Nats set the places for their own tea party

Written By: - Date published: 10:01 pm, May 18th, 2010 - 26 comments
Categories: climate change, national, science, us politics - Tags: ,

The Tea Party movement ins the US started as a beast of the Republican Party but now it might kill it. The teabaggers began as astro-turfing – big money from key Republican players went into giving the illusion of a grassroots movement against ‘socialist’ health care reform, action on climate change, and other moderate centre-left policies. The Republican leadership, in which we must count Fox News, purposely whipped their base into a frenzy based on ignorance and fear that was totally divorced with reality.

Now, the Tea Party monster is off the leash. What was once merely PR has become reality. The Republicans have succeeded in radicalising their own base to the point where it is turning on the leadership. All over the country, ‘old school’ or ‘moderate’ Republicans (many of whom have pretty extreme rightwing records themselves) are being defeated in the Republican primaries by drolling idiots who are screaming about Obama’s Commienazis taking over.

The danger for the Republican Party is that these fruitcake candidates are the only ones radical enough for the base but are far too radical to win the moderate swing vote. By stoking extremism to the point where it’s got beyond their control, the Republicans risk confining themselves to electoral oblivion.

National used to take a responsible approach to climate change. It was a National government led by Jim Bolger that singed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and it was a National government led by Jenny Shipley that signed the Kyoto Protocol to that convention. National began policy work on introducing a price on carbon emissions.

But, for purely political reasons, that changed once they were in opposition. National saw climate change as an issue they could use to inflame their base (much as the Right in the US has).

Suddenly, a price on pollution was being portrayed as a tax grab. National MPs whipped up the ‘Fart tax’ campaign, Shane Ardern famously drove Myrtle the tractor up the steps of Parliament and Bill English was photographed on the same vehicle holding a sign saying ‘The mad cow shouldn’t have signed’ (I presume he meant Helen Clark, although it was Shipley who signed Kyoto).

At the same time, the Nats fueled doubt among their own members about the existence of climate change, promoting the world’s most absurd conspiracy theory instead. Most famously, John Key said:

“This is a complete and utter hoax, if I may say so. The impact of the Kyoto Protocol, even if one believes in global warming—and I am somewhat suspicious of it—is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that we are not even sure is a problem”

The Nats cynically made their own members and supporters stupid and angry. Let’s say that again: the Nats purposely promoted ignorance among their supporters.

Now, the party is full of these brain-dead conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept the reality of climate change. And that’s no longer useful to National. It’s government now, it’s got to do responsible government things. And one of those is to impose a (too-little, too-late) price on carbon emissions.

The rump that forms the leadership of National realises that climate change is a serious problem, that it was only ever playing politics on the issue. But the knuckle-draggers that make up the base don’t understand that. They’re confused and angry to see their party suddenly recognising climate change and introducing an ETS. At the Lower North Island conference weekend before last, two remits were unanimously passed that opposed the Party’s own half-arsed ETS.

How dangerous will this get for the Nats? Will the knuckle-draggers leave for ACT? Or will they try to drag National back into their dark age mindest where science is not understood and treated as witchcraft.

Neither option is good for National. And they only have their own cynical, short-termist politics to blame.

26 comments on “Nats set the places for their own tea party”

  1. Badger 1

    I’m sorry – I despise the Tea Party – the Republican Right and the greed, biggotry and cynicism they represent but I don’t think you can deny that the Tea Party people have been undeniably successful in getting the Democrat’s approval ratings to tank.

    It’ll be a sad, sad day in America in November when these nutters triumph. American politics has degraded to the point where these ‘nutters’ are actually electable. As sad as this sounds – Rodney Hide or even Roger Douglas would be to the left of Obama back in the United States (a bit hyperbolic but you get what I’m trying to imply.

    Cachpa: mad

    • Ag 1.1

      What will people do when the Tea Party loons do win?

