Tak­ing tea with rad­i­cals

Los Angeles Times - - Op-Ed - TIM RUT­TEN ti­mothy.rut­ten@latimes.com

In an afterword to the White House di­aries he pub­lished this week, for­mer Pres­i­dent Carter muses, “It may be dif­fi­cult for some younger read­ers to re­al­ize how much the Washington po­lit­i­cal scene has changed in the last 30 years.”

Carter points out that the bi­par­ti­san­ship on which he re­lied for his many leg­isla­tive achieve­ments no longer ex­ists and that “Amer­i­can cit­i­zens have also be­come more po­lar­ized in their be­liefs.” Amer­i­cans are also “more alien­ated from our govern­ment,” he notes, and prone to “fre­quent ex­hi­bi­tions of anger and vi­tu­per­a­tion.”

It’s im­pos­si­ble to quar­rel with Carter’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, and equally im­pos­si­ble not to no­tice that in an era when peo­ple speak only to those who share their par­tic­u­lar an­gry haze, the pol­i­tics of delu­sion flour­ish. Take the cur­rent midterm elec­tion cam­paign, in which it has be­come com­mon­place for Repub­li­can/“tea party” can­di­dates — the two are now in­ter­change­able — to as­sail Pres­i­dent Obama’s al­leged rad­i­cal­ism and his pur­ported plan to trans­form the United States into a Euro­pean-style so­cial democ­racy.

Putting aside the non­sen­si­cal na­ture of these claims, what’s star­tling is the way in which they in­vert the fac­tual geog­ra­phy of the elec­toral land­scape. In fact, it’s been more than a cen­tury since a vi­able party has nom­i­nated as many fed­eral can­di­dates with such rad­i­cal views as the Repub­li­can/tea party has this year.

Writ­ing in Tues­day’s Wall Street Jour­nal, Mis­sis­sippi Gov. Ha­ley Bar­bour, chair­man of the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors Assn., said that elec­torally speak­ing, you now can “re­place ‘Tea Party’ with ‘Repub­li­can’ ... and each de­scrip­tion would re­main to­tally ac­cu­rate.” The vot­ers who sup­port the GOP/tea party, he wrote, “fear that their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren won’t in­herit the same coun­try they in­her­ited from their par­ents and grand­par­ents.”

The irony here is that elect­ing the can­di­dates Bar­bour hails will guar­an­tee that the chil­dren will in­herit a coun­try their great­grand­par­ents over­whelm­ingly re­jected — one that ex­isted in Her­bert Hoover’s era or, in some cases, be­fore the Civil War. In fact, none of the five Repub­li­can pres­i­dents who’ve held of­fice since the De­pres­sion have ad­vanced any­thing like the cur­rent GOP/tea party’s rad­i­cal agenda.

It’s hard to tell what Chris­tine O’Don­nell, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for a Delaware Se­nate seat, be­lieves, though we do know she’s dab­bled in witch­craft, doesn’t pay her bills and thinks sci­en­tists are breed­ing mice with hu­man brains. In Ken­tucky, Se­nate can­di­date Rand Paulwants to elim­i­nate the de­part­ments of Ed­u­ca­tion and En­ergy, as does Alaskan nom­i­nee Joe Miller, who also says un­em­ploy­ment in­surance is un­con­sti­tu­tional. In Utah, GOP Se­nate hope­ful Mike Lee­wants to re­peal or amend the 14th and 17th Amend­ments, thereby do­ing away with our cur­rent cit­i­zen­ship laws and the pop­u­lar elec­tion of U.S. sen­a­tors. Shar­ron An­gle in Ne­vada has ru­mi­nated about abol­ish­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care.

There’s ac­tu­ally less dif­fer­ence than one might think be­tween the views of these tea party “in­sur­gents” and those of es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans. If, as now seems pos­si­ble, the Repub­li­cans re­cap­ture the House, two in­cum­bent con­gress­men with an out­sized say on bud­getary poli­cies will be Wis­con­sin’s Paul D. Ryan and Vir­ginia’s Eric Can­tor. Both al­ready have signed off on a plan to pri­va­tize So­cial Se­cu­rity and to re­place Medi­care with a voucher sys­tem. Mean­while, for­mer Repub­li­can House Ma­jor­ity Leader Dick Armey de­nounces So­cial Se­cu­rity as aPonzi scheme.

Sen. James M. In­hofe of Ok­la­homa, who would re­place Bar­bara Boxer as chair­man of the Com­mit­tee on En­vi­ron­ment and Pub­lic Works if the GOP re­cap­tures the Se­nate, be­lieves that global warm­ing is “the great­est hoax ever per­pe­trated on the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” Then there’s pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Newt Gin­grich, who wants to pass laws ban­ning the im­po­si­tion of Sharia law. (We’re all los­ing sleep over that prospect.)

Pic­ture an Amer­ica with­out So­cial Se­cu­rity, Medi­care or un­em­ploy­ment in­surance. Imag­ine this coun­try with­out the 14th or 17th Amend­ments, or ef­fec­tive fed­eral over­sight of ed­u­ca­tion or en­ergy.

The rude beast of rad­i­cal­ism may be slouch­ing to­ward the polls in Novem­ber, but it didn’t start out from the White House.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.