Well, Washington, DC hosted “Armey’s Last Stand” yesterday. About two weeks ago Health Care Reform was officially designated a Tea Party “Code Red situation” calling for urgent mobilization; forthwith a couple hundred TPers dutifully shaped up at the Capitol in their signature Tea Party regalia, carrying their signature “down with everything” posters and placards.
This group has evolved, since their first appearance last year around this time, in ways that would have been impossible to predict. Yesterday’s street theater successfully demonstrated that evolution, if not much else. Over time, Republican Party outpourings of solidarity and support for Tea Party activism have dwindled, coincident with the Tea Party’s repudiation of Republican apparatchiks as just as undesirable as any other target “government-as-usual” group which the TP has singled out for extinction.
Signs of strain were not that difficult to sniff out. By now, everyone has probably seen pictures of the TP placards that were supplied by the RNC earlier in the game. This time around, RNC was still distributing the things but had gone to the trouble of placing “blackout” stickers over their endorsement. Then, too, GOP notables were conspicuously absent from yesterday’s pep rally, signaling Republicans’ wariness of how truly the Tea Party actually speaks for the “silent majority” they profess to represent…
A few die-hard Washington wing-nuts still turned out for Code Red — Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Steve King (R-IA) and Joe “You Lie” Wilson (R-SC) were there to incite hundreds to new levels of insanity. Fox News, doing the best with what they had, described the Code Red Rally as featuring “a host of Republican speakers, including Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Tom Price (R-GA) and Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN).”
Notably missing from that lineup was Sen. Jim DeMint who has been working assiduously at being the Tea Party’s Best Friend in Washington, according to a recent article in Politico. And while DeMint’s efforts might be scoring him points with the Tea Party (although there’s not a lot of evidence of that yet) it’s definitely not making him any more popular with his own party, which appears to have decided to give the TP a wide berth, for now at least.
So, it appears that the past year has brought evolution, some contraction as well as greater “clarity” (if you can call it that) to both the Tea Party and the Republican Party platforms. The Tea Party, despite its astro-turf beginnings, has gelled into what looks like a fairly adamant anti-government movement, strong on fear and loathing and short on solid facts – but, then, in the Tea Party world, facts and people who deal in facts are not to be trusted; history, like the Bible, is meant to validate their views and effectively rubber stamp their agenda “best for everyone involved.”
The Tea Party has morphed into a conservative populist movement willing to take conservatism to new extremes to represent the wishes of a (largely mythical) “silent majority.” I think that the “silent majority” notion is part and parcel of a mythology of fear and imagined oppression; freedom and liberty, in this mythology, are freedom “from anything I don’t like or agree with” and the liberty “to do as I please” without regard to how it affects the common good. Proponents of this mythology populate their world with like-minded fellow travelers who are too meek to speak up – but they’re out there. There also seems to be that Christian Conservative, homespun American Puritan influence that says “this is right and this wrong for all God’s children, end of argument” substantiation not required. And so it is that the Tea Party quickly gets to a place where facts are subordinate to ideology and the ends always justify the means.
If you think I overstate, here are a few samplings of yesterday’s commentary coming from the Tea Party itself:
The following “sentiments” appeared on the America’s News Online website which describes itself thus:
“As a company, AmericasNewsOnline.com is a dedicated group of writers covering the topics that are making a difference in people’s lives. Our goal is to give the reader a balanced perspective of both sides of the news. In our opinion, it should be up to the reader to decide the real truth.This from contributor Susan Thompson:
“We have a team of 6 researchers submitting breaking news everyday. With our team’s diverse background, we are able to cover news from different points of view.”
“The Tea Party Movement along with a little help from Rush Limbaugh turned the face of Washington red today. Even Barrack Obama is coming with his tail between his legs and is to appear for an interview with Fox News.
“There are members of the Tea Party Movement, in fact all of the Tea Party, that are outraged on the way that the Obama administration and the Dems in Congress are trying to find the sneakiest ways imaginable to pass the healthcare bill. Americans are very much in shock that the Dems would try to ram this bill through with an 80% disapproval rating.”
“Pelosi was heard to be paraphrased saying, ‘Americans aren’t smart enough to figure out how we’re doing this and aren’t interested in the process.’ She went on to same (sic) we will pass this bill for the good of American citizens. The Tea Party is holding strongly to ‘kill the bill.’”
