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As Long as We Remember...

July 26, 2011

Tea Party Self-Destruction

Roy Meachum

Popsicles are my personal prescription for the hottest days I’ve experienced in my 80-plus years. Being brought up in New Orleans, and my time spent in Egypt, simply didn’t prepare. Pushkin’s walks are relegated to mornings and late afternoons. The laid-back English pointer confirms Noel Coward’s “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”


With all the heat’s distraction, I’ve paid little attention to the debt and financial ceiling debate. As a long-time Washington journalist, I endured more than several political crises that came to naught; from this distance, in Frederick, the verbal crossfire struck nowhere close to my yellow-door house on Market Street. As I’m sure readers know, next Tuesday – a week from today – marks the deadline when the federal government shut-down would mean no checks for Social Security recipients and the military.


The exact statistics of political surveys never capture my fascination; I view them solely as trends of the national mood. Before last year’s by-elections, they confirmed what every taxpayer knew: Barack Obama and his Democratic Party were in deep dodo. The Tea Party first found a voice simultaneously with the swearing-in of the first African American president. By the past autumn, the radical offshoot of the GOP latched onto the widespread fury; it claimed a mandate that has been thrown in the Tea Partyers’ face by recent events.


Last Tuesday the Frederick Board of County Commissioners retreated from their Tea Party-motivated, pell-mell rush to privatize Winchester Hall and its functions. On the weekend, at the behest of congressional Tea Party adherents, House Speaker John Boehner broke off talks with the White House when the Democratic-led Senate nixed the Representatives-passed bill to end the crisis.


The last poll I saw had Mr. Obama approval rating grown by nearly 50 percent from April; I see no coincidence that the three months have shown Republicans’ obduracy over reducing the national debt by raising the taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. In the last fiscal budget, taking advantage of the deductions enacted shortly after George W. Bush took over the Oval Office, mega-economic power General Electric paid absolutely zero federal taxes.


The expensively fruitless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq already cost $7 trillion and threaten to continue. General of the Armies and ex-president, Republican Dwight David Eisenhower, warned about the Military Industrial Complex, which now has the nation enthralled, forcing Mr. Obama to trim the campaign promise of withdrawing America’s armed forces this year. The Military Industrial Complex draws its strength from corporations, like General Electric, that profit from wars, in many instances gouging the government by delays and billing for unnecessary expenses. Manufacturers are vital to the GOP; they hide behind the label “free enterprise” and millions spent in advertising their special interest.


The ultimate outcome must be the Tea Party’s disappearance from the scene, following other radical movements in history. GOP 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater’s speech accepting his party’s nomination is chiefly remembered by a quote: “…extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” He gained exactly 38.5 percent, while incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson snagged 61.1 percent, including 44 states and the District of Columbia.


Americans have never supported radical national movements, especially in 2010. The reasons for the election results were many and varied, not simplistic as the Tea Party asserted grabbing the House of Representatives majority.


State Sen. Ron Young sketched a scenario for the future that intrigues. My sometime political opponent – and friend since I moved to Frederick when he was mayor – suggested the final chapter of the Tea Party. Simply speaking undeniable truths, Ron posited if ex-Gov. Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination, the party’s radicals would feel left out; they would insist on a candidate who reflects their policy mandates. As a result of the splitting Republicans into two camps, Democrat Barack Obama would coast to his second four-year term; I remember the Dixiecrats.


Ron Young deserves all the credit for the insight, on the eve of departing for New England and a well-deserved vacation.


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