Apr 062011
 

In the fall of 2010 the Tea Party was swept into power on a wave of voter discontent promising to turn the country around by reigning in out of control government spending.  They were riding high on populist anger pushing a hard ideological line as the solution to our nation’s problems.  Five months later the Tea Party’s approval ratings have plummeted, Republican governors riding the wave have seen their support evaporate, and the oncoming government shutdown has put the ascendant Republicans in a serious bind.  Regardless of the cause of the Tea Party and GOP’s woes can be summed up in one word.

Overreach.

No one can deny the Tea Party-fueled gains of the Congressional Republicans in the 2010 elections.  They trumpeted their victory as a mandate by the voters to pursue a ultraconservative antigovernment agenda.  Yet for all the claims of strong support what the mandate they received was less clear.  A large part of their victory in 2010 was thanks to highly depressed voter turnout especially among groups that Obama depended on for his 2008 victory.  With only 41% of voters bothering to come to the polls as opposed to the low 70s that we saw in 2008 probably the clearest thing the voters did say was they had enough with government as usual.  With the certainty of victory the hard-right Tea Party candidates in Congress and state government moved forward to make the perceived mandate a reality.  Ironically enough it was putting their agenda into action that has led to a serious case of buyer’s remorse across the board.

In Congress the Tea Party, ignoring polls showing Americans’ first priority was job creation as opposed to cutting the deficit, went all ahead full with their agenda starting with the infamous forcible rape bill.  They followed up with attacks on NPR and Planned Parenthood threatening to cut off the flow of government assistance for both.  While the Culture Warriors fought personal battles at the expense of the American public the House leadership continued to thunder on high of the dangers of the growing deficit.  They demanded immediate cuts across the board regardless of their economic impact.  When questioned on the economic impact of mass federal layoffs Speaker John Boehner responded to these concerns with a blunt “So be it”.  When the Democratic-held Senate refused to play ball and roll over to the House Boehner and the House GOP doubled down on their stance of cuts, cuts, and more cuts leading to a string of stopgap continuing resolutions to keep the lights on.  In spite of following their agenda to the letter the Tea Party, far from seeing their political stock rise, has recently taken hard blows to their support.  From previous highs of 50% support the Tea Party has fallen to a new low of 32% and Americans now seeing the Tea Party as being as much a part of the problem as the Democrats and Republicans.  The hard-line calls by the Tea Party for government shutdown, a course Boehner himself fears will benefit the Democrats, coupled with the refusal by ultraconservative Republicans to compromise with the Senate have largely run afoul of American popular opinion.  With strong majorities holding out for a compromise and tiny slivers supporting the white-knuckle showdown that now seems all but inevitable the Tea Party has charted a truly dangerous course for the GOP.

The recent disasters for the Tea Party are hardly confined to the Beltway.  A recent string of anti-union measures and rhetoric pushed in MichiganOhioWisconsin, and Maine have far from rallying public opinion have sparked ferocious backlash.  In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s unilateral actions and disregard for the state legislature have turned his own party against him.  In Wisconsin where the labor fight has most strongly come to a head the expected easy re-election of incumbent Republican David Prosser to the state Supreme Court has come down to a narrow margin with the challenger, virtual unknown Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg, just barely ahead flipping 19 counties that went for Scott Walker in 2010.  With a storm of recalls gathering the troubles for the Wisconsin GOP, riding high on the Tea Party’s wave, have only just begun with labor increasingly agitated and energized into action across the Rust Belt.
Each of these skirmishes have helped build up what will be a game-changing showdown in Washington.  Both sides in Washington are spoiling for a political fight with each citing dearly-held principles.  Yet in spite diffuse opinion forming on impending shutdown the Tea Party is taking very serious risks.  In every one of their previous attempts to advance their cause they have been met with popular backlash and buyer’s remorse.  Their insistence during the 2010 campaign that government shutdown should not only be an option but actively sought by lawmakers has left the recentprotests to the contrary hollow and has enraged Tea Party activists calling for a firm stand in a fight where the stakes couldn’t be higher.  Far from being an effective cure for our woes some economists fear a prolonged shutdown spiraling back into a deep recession.  Beyond the economic impact is the direct effects of shutting down our federal government.  In the event of a shutdown over 800,000 federal workers would be furlough and stop receiving a paycheck, 30% of all tax refunds will remain unsent, states would face serious cuts in funding for programs like unemployment pay, and soldiers fighting overseas would continue their dangerous work without pay just to name a few.  If a last-minute budget deal cannot be reached then the Tea Party, thanks to their sound and fury, run the risk of being stuck with the blame.  They may soon discover that ideological purity doesn’t matter when the public doesn’t like what your ideology does to them.
Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.  The United States cannot afford courting economic disaster because the most radical faction of one political party cannot put aside ideology for the sake of the public good.

