Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The New American Radical

(older writeup from last year)

In November 2008, a rebuke was given to the American conservative movement, one that had been building amid anger at an unpopular War in Iraq, a new recession, and displeasure with Bush and his fellow Republicans. The rebuke came in the form of a Democrat held Congress and President. It was, by all appearances, the biggest blow to the conservative movement in decades, and the remaining Republicans tried in vain to distance themselves from Bush and the old guard.

Nobody said it was the end of the conservative movement in America, just perhaps the movement as we knew it. The Rush Limbaughs, the George Bush's, the time of the brash and at times obnoxious conservative was being replaced by a more moderate, humble one. One that would work together with Democrats to get things done, one that could swallow their pride and admit they or their party was once wrong.

But strangely enough, something different happened. As the recession lingered, people began to turn their focus to the Democrats and Obama. For better or worse, they were tied inexorably to the economy; see a recovery, and the party would continue to win elections, see it falter more, and prepare to be voted out. Even if the actual power of the Democrats over the economy was somewhat limited, it could both be their saving grace, or their doom.

The GOP has long had a history of out talking the Democrats. Even in the worst of times, the party has long been held as the gold standard of promoting their own interests.

So, as 2010 plowed forward, with the economy still in the dumps, and a Democratic legislative and executive branch ratcheting up the national dept, the GOP realised that their return to glory was at hand.

Yet, it wasn't about being moderate or humble. It wasn't necessarily about actual public policy either. It was about being angry. Angry at spending, angry at health care reform, angry at a still bad economy.

So, what did the conservatives do?

They drifted. Even farther to the right. As one political pundit said, "moderate Republicans are dead."

And indeed they are. As the Tea Party makes strides and gets representatives elected, and conservatives run on the old dialogue of cutting spending and cutting taxes, they are catching on. A Tea-Party candidate got elected to run for Congress in Delaware, a liberal, or even generally moderate conservative state. The fact that O'Donnel, said Tea-Party representative, and one who has previous ties to witchcraft, and religiously driven MTV anti-masturbation campaigns, tells you all you need to know about the state of the American conservative movement.

And yet, the movement gathers steam. Everyone in the country is angry. Most voters don't really understand exactly what that the Tea-Party stands for. Everybody is "mad" though, and the idea of voting for the anti-establishment guy or gal is emotionally attractive. As one political pundit put it:

"If you polled Americans about whether they want to abolish the Department of Education, which includes the incredibility popular PELL Grant system and subsidized college loan program, most Americans will tell you no.

If you polled senior citizens (which make up a disproportionate share of off year elections), and asked if they want to privatize social security, most will tell you no. Same with Medicare, or National Parks. These are tenets of Tea Party candidates.

What voters HEAR though is that TPers are against Bailouts and Federal Spending. Well sure, that sounds good! When you dig into it though, you'll find support for policies that are outside the American mainstream."

And yet, people like Rand Paul of Kentucky, a representative running for Congress, has said that the Departments of Education and Energy need to be eliminated. Another extreme right winger, Alaska's Joe Miller, has said on national TV that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. Marco Rubio of Florida has campaigned almost solely on one issue; repealing health care reform.

One has to wonder where the Tea-Party was when Bush skyrocketed the national debt. Nary a single protest was seen or heard about his spending from the party, because it didn't exist until Obama came about. Perhaps it is because, while preaching small government, many of these same Tea-Party supporters are those wishing to increase the role of faith in the government, as is Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and end things like abortion and the gay rights movement. Small government doesn't seem to apply to areas of personal life with them. They can't touch your money, but they can stick their paws into your personal life.

This November will mark another rebuke of the politicians in Washington, and anti-incumbent fervor for both Democrats and Republicans is running high. The Republican party though has found a new way to enlist the masses, and is riding sky high on polls and studies that indicate their fall from grace is over and done with. It may be the end of conservatives as we know it, but instead of moderating, we are left with something much, much scarier.

The new American radical.

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