Really, really awful writing aside, this stuff is pure propaganda, not to mention poppycock; but it is emotionally appealing to a crowd that believes that all of their ills have been caused by government and that, furthermore, they don’t need or want anything that government provides. It’s not that they have conflicting views on how the government should operate, no alternative methods are ever promoted beyond “sending Obama’s socialism ‘back to Russia.’”
Speaking to a CNS News interviewer, a woman who would only identify herself as “Jamie” said congressional arrogance is the main reason she came to the rally.
“I’m here, because I’m really concerned about how the legislative process is being bastardized to push this through. Whether you’re for it or against it, if they can bastardize our legislative process like this, what’s to stop them for anything? Why do we even have elected officials?”
Russ Cote of New Jersey told CNS this is the third event he has attended to protest a proposed health care system that he said is unsustainable and unconstitutional: “It’s simple economics. We’re going to go broke. We’re going to go broke fast.”
What these people seem to be saying is that they are afraid – afraid that something is terribly wrong with the day-to-day operation of government that they have, by and large, chosen to ignore lo these many years. They are afraid of “bastardized legislative processes,” the passage of unconstitutional legislation, death panels and socialism — now; despite the fact that extrajudicial renditions, assassinations, the use of torture, and warrant-less wiretapping caused barely ripple in their deeply-running still waters.
Neither do these emotional, impressionable people seem to care a fig about unsustainable health care costs in the status quo, or rampant US global militarization, or rapacious defense corporations defrauding the US government as a matter of course. They don’t even seem to worry much about the erosion of their constitutional rights to privacy and due process or the loss of America’s moral standing in the world due to high officials condoning, even expressing pride in having committed war crimes.
Why do you suppose that is? My theory is that it’s all in the packaging. People enjoy a good scare, sometimes. Generally, when things are not going so well, it helps to believe that the problem is “larger than life” and that we’re “all in this together.” Anyone with “I told you so, on their lips” is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ and it’s human nature to try to deflect blame and shame.
Republicans have suffered some electoral humiliations over the pickle we find ourselves in and they are more than ready for that to change. The trick is to make enough people believe that the Democrats are even worse or that Republicans, having made the mess in the first place, are the only ones who can effectively clean it up. Clumsiness over this messaging, so far, has engendered some pretty entertaining political positions on both sides of the aisle. For a while the large number of uncommitted Tea Partiers looked pretty attractive to the GOP with its 28% approval rating. In order to come roaring back, Republicans needed some fresh voters. From the beginning, it was pretty obvious what the TP hot buttons were and, in an effort to court them, the GOP made the Tea Party causes their causes.
A year later, clearly Republican leadership is rethinking that one. Appealing to the Tea Party is a lot like herding cats…
Nevertheless, a few stalwarts are still banging that drum for lack of anything better to do. One of those is Rep. Steve King from Iowa who has always had a lot to say that made little sense. The problem with King’s embrace of the Tea Party is that clearly, these Tea Partiers either can’t or don’t want to distinguish between fact and fiction and to them King represents a voice of authority (telling them it’s quite all right to be crazy).
King’s contribution, this time around, was to whip the Tea Partiers into an anarchic frenzy to paralyze the Capitol. He said, “Fill this city up, fill this city, jam this place full so that they can’t get in, they can’t get out and they will have to capitulate to the will of the American people.”
Elsewhere in his speech, he spouted his usual disinformation about the health care bill funding abortion as well as care for 6.1 million illegal immigrants, winding up with an impassioned plea for concerned citizens to “continue to rise up.”
I haven’t yet decided whether I think King is just simple-minded or whether he’s a world-class demagogue – either way, King has spent his years in Washington filling the air with a giant load of misleading crap – below are some samples of King’s wit and wisdom, taken from Wikipedia, which lists links for all comments.
On Joseph McCarthy:
In 2005, King whipped up a group to oppose honoring a Berkeley, California councilwomen because of her “affiliation” with the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Berkeley. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee claimed that King’s “campaign of innuendo and unsubstantiated ‘concern’ is better suited to the era of Joseph McCarthy than today’s House of Representatives,” King claimed that history showed McCarthy to be “a hero for America.”
On the May 1, 2006 “Day Without an Immigrant” rallies, King offered his opinion to the Op-Ed editor of the Des Moines Register:
“What would that May 1st look like without illegal immigration? There would be no one to smuggle across our southern border the heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines that plague the United States, reducing the U.S. supply of meth that day by 80%. The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals. Our hospital emergency rooms would not be flooded with everything from gunshot wounds, to anchor babies, to imported diseases to hangnails, giving American citizens the day off from standing in line behind illegals. Eight American children would not suffer the horror as a victim of a sex crime.”