Also posted at Ryan’s Desk

Oct 142010
 

In the United States today there is a growing fear of Sharia Law encroaching on our liberties. The loudest voice in the media on this subject in the US is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House during the mid 90s. While the media reports his claims they have yet to look into the ties has with radical religious groups in America. By rallying the fear of foreign takeover he is effectively running a smokescreen for his fundamentalist Christian allies. While advocating for family values and against Sharia encroachment Gingrich works to advance an agenda every bit as radical as jihadi terrorism.

The start of these claims came with the increasing publicity surrounding the Park51 Muslim community center controversy. On July 28th Gingrich posted his condemnation of the project on his website. Part of his denunciation included his assertion that the project was part of a global effort to impose Islamic fundamentalism on the United States and the world. In his remarks he specifically noted, “Radical Islamists see politics and religion as inseparable in a way it is difficult for Americans to understand”. He continued to speak out against the Park51 center throughout the month of August. On September 12th Gingrich released a direct to DVD documentary called America at Risk, a film about the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses to the United States. He then followed up with his call at the Values Voter Summit on September 18th for a federal law banning Sharia law in the United States. Newt Gingrich has continued to put himself out in front on the issue of anti-Sharia efforts in the US with the media reporting his efforts at face value.

The irony is that his crusade against religious fundamentalism in America starts and stops when the threat is any form of religious extremism that isn’t Christian. An excellent example of this selective approach can be found in the venue where he called for a ban on Sharia law. The sponsors for the Values Voters Summit include the Family Research Council’s political action group, the American Family Association’s action group, American Values, Liberty University, and the Heritage Foundation. The FRC and AFA are both groups that are fairly prominent in the Religious Right as major organizations that have long, established standing and reputations. Liberty University is an institution billed as the premier Christian university in America and was founded by the late Jerry Falwell to educate their students in a proper, Christian fashion. American Values was founded by Gary Bauer, President of the Family Research Council until 1999. With the exception of the Heritage Foundation, who attended only to provide issue education, each of these organizations stand for the flagship positions of the Religious Right. Each is highly active in organizing evangelical and fundamentalist Christian activists in and out of government. On the front page is a list of breakout sessions including highlights such as, “American Apocalypse–When Christians Do Nothing, Secularists Do Everything–The Case for Christian Activism”, “How to Reach the Online Generation (Without Losing Your Soul)”, and, “Establishing a Culture Impact Team In Your Church”. Among other things all of these groups are very vocal in their claim that separation of church and state is unconstitutional.

Gingrich is no stranger to Christian conservatives. He worked with social conservative groups extensively under the slogan of Family Values while he was Speaker of the House during the mid 90s. Since then he has remained an active professional speaker and author. One of the more prominent gigs was the 2007 commencement address at Liberty University. During his speech he praised the founder Jerry Falwell and called for the graduates to challenge, “radical secularism.” The themes he covered in his speech were the same that he argued for in his 2006 book Rediscovering God in America. In his book Gingrich argues that advancing secularism is working to drive God out of public life in America. At the Rediscovery of God in America Conference in June of 2009 Gingrich asserted that America is “surrounded by paganism”. His next big splash in September of 2009 was the documentary Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage. Here Gingrich again claims that Christianity and God are under attack in America.

