Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tea Party – Ominous Sign for America?

Many states across America are having primary elections these days to allow the registered members to choose their party candidates for the coming mid-term election in November. [With very few exceptions, most states don’t allow independents or non-registered members to participate in such primary elections where the party candidates are chosen.] From the election results thus far, it has been a shocking outcome for both the major parties where they see that some old guards have been replaced by new faces, and the tea party candidates (vastly Republicans) are winning against candidates preferred by their own party establishment.

Rick Lazio, the New York Congressman, who tried to exploit the near-Ground Zero Muslim center controversy as a political trump card, was rejected and lost to businessman Carl Paladino in the Republican gubernatorial race. Christine O'Donnell, a tea party favorite, endorsed by Sarah Palin, defeated veteran Republican Michael Castle in Delaware.

But then there were some exceptions, too. Former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte narrowly won her state's Republican Senate primary against Ovide Lamontagne, to the relief of the party officials in Washington. Seemingly more extreme elements within the party, supported by the tea party, are winning. In Minneapolis, former President Bill Clinton said the Republican Party was pushing out pragmatic voices in favor of candidates that make former President Bush "look like a liberal."
So, what is this tea party all about that is trying to change the political landscape in America? Tea party, of course, is a reference to the Boston Tea Party of 1773—a protest by American colonists against various acts by the British Government. Today’s Tea Party, however, is a politically conservative movement that emerged in 2009 through a series of locally and nationally-coordinated protests, which invokes themes, metaphors, and slogans similar to those used in the past.
Eighteen percent of Americans identify as Tea Party supporters. To many of the supporters, the tea party is not a political party; it’s neither a red party nor a blue party; it is a movement of disgruntled voters who are fed up with politics as usual in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, it has failed to become what it portrays itself of being. According to a CBS poll conducted among a random sample of 881 adult supporters of the movement nationwide, interviewed by telephone April 5-12, 2010, the vast majority of them -- 89 percent -- are white. Just one percent is black. More than one in three (36 percent) of the supporters hails from the South, far more than any other region. Twenty-five percent come from the West, 22 percent from the Midwest, and 18 percent from the northeast. They are better educated than most Americans: 37 percent are college graduates, compared to 25 percent of Americans overall. They also have a higher-than-average household income, with 56 percent making more than $50,000 per year. More than half (54 percent) identify as Republicans, and another 41 percent say they are independents. Just five percent call themselves Democrats, compared to 31 percent of adults nationwide. Nearly three in four describe themselves as conservative, and 39 percent call themselves very conservative. Sixty percent say they always or usually vote Republican. Forty percent say the United States needs a third party, while 52 percent say it does not. They are more likely than American adults overall to attend religious services weekly (38 percent do so) and to call themselves evangelical (39 percent). Sixty-one percent are Protestant, and another 22 percent are Catholic. More than half -- 58 percent -- keep a gun in the household.
To these tea baggers, the most popular political figure is Sarah Palin, who is viewed favorably by 66 percent of people in the movement. Fifty-nine percent of Tea Party supporters have a favorable impression of Glenn Beck, the talk-show host. Nearly as many, 57 percent, have a favorable impression of former President George W. Bush, despite his role in raising the deficit and overseeing TARP bailout of the financial sector. Sixty-three percent of the tea party supporters say they get the majority of their political and current events news on television from the Fox News Channel, compared to 23 percent of Americans overall. These tea baggers are overwhelmingly against the president. Ninety-two percent of Tea Party supporters believe President Obama's policies are moving the country toward socialism. Thirty percent of Tea Party supporters believe Mr. Obama was born in another country, despite ample evidence to the contrary. They are also rabidly anti-foreigners and against other minorities. A University of Washington poll of 1,695 registered voters in the State of Washington reported that 73% of Tea Party supporters disapprove of President Obama's policy of engaging with Muslim countries, 88% approve of the controversial immigration law recently enacted in Arizona, 82% do not believe that gay and lesbian couples should have the legal right to marry, and that about 52% believed that "lesbians and gays have too much political power."