[Critics immediately argued that King's daily numbers in the editorial are inflated, based on the incorrect premise that 28% of all prisoners in all American jails and prisons are illegal aliens. King cited an April, 2005 GAO report as the source of that statistic; that report actually says that 27% of federal prisoners were "criminal aliens," a term that includes both legal and illegal aliens. "Criminal aliens" doesn't mean "illegal aliens". State prisons and local jails together hold 92% of US prisoners. The actual percentage of illegal aliens held at the time in state prisons and local jails can be determined by comparing figures for SCAAP federal compensation to states and localities with federal Bureau of Justice Statistics prisoner censuses. Such a comparison reveals that the accurate illegal alien percentage being held was less than 4%, rather than the 28% claimed by King.
In May 2008, King downgraded his original claims about the contents and reliability of the GAO report from which he "extrapolated" them saying: “ . . . that report came back not quite apples to apples.”]
On Washington, D.C.:
“My wife lives here with me, and I can tell you… she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C., than an average civilian in Iraq.”
King said that there were 45 violent deaths per 100,000 in Washington, D.C., in 2003 while he calculated that there were 27.51 per 100,000 in Iraq as a whole.
The Iraqi Health Ministry casualty survey, however, estimated 151,000 violent deaths in Iraq due to the war from 2003 to 2006, or roughly 162.37 per 100,000 per year. The Lancet survey published in 2006 estimated that 2.5% of the population of Iraq had died from the war as of June 2006.
On State Department appropriations:
On June 21, 2007, King introduced an amendment to the $34 billion State and Foreign Operations bill to prohibit funds from being used by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to travel to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria. When asked why the measure did not apply to Republican House members who had also made trips to the countries in question, King’s spokesman replied that he was unsure whether that had been considered, or why it might not have been.
UPDATE: At the end of 2009, Rep. King went on his own “fact-finding” junket to Afghanistan. Upon his return he reported that he met with President Muhammad (sic) Karzai and found him to be “human.”
On Barack Obama:
On March 7, 2008, during his press engagements to announce his reelection campaign, King made his now famous remarks about Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his middle name, saying:
“ … if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror.”
[At the time, Obama said he did not take the comments too seriously, describing King as “an individual who thrives on making controversial statements to get media coverage.” The McCain campaign disavowed King's comments, saying "John McCain rejects the type of politics that degrades our civics…and obviously that extends to Congressman King's statement.”
On the Iowa Supreme Court:
In April, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a state ban on same-sex marriage violated the Iowa constitution. King opined that the judges "should resign from their position" and the state legislature "must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca."
On the IRS building bombing in Austin, Texas:
Last month, in his closing remarks at CPAC, King said he could “empathize” with the man who flew a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and an IRS employee.
On Washington lobbyists:
On the House floor in February 2010, King made remarks defending and supporting lobbyists as a source of “valuable information”:
“Lobbyists do a very effective and useful job on this Hill, and if anyone gave me information that wasn’t accurate or honest, if they found out about it they would bring it back and correct it to me first. If I thought they were doing so intentionally, they would not come back to talk to me ever. There is credibility there, in that arena, that I think somebody needs to stand up for the lobby. It is a matter of providing a lot of valuable information.”
One might reasonably ask whether Rep. King would recognize “valuable information” if it bit him in the ass …
After King’s latest outing a Huffington Post reporter asked him about his comparison of the Tea Party protest with the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Prague. Here’s how that went:
HuffPo: “So this is just like Prague under communist rule?” the Huffington Post asked.
King: “Oh yeah, it is very, very close,” King replied. “It is the nationalization of our liberty and the federal government taking our liberty over. So there are a lot of similarities there.”
“I look back 20 years ago in the square in Prague ... when tens of thousands showed up there and they shook their keys peacefully and they took over their country and they achieved their freedom back again,” he said. “If you can keep coming to this city, fill up the congressional offices across the country but jam this city. If you can get on your cell phones, and get on your Blackberries and your email, and ask people to keep coming to this town. Storm this city, fill up Washington D.C., jam this capital so they can’t move. And if tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of you show up, we will win. We will defeat this bill and you will have your liberty back.”
Of course, part of the reason that Prague is so idyllic is because they have government-sponsored health care — just like you do, Rep. King…