Tag Archives: politics

The Not-So-Grassroots Origin Of The Tea Party

2009 was a wild year in American politics.  Fresh off of an election that was equal parts rejection of Bush-era policies and refusal to be force-fed Sarah Palin as a viable candidate for any public office, the American left celebrated.  The American right, on the other hand, regrouped and reloaded.

Enter the Tea Party, loosely affiliated groups of conservative Americans who, through grassroots means, organized and banded together because they were upset over high taxes and the state of American debt.  Bolstered by near daily coverage on Fox News and leveraging social media, the Tea Party movement spread like wild-fire.  Local chapters and events popped up all over the country.  The movement even helped the Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections.  The Tea Party is truly an example of a powerful, organic response by an electorate to the policies of the state.

Or is it?  A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control uncovered connections between tobacco companies, large-scale lobbying operations run by the Koch brothers, and the Tea Party movement.  From the article’s abstract:

 Starting in the 1980s, tobacco companies worked to create the appearance of broad opposition to tobacco control policies by attempting to create a grassroots smokers’ rights movement. Simultaneously, they funded and worked through third-party groups, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the predecessor of AFP and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda. There has been continuity of some key players, strategies and messages from these groups to Tea Party organisations. As of 2012, the Tea Party was beginning to spread internationally.

 Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party has developed over time, in part through decades of work by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests. It is important for tobacco control advocates in the USA and internationally, to anticipate and counter Tea Party opposition to tobacco control policies and ensure that policymakers, the media and the public understand the longstanding connection between the tobacco industry, the Tea Party and its associated organisations.

The full article is accessible for a fee, but DESMOGBLOG.com has a good breakdown of it here.


Dan Drezner Tweets Glenn Beck, Hilarity Ensues

If you are not already doing so, you need to follow Dan Drezner on Twitter.  Actually, back up.  If you are not already, you need to be on Twitter.  Stop what you are doing and join the social media craze that has already become passe.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  You done?  Good.  Now, you need to follow Dan Drezner on Twitter.

For those of you not familiar, Dan Drezner is a blogger, teacher, foreign policy wonk, and zombie lover who keeps things pretty damn entertaining in 140 characters or less.  And while these are all good reasons to follow the man, his latest exercise in twitteration is reason enough.  Drezner recently announced that he would be reading Agenda 21, the latest novel “by” Glenn Beck (quotations due to the fact that Beck did not write the novel, but simply paid for the right to present it as his own, more on that later), and that he would be live-tweeting excerpts and commentary as he goes along.

The novel takes it’s name from a United Nation’s proposal that was adopted in 1993.  This non-binding plan of action was developed as a way to assist in planning and organizing development at the local, national and global levels in order to ensure a sustainable economic, social and environmentally sound future in the face of overpopulation and dwindling natural resources.

Of course, in the world of Glenn Beck, a man who hocks gold and end of days survival kits to those susceptible to his fear mongering, such a non-binding plan is really nothing more than a way for the UN to assume command of the global structure of power and leadership in order to bring on a dystopian society in which all people are subjugated before the authority of the global order.  Naturally.  Drezner’s first few tweets on the book have been quite humorous and, given the material he has to work with, I am really looking forward to keeping up with his progress.

I also recommend checking out what Sarah Cypher has to say about Agenda 21 over at Salon.  Cypher had the pleasure of editing the book as written by its original author, Harriet Parke.  This was before Beck bought the rights to the material and left his mark all over it.  Cypher’s article offers some great insight into the intent and impact of the eponymous UN plan, as well as how, by simply implementing his brand, Beck managed to alter the tone and implication of the book’s central theme to fit his agenda.

If the previous works that bore Beck’s name are any indicator, Agenda 21 will probably end up being a best seller.  Luckily, thanks to Dan Drezner, you’ll be able to enjoy the best parts for free, and probably be better for it.

George Bush, the GOP’s new rising star?

Daniel Politi authored an interesting story that was posted over at Slate this weekend.  The newest up-and-coming star of the Republican party appears to be George Bush.  No, this is not a case of one of the previous incarnations making a come back.  This is a brand new, possibly improved member of the trusty Bush clan.

