Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mad Tea Party: Just a Bad Dream?








So it's Wednesday morning, and I must say, I feel elated by the election results, and it's not just the 3 cups of meth-strength coffee from Mama's Royal Cafe. It's the feeling I have that the media's narrative has no clothes, that the Tea Party movement isn't really a movement, but just the same extreme-right voters being more vocal than usual, and that California is much more liberal than I thought it was--and since California is a trend-setter, the rest of the country will follow...eventually.

First, the media narrative. That the GOP would win back a majority in the House was no big mystery--it's happened to the last two presidents. But to say it was a mandate from some kind of new movement is absurd. First, not that many so-called Tea Party candidates won seats--of the 240-plus GOP House victories, over 200 were by seasoned, old-school GOP politicians, many of whom were spouting Tea Party rhetoric when Glenn Beck was still a pot-smoking, kazoo-blowing FM morning-drive shock jock. And the epic failures of Tea Partiers in Alaska, Nevada and Delaware ("I'm not a witch!") show that just because you're not a career politician doesn't mean you're automatically qualified for the job of being...a career politician.

But that hasn't stopped the media from using all its pre-written headlines this morning anyway. "Mandate," "Tsunami" and "housecleaning" were all over-used terms, I'm sure. But is it any of those things? Not really. Sure, it was a big upset, the biggest since 1948, but, in case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of big, crazy stuff happening in the world these days.

Even if the Tea Party has taken over, what does that mean? I'm going to say it means nothing. A New York Times poll looked at 800 or so people who described themselves as Tea Partiers, and it turns out they are mostly "Republican, white, male, married and older than 45." Hm. Other polls describe them as higher income, well-educated and mostly living in the suburbs. The NYT poll extrapolated that 18 percent of the American public identify with this movement. Sounds like it's the same 20-30 percent of the electorate that has always been far-right conservative. Just because they skip an election or two doesn't mean they disappear.

When you examine what these people are saying and what they want, it's exactly the same as what they wanted in 1980 when they elected Reagan to office. Or in 1994 when they brought in the first GOP majority to Congress in 40 years. Less taxes, less spending, strong military, stop abortion, keep prayer in schools, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, as examined in a recent New Yorker story, Glenn Beck reccomends they read books favored by the John Birch society--how's that for cutting edge? They're just slightly more pissed off then they were in the '80s. Putting a new symbol (albeit a very clever one, gotta hand them that one) doesn't make it a "new movement." It's the Reagan Revolution, cleverly re-enacted for 2010.* Eventually, the years will shrink their numbers--this next decade will be their last time to flex their impressive, world-changing political muscle. Enjoy it, guys!

Also, after 22 years of being disappointed by California politics, I saw my home state swing further to the left then ever. It'd be enough for a lefty S.F. Mayor (and former Redwood HS alum!) like Gavin Newsom to be elected Lt. Governor (how did he do that? Just ask Meg--spending more money isn't enough on its own), but when ex Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown gets elected governor it kind of blows my mind. Didn't anybody south of Fresno vote? And if that wasn't enough, Kamela Harris became AG? Did you Tea Partiers even look at your ballots? She's too liberal for me! Richard Simmons would put more people on death row. Not only that, but prop 23--which would effectively kill AB32, California's climate-change legislation--was kicked to the curb by these weird, newly left-leaning California voters. Don't they know Fox News is on 24/7?

As for Prop 19 failing, I think it's okay for two reasons. One, I don't really like to smoke weed. I'm low-functioning and lazy enough as it is. And two, it shows the hypocrisy of the so-called Tea Party. If this movement really was Libertarian (Rand Paul excepted here, and I can't wait to see what the GOP does when he introduces legislation to immediately pull all US troops out of foreign bases everywhere, overnight), pot would have been legal back in the '80s. Those TP guys get all weepy at rallies about "freedom," so how could they be opposed to responsible adults hittin' the bong while they sit on the couch and watch "Married with Children" re-runs? What's more American than that? A real Libertarian movement would give both parties hives, but the TP isn't that and never will be. And thank God for that--a quick look at Libertarian thinkers and philosophy shows the movement sprung right out of the same well of delusional 19th-Century intellectual quackery as Marxism, Eugenics and Phrenology.

I'm not even that bothered by the Democrats losing the House. I recognize the party is not so good at leading, as it's a bigger tent than the GOP, with a confusing, complex message. I think a Congress with a fairly thin majority (and a Dem-controlled Senate) will be forced to compromise with the president if it wants to get anything done. And these new Congresspeople will need to show their constituents they did something for two years other than attempt to block Democratic legislation and moan about tyranny.

I--and I don't think I'm alone--want compromise with the GOP. This country is split pretty much 50/50, and neither side is right about every problem. I will never see eye-to-eye on most issues with Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin (I hope!), but that shouldn't matter. If your motorcycle won't start, you need to fix it the quickest, cheapest, easiest way, even if you have to use a tool you despise. Somewhere in between, there is truth. It's not flashy or glamorous, but it's right, and it will work.

*And I have no problem with historical re-enactment; even though I'm a Jew, Tea Party SS stormtrooper Rich Lott's hobby doesn't offend me in the least. I think it's kind of cool, as I love WWII history and the Waffen (combat arm) SS had the best uniforms, leadership, tactics and equipment of any military of that era (and sure, they were brutal and murderous towards subjugated civilians when they had the chance, but mostly they were too busy losing the war for that), although I wonder why he wants to play the losers.