We Need You

    Today, this country is faced with the typical problem of the political party in charge losing its voting strength in the mid-term election. This situation has occurred with some regularity in recent U.S. history. But, this election is different. We’ve witnessed the worst recession (some say depression) since the 30’s and 40’s. And, of course, severe unemployment and economic despair may cause many citizens to think that the Administration should take a different tact. However, it’s a matter of whether President Obama is going to have a Congressional team to allow him to continue with the recovery, or whether we elect more Republicans (and in some cases extreme Conservatives), and radically change the complexion of the Congress, so as to create a reactionary movement back to the situation we were in before Barak Obama became President.

    Many say, “What has he done for us?” Or, “Shouldn’t he do more, or at least something different?” There may be various answers to these questions in our electorate, but many over-look what President Obama and the a friendly House of Representatives, despite a filibuster-crazy Senate, has accomplished anyway:

    Decrease in national debt by 8% .

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/13/politics/washingtonpost/main6391441.shtml

    This has been accompanied a stabilization of the Dow Jones Average at above 10,000.

    Created a health care program—although flawed, some may say—which will provide protection for
    an estimated 45 million people without insurance or under-insure. Sure, health care may not be an
    important issue to the 80% of Americans already covered, but what about those who have no such
    protection? How many people would otherwise die?.

    Although unemployment is still unacceptably high, the Obama administration has halted this
    increase which was occurring when President Obama took office. We are at a pinnacle like has
    never occurred in our recent experience. It is no longer necessary just to create industries
    —industries that can just outsource jobs overseas—we need to create industries which will keep
    jobs in this country, and cannot be shipped overseas. Do you really think the Republicans can do
    this? They don’t even know that this is the goal. The old way just doesn’t work any more.

    His administration Reformed the rules of the Wall Street financial industries. Many say, “Not
    enough”, and I agree. But at least the Congress got something positive accomplished amidst
    Republican objection. Can you imagine how little would have been accomplished if the
    Republicans had been in charge? Nothing.

    To view a list of 100 of Obama accomplishments in his first year of Presidency, see
    http://simplifythepositive.blogspot.com/2010/03/100-accomplishments-of-president-barack.html .

    A vote for the Republican Party this November means a vote for the 25% far-fight, radical element, which is embraced by the Conservative (Republican) Party. Why, that’s only somewhat smaller than the percentage of people in the U.S. who believe the solar system revolves around the Earth—and probably includes much of the same people. Let’s look at what these people believe—as represented by some of their most vocal representatives—before considering turning our government over to them:

    Not only are Conservatives supporting the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, but only is it
    includes a tax cut for the upperclass—who really need it. In January, the Bush tax cuts are set to
    expire. The Democrats support reinstating them for the middle class, but not the upper class. By
    allowing these tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, the Republicans deny the government
    several trillion dollars in revenue, based on the assumption that these people will put it back into
    the economy through investment. But who say this will happen? If it doesn’t, this country stands
    to increase the deficit by $3-4 trillion dollars. What a gamble, based on a theory. I say ‘a bird in
    the hand is worth two in the bush’–no pun intended.

    Some of the most radical members have seemed to suggest ‘gun play’ in the event they don’t win.
    Others suggest ending social programs, like medicare and social security, because they’re too
    expensive, while profiting from these very programs all these years. Or, that science is creating d
    mice with fully developed human brains. Do we really want persons like this representing the
    American people?.

    What do conservatives have to offer about improving the economy? All they can talk about is
    complaining about ‘tax and spend’ Democrats—on balance, will they take a page from the
    George Bush play book, and become ‘borrow and spend’ Republicans instead, or just continue to
    talk? I still I haven’t seen the Republican plan.