These claims, along with his recent call for a Federal gay marriage amendment, are all consistent with the rhetoric and positions of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. They have consistently campaigned for gay marriage bans in all fifty states and have proven successful in twenty-five. Evangelical efforts are not confined to just banning gay marriage. Candidates with their support in school boards across the country have fought for teaching a more Christian curriculum. Their most recent, and largest, success was in Texas. In May of this year the conservative faction on the school board succeeded in pushing for sweeping changes to the history curriculum. Some of these changes included the downplaying of the importance of Newtonian physics and Darwinian evolution, the whitewashing of the work of Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for religious liberty, and push the “fact” that America was founded as a Christian nation. In August the school board released a decree banning all textbooks that had pro-Muslim or anti-Christian content. Supporters of this measure claim it was necessary to protect Christianity.

Gingrich’s claims of a Sharia takeover of the United States are rather ironic considering his own affiliations. If Gingrich and his allies in the Religious Right had their way Christianity, as it is according to them, would be the only religion allowed in the United States. They are not shy about their intentions; at their sites, conferences, and on the campaign trail they openly announce it to the world. Gingrich’s campaign against Sharia law serves their purposes ideally. By rallying the public against Sharia law Gingrich provides a perfect cover while Christian fundamentalists quietly make their vision for America reality.

Also published at http://ryansdesk.blogspot.com/2010/10/sharia-smokescreen.html

Mar 252010
 

Many Pagans hold with what is variously called the Rule of Three or the Law of Threefold Return. What it says is that, whenever you wish or will harm to befall another (creating the magical energy behind harm), or cause that harm to happen, it will come back to you three times over.

I’m not sure whether or not that law only applies to Pagans, but it makes sense to me that it applies to anyone. After all, ignorance of the law is no excuse, right? And if you doubt that the extremists are raising harmful energy, just take another look at video clips from last Sunday’s demonstration outside the halls of Congress, soundly encouraged by members of Congress shouting down in agreement from the balcony of the Capitol Building.

So I guess we need to issue a warning to those folks out there who are actively endangering the families of members of Congress who supported health insurance reform, like the threatening letter followed by a severed gas line at the home of Virginia’s Rep. Tom Periello’s brother:

http://www2.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/local/crime/article/damage_at_home_of_perriello_brother_under_investigation/54038/

or the faxes of nooses like those received by Reps. Jim Clyburn and Bart Stupak

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/03/clyburn-says-photo-of-noose-faxed-to-his-office-after-hcr-vote-video.php

or the coffin placed on Missouri Rep. Rus Carnahan’s lawn

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/34982.html#ixzz0j9TcV7oY

or the fact that  Republican Senators will not allow the business of the Senate to continue, bring to a halt an attempt to help our homeless veterans

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/03/23/senate-unanimous-consent/

or the many acts of vandalism on Congressional offices and Democratic Party offices throughout the country, encouraged by the extremist blogosphere (and when you get to the blog, be sure to read the entire page and comments)

http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2010/03/has-window-war-begun.html

or….and you can add your own list here as well.

Now, before you remind me that extremism and conservatism are not one and the same, let me say with absolute clarity that I do not believe they are.

I’m from Maine, and we well remember our Republican Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, who worked hard to stop Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt perpetrated by the House Un-American Affairs Committee. Senator Smith was a true conservative who had the courage to speak up when Americans were being persecuted by extremists of her own party.

Where are the courageous Republicans of 2010, where are the true conservatives willing to stand up to the extremists, to the bloggers and radio talk show hosts who spread terror and incite citizens to commit crimes of violence

http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2010/03/hey-democrats-is-our-health-care-worth.html

(and why are none of these people being charged with incitement or conspiracy?)? Why is it that, whenever an elected Republican does stand up to Rush or his compatriots that representative of the GOP seems to back down within a few days?

But those questions are for the Republicans among us, the conservatives who love the rule of law as much as I do (really!)….and I truly hope that those questions will be asked and discussed within their own community. I hope they will read commentary like the piece written so well by John Cory:

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion/42-civil-rights/1320-the-surreal-with-the-fringe-on-top.

My question is this: what harm will befall those who bring terror, threats and acts of violence, who have built the wall of fear that separates Americans from each other? I hope none, but whether you believe in the Law of Threefold Return, or just “what goes around, comes around”, either way their negativity is as dangerous to them as it is to the rest of us.

Let’s hope they figure that out. I wish them only safety, health, and peace.