Just as Vicksburg marked the turning point in the War Between the States, it looks as if Mississippi could again be the focal point in the ongoing Civil War that is being fought within the National Republican Party. In the 1860s it was the Union verses the Confederacy. Today it is the mainstream GOP against the Tea Party. Six months ago who would have thought that the Chris McDaniel primary challenge against long serving Senator Thad Cochran would have resulted in a virtual dead heat? But now, the race is headed for a run off on June 24 only because a token third candidate in the June 3rd primary deprived either candidate of a 50% plus one vote margin. If anyone in the Senate appeared to have a safe seat it was Thad Cochran, but thanks to the Tea Party movement led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and funded by Super PACs like the Club For Growth and Freedom Works who shamelessly pump millions of Plutocrat dollars into state elections, Mississippi’s considerable clout in the U.S. Senate has been put in mortal danger. In the Mississippi Republican Senate Primary early estimates are that $12.5 million dollars was dumped into the poorest state in the country to affect the outcome which came to a virtual draw. In North Carolina where the Tea Party candidate was defeated, 90% of the money came from out of state. This is a great lesson of democracy in action at the state level, local governance, one man, one vote and on and on and on.
And so, you ask, why is everybody a loser? The answer is that irresponsible ego maniacal candidates such as McDaniel, Cruz, Lee and so many more unsuccessful Tea Party primary challengers like Todd Akin (“legitimate rape,” Richard Mourdock “Rape is part of God’s Plan” and Sharon Angle “Second Amendment Remedies”) push otherwise responsible Republicans further and further to the right just so the incumbents can keep their seats. Governing, which requires a measure of vision and compromise, was difficult enough before the 2010 emergence of the Tea Party; it is virtually impossible now. The good news for rational people is that Tea Party challengers who push out mainstream Republicans, the most infamous being Mourdock, who deposed longtime GOP Senator Richard Luger in Indiana, often go on to lose to Democrats in the general election as was the case of Mourdock and Todd Akin who insured that Democrats were elected in Indiana and Missouri.
Thank God, Tea Party electoral victories are relatively rare. But when they do win, the question is why ? The answer is easy: money and frustration. We have already referred to the money supplied by billionaires trying to influence state and local elections to gain economic benefits that will serve them and their businesses. Two of the most notorious are the Koch Brothers who have made billions in the oil business. Their ultimate goal is to operate unregulated businesses, the environment be damned. Then there is casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson who wants to forbid online gambling that would compete with his casino empire’s profits.
Unfortunately, the other common denominator is the Democratic Party in general and Barack Obama in particular. The President is smart and thoughtful, although perhaps not always decisive enough for me. But for the Tea Party, just being a Democrat thaese days is akin to being a Communist back in the McCarthy era. And then, of course, the President is black despite having a white mother. Race in America has always been a factor although it shrinks with each succeeding generation. The very fact that Mr. Obama lives in the White House is a testament to the progress America is making on this front although it is an understatement to say that not everybody is on board in this regard.
All this said, probably the biggest factor that allows the Tea Party to exist is frustration with American Government. That frustration is very real and is much easier to understand by most fair minded people. While I am far from being an expert on what makes the Tea Party tick, I would imagine that it is this frustration that pushes most conservative Republicans to vote for the Tea Party. One need only look at the shameless VA scandal and over intrusive NSA spying on American citizens. Wall Street institutions pay millions of dollars in fines but no jail time for those who engage in illegality. Why not? And then there are the two wars the last Republican Administration gave us, one of which was totally based on fabricated weapons of mass destruction for which W. Uncle Dick and Rummy have never been called upon to account. How many U.S. soldiers paid with their lives or limbs? And that doesn’t even factor in the cost. From a Tea Party perspective, might this be an example of wasteful spending? To my dismay, I fear the lessons the Neocons never learned will be repeated by the zealots of the Tea Party in the form of climate change denial, ignoring the medical crisis in America by offering nothing to improve the Affordable Care Act, paralysis when it comes to Immigration Reform, etc. Underlying all of this is an unbridled disdain for all people who are not old and white. And by the way, I feel I have permission to say this because I am old and white … and scared.
If there is to be fundamental change, economic pain will result and have to be shared.
And then there are points of agreement with the Tea Party. Government is indeed too big. While in some instances there aren’t enough regulations, there are plenty of instances where well meaning people and programs are hopelessly constrained by red tape. Increasingly, American jobs are being outsourced while antitrust has largely been consigned to legal history. Fewer and fewer multinational corporations control our economy and fiscal policy. The income and education gap grows more every day. The solutions are extremely difficult and won’t be solved by Tea Party nihilism. In my view it is probable that President Obama’s biggest failing was to ignore the recommendations of the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles Commission he formed. If there is to be fundamental change, economic pain will result and have to be shared. Meaningful solutions must be bipartisan. Unfortunately, this is treason to the Tea Party.
When it comes to diagnosing the problems the Tea Party looks good. But the ultimate problem is finding workable solutions. Prayer in schools and guns on college campuses and in bars are not solutions. And by the way, what exactly is a Constitutional Conservative that state senator McDaniel claims to be? And exactly what Liberties have we been denied that he is going to restore? And please be specific about the wasteful spending approved by Senator Cochran. Was it disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina? How about Social Security, Medicare, VA Benefits, educational loans, roads and bridges? In these difficult times the last thing we need are endless commercials serving up meaningless slogans by an ego centric, terminally ambitious state legislator and part time radio talking head all funded by self serving Plutocrats. If you doubt this take a good look at Ted Cruz and tell me one substantive thing he has done. And to bring up the Birther Movement, Big Ted is a Canadian via Cuba, but he never mentions that. At least Senator McDaniel is a citizen of the Free State of Jones.
And finally, there is the despicable Tea Party scheme to photograph and make public Thad Cochran’s wife Rose who has spent more than a decade at St Catherine’s Village for early onset dementia. In addition to the person taking the pictures, four high ranking members of the Mississippi Tea Party and avowed McDaniel supporters have been charged with felonies in hatching and executing this scheme. But wait, there is more. Three Tea Party officials and McDaniel supporters were discovered in the Hinds County Courthouse at 2:30 A.M. in the early morning after the June 3rd election. What? All I can say is “Res Ipsa Loguitur.” Is this Constitutional Conservatism? As far as I am concerned, the worst offense of all is hypocrisy. It is often said that one judges the future by what has been done in the past. If this is what we can expect from the Self Appointed Christian Tea Party Patriots, I’ll pass. I hope you will too.