    Many of the right-wing have exhibited statements suggesting religious, ethnic, and
    gender intolerance—currently directed toward the Muslim and GLBT community. Essentially,
    they simply don’t believe in freedom for all people—to them freedoms are bestowed upon whom
    they prefer to pick and choose. We have seen this in our history with the KKK, and
    anti-Semitism, and prejudice toward many other immigrant groups. And we’ve seen it more
    recently, with the emergence of ‘the Birthers’ and a wealth of photos depicting President Obama
    as a witch doctor or pimp—next thing you know they’ll be saying he’s a space alien. Do you
    really want these kind of sentiments having an influence on government?

    Conservatives are constantly calling attention to the high unemployment rate. But they forget
    to remind you that during the Reagan administration, the unemployment rate went to 9.7-9.8%
    and remained there for two years—and that was a mild recession compared to this near
    depression.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-abrams/pop-quiz-under-reagan-wha_b_341348.html

    Changing the economy is not an easy job; and the Republicans don’t have the answer by
    regressing back to the practices of the Bush days.

    If you agree with what I’ve said here, go out and vote Democratic in November. We’re almost certain to lose some seats in congress because of a traditionally low turnout of progressive voters during mid-term elections. So we need Independent and Democratic voters to turn out and vote for progressive candidates to minimize the number of seats lost to reactionary conservatives. We’re especially vulnerable to losing the House of Representatives, where some important bills originate. Don’t let this happen! And vote Democratic for Governor too—where applicable.

  2. September 17, 2010 11:21 am

    OK.

    • pragmatist permalink
      September 23, 2010 12:24 am

      Great response Rick ! Dead on point. Wish I would have thunk of it. Shucks, I am just a hick from the sticks . . . . . I always thought the Democrats and Republicans cared about us first and other stuff second. Boy, was I wrong. Way wrong. Oh well, live and learn.

      Vote for them? Never, ever again. Any suggestions of where to go?

      • September 23, 2010 4:28 am

        Well, Pragmatist, I thought it was a logical, beautifully nuanced reply to the Democrats’ spam post: neither wholeheartedly agreeing with, nor vociferously rejecting, the points presented therein. I was essentially saying, “Yes, I hear you…” and “No, I don’t read spam.”

  3. valdobiade permalink
    September 17, 2010 5:13 pm

    I wish that Moderates get whatever is good from Reps, Dems, and Indep then make a popular political platform based on what’s the best for the USA.
    But it sounds like Centrist parties from Europe… and USA wants to be so different from Europe…

  4. September 17, 2010 6:25 pm

    Valdo: You’d think moderates would have the edge in most elections, being reasonable, thoughtful, commonsensical and all that. But the U.S. is so polarized right now that moderates tend to be regarded as wishy-washy, spineless losers by both the right and the left. (Granted, some of them ARE wishy-washy, spineless losers.) Yet more Americans consider themselves moderate than either conservative or liberal.

    It’s the extremists who are driving the bus at this point — because they have the passion and the will to triumph — and also because (especially in hard times) it’s easier to communicate extremist views than nuanced moderate views. The masses love certainty, and they’ll follow anyone who seems certain.

  5. valdobiade permalink
    September 17, 2010 8:09 pm

    Rick wrote: The masses love certainty, and they’ll follow anyone who seems certain.

    If you talk about US masses, then I can say that they love the spectacular and cheap stunts.
    Even Obama was a choice of “let’s see what happens if we get out of this boring line of white presidents” – that would be extreme left. We chose Obama after we chose an extreme stupid. Now it is “let’s see what happens if we elect a woman moose hunter” – that would be extreme right.

  6. September 29, 2010 2:07 pm

    I just discovered this fellow moderate’s blog. Here’s my take on the O’Donnell “upset”:

    http://middleofthefreakinroad.com/2010/09/16/odonnell-tea-party-senate-race-candidate-delaware/

    PS I see we live in the same city.

  7. September 29, 2010 3:47 pm

    Nice blog there! Great title, and those captioned photos are a hoot. We need more irreverent moderates… especially in Philly!

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