Many political pundits see the win of the tea party candidates in recent primaries as an intra-party rivalry within the Republican Party. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who chairs the House congressional Tea Party Caucus, however, defends the tea party and predicts a Republican takeover of Congress in 2010. Speaking at the Values Voter Summit last Friday morning, she said, “I am so eager for November to come I can’t wait!” Not surprisingly, she lashed out at Democrats, pointing out excesses by President Barack Obama and speaker Nancy Pelosi. “These high and mighty types, part of the ruling class here in Washington, D.C. — they live at wine and cheese parties. As for me, I prefer tea parties, just so you know.” Like most politicians, Bachmann is a liar and neglected to mention the $500-per-person fundraiser she held in July 2009 at Washington’s Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar. It’s worth mentioning here that when Sarah Palin appeared at the National Tea Party Convention she was apparently paid $100,000 for her appearance.
Republicans will have to pick up 40 seats to win control of the House. They need 10 to gain a Senate majority. The November election will show whether or not the tea party is truly a grass root movement.
The movement is financed by billionaires like Koch brothers – Charles and David -- and is actively promoted by Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets, e.g., Fox News.
Tea Party leaders have made offensive remarks that show that they are outright racists, bigots and polarizing figures. Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams, for instance, has referred to Allah as a "Monkey God". Typical of most bigots, Williams is an ill-bred, badly informed person who did not know that Hanuman is worshipped by Hindus and not Muslims. So, when corrected, in a subsequent blog posting, Williams wrote, “I owe an apology to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God.” On March 21, 2010, Springboro Tea Party founder Sonny Thomas posted racist slurs against Hispanics on the group's Twitter webpage. A Tea Party group in Iowa had at one time posted a billboard comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin. They definitely don’t like a Black American president, and surely not one whose parental grandparents are Kenyan Muslims. Their hatred of Obama and Islam or Muslims is all part of that sickening equation, a toxic mixture of racism and bigotry, which can only be erased by dumping their hateful candidates in the coming election. It is not difficult to appreciate Bill Clinton’s comments about tea party candidates.
One can understand people’s anger with the deflational economy, loss of jobs, etc. They want solutions to their problems. Instead, they find their government paralyzed and unable to solve all of the problems. Simply put, Washington isn’t working. But to disconnect the current economic reality with the Bush-Cheney era of mismanagement and warmongering is inexcusable. And that is what tea party is doing in a disingenuous way blaming the Obama administration for all those inherited problems. Supported by bigots like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, they are essentially laying the foundation stones for fascism.
As wisely noted by New York Mayor Bloomberg, “Anger, however, is not a government strategy.” He said, “It’s not a way to govern.” Mr. Bloomberg has endorsed a Democrat, John Hickenlooper, for governor of Colorado, whose rival, Dan Maes, has called for the deportation of illegal immigrants and decried a bicycle-sharing program as a threat to personal freedom. The mayor supports Senator Michael F. Bennet, another Colorado Democrat, who is running against the Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Buck. The mayor has endorsed Mark S. Kirk, an Illinois Republican running for the Senate who beat back a Tea Party primary candidate, and he is supporting Joe Sestak, a Pennsylvania Democrat, for the Senate. Mr. Sestak faces an uphill fight against Pat Toomey, a Tea Party challenger.
America needs independent thinkers like Mayor Bloomberg, away from the nasty partisanship that has sadly become the hallmark of Washington D.C. It needs people like late Senator Kennedy (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) who despite their party differences went into the Senate together and were the closest of personal friends for 40 years. They were everything that democracy says a senator should be.
Whatever may be the election results in coming days there is little doubt that extremist, racist and bigoted wing within the Republican Party is becoming a powerful voice to be reckoned with. This is an ominous sign for the USA and must be treated seriously by every concerned American voter. They must defeat these reactionary forces before it is too late.

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