George Prescott Bush, son of Jeb, grandson of George Herbert Walker, nephew of GW, has filed the necessary paperwork to run for land commissioner in Texas, no doubt a starting point for higher political aspirations.  Bush’s planned arrival on the political scene and, if previous family successes are any indicator, his potential for advancement could not have come at a more opportune time for the Republicans.  According to Politi, “George P. Bush is Hispanic, speaks fluent Spanish, has served in Afghanistan in the U.S. Navy, and has worked at recruiting young voters.”  For a GOP that dismally failed to capture both the Latino and youth votes this year, Bush represents the necessary new direction for a Republican party that needs to get younger and less white in order to stay competitive while national demographics continue to shift.

But how will Republican voters, and the rest of America, react to yet another George Bush angling for political power?  It is certainly not fair to judge George Prescott on the record of his one term grandfather or his uncle, who so embarrassed the GOP that he has been AWOL for the last two election cycles.  But in politics, image can often times be more important than substance.  Perhaps it would be advisable to drop the George and just go by Prescott.  Sure, that is a name for an old, rich, white guy, but that’s a stigma that every Republican has to overcome.

So, What’s Next?

I did not want to get out of bed this morning.  Not because I was afraid that a secret Marxist, anti-colonialist, Muslim, whatever was still the President.  Or that he was set to be replaced by a man with a Cold War mentality and magic underwear who adheres to a belief system that claims that blacks are cursed.  No, I was just really tired.

But now that I’m up, mobile, and more or less awake, I have finally been able to take a look at the particulars of Obama’s reelection victory.  While the overall margin of victory was a bit surprising, considering how narrow the polls were leading up to the day, this election seemingly lacked the punch and consequence of the 2008 and 2010 affairs that saw great upheavals in the White House and in Congress.  This morning the incumbent is still Commander in Chief, the GOP still controls the House, and the Democrats have maintained a narrow majority in the Senate.

What does this mean for the Republican party?  In the two years following President Obama’s election in 2008 the Republicans worked tirelessly to motivate their base and galvanize their most extreme elements in repudiation of the President and the Democrats, leading to a huge turnover of seats in Congress that allowed the Republicans to take the majority in the House of Representatives and greatly narrow the Democratic majority in the Senate.  Now in 2012, with a sputtering and sluggish economy, high unemployment, and an uncertain security situation abroad, the GOP was in a prime position to carry that momentum forward and improve upon the position they put themselves in 2 years ago.  But they just couldn’t get it done.

Why not?  I have no doubt that there will be a flurry of explanations and excuses offered up in the coming weeks, many of them (okay most of them) coming from people more intelligent that I, but it appears to me that many voters are simply turned off by the ultra-conservatism that has become a prevalent part of the GOP platform.  It is no secret that the GOP has moved strongly and steadily to the right ever since 2008, a phenomenon that was punctuated by the success of Tea Party backed candidates in the mid-term elections of 2010 and lead to a pattern of obstructionism in the House and Mitch McConnell’s top priority in the senate.

But in 2012 the electorate has given the election to the Democratic incumbent (by nearly 100 electoral votes as of this writing) and the Democrats have earned a net gain in seats in both chambers of Congress.  This gain of seats for the Democrats is evidence of a  repudiation of ultra-conservatism in Congress and is highlighted by the defeat of Tea Party incumbents Allen West and Joe Walsh, and the fact that Michele Bachmann‘s fate came down to the wire despite the fact that she grossly outspent her opponent this election cycle.

So what’s next as the Republicans look forward to 2014?  After seeing gay marriage legalized in three out of the four states that had it on the ballot and recreational marijuana legalized in two out of the three states with it on the ballot, after giving up ground in Congress (especially losing key Tea Party favorites), the abject failure of of the ultra-conservative primary campaigns of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and the disappointing general election showing of Mitt Romney, is it not clear that the GOP needs a new game plan?  The momentum of the push to the right is petering out.  It’s still there, but no where near what it was two years ago, and it likely will not be there again.  It would appear that the best course of action for the GOP is to throw it in reverse, pull back towards the center, and seek electoral victory via a successful policy record enacted through bi-partisan cooperation.  American voters are realizing that the obstructionism and backwards social policies that have been the backbone of the Tea Party movement and have informed the policies and actions of the GOP as of late are not the way forward for the country.  Republicans need to realize this too, and soon.

Perhaps Lindsay Graham, Republican Senator from North Carolina, said it best:

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough, I’m going to go nuts.  We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Every once in a while a video, or photo, or soundbite comes along that perfectly captures the zeitgeist.  This is one of those times.  Here, 4 year-old Abigael perfectly and succinctly sums up the feelings of an entire nation.

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