      It seems to me that democratic theorists never envisioned the possibility that a majority could ever be seriously deranged. The teabaggers will test that to destruction.

    • Lew 1.2

      Jon Johansson has a useful take on this. In a nutshell: it’s crazy, not credible, and not politically sustainable.

      L

  2. nzfp 2

    TEA is an acronym for Taxed Enough Already. The TEA parties were a grass roots movement protesting the Bank Bailouts (TARP, TALF etc…) of 2007/2008, the result of which is the increase in taxes throughout the US to service the public debt created in bailing out the US Banking system to the tune of an estimated 23.7 Trillion dollars. To say you despise the TEA party is to say you despise anybody who objects to paying too much tax.

    However, the TEA parties have been co-opted by the faux corporate media who are promoting faux conservatives and libertarians such as Sarah Palin in order to promote a Republican Party based quasi third-party headed by Palin.

    • Lew 2.1

      I think this is highly arguable. Sure, in initial formation they may have been an organic movement which just objected to taxation, but they were swiftly and thoroughly colonised — not so much by the media, but by the readical fringe of the Republican party; Palin, Bachmann, etc. And that is what made the movement and its initially trivial demonstrations politically relevant and newsworthy.

      Also, to say that the movement just stands for “anybody who objects to paying too much tax” is to buy totally into the RWLNJ framing of the issue. In more orthodox terms, the analysis is more like “people who feel themselves losing their grip on their country, and the country losing its grip on the world”, with a healthy dose of (sometimes secular, sometimes not) end-of-days millennialism. It’s anything but simple, and tax is just a convenient hook on which to hang it all: just as it has been throughout American history, right from the initial events of the revolution from which they draw their foundation myth.

      L

    • Marty G 2.2

      you want to do some more research. Dick Armey was behind the first protests. EXiled Online had posts where they went along to the initial protests and exposed the astro-turfing.

  3. Don’t forget the consistent talk of being against “political correctness”, “nanny state policies” and the “you deserve to keep more of what you earn” slogan. Vague things to throw around that mean different things to different people. Is it too politically correct to try and stop domestic violence? Is it a nanny state because it’s illegal to drink and drive? Who pays for what you end up keeping?

    “It’s government now, it’s got to do responsible government things.” Well I like to think it’s got to, but that doesn’t mean it will.

  4. Bored 4

    I thought we already had a Tea Baggers party…ACT.

    • Lew 4.1

      We do. And they enjoy roughly the same degree of support as the teabag movement does (which is to say: bugger all, but those who do support it are very strident).

      L

      • Bored 4.1.1

        Actual fact Lew, ACT are the carpet baggers party, except they dont even want to pay for the assetts of Auckland.

  5. Jenny 5

    Various competing analysis of the Tea Party movement by the American Left.

    This (tea) is a toxic brew. It reflects a culture of greed, narcissism, nationalism, white supremacy, and self indulgence. The Tea Party at its heart is a tool of the neoliberal corporate-imperial state, singing praises of “small government” and “free markets,” while quietly demanding massive state welfare subsidies for itself, and demanding “market discipline,” “personal responsibility,” and “rugged individualism for the less fortunate. On the global stage, it is worth adding that, as Ford notes, “all but a sliver of the Tea Party crowd are belligerent hawks, as racist in their global worldview as in their domestic outlook. Just as they reject a national social contract with non-whites, they reject any compact with other peoples of the world, particularly the non-white ones. White nationalism is warlike, expansionist, and proud of it — a grave danger to the survival of humanity.”

    The Tea Partyers are mainly people of overlapping racial and socioeconomic privilege. They are intent on maintaining that privilege at the expense of disproportionately poor minorities. The ugly message at Tea Party rallies is clear: “keep your hands off my money; social welfare is fine, as long as I’m the beneficiary, but if my taxes go to the poor and needy, I’ll scream in the street until they’re cut off.”

    • Jenny 5.1

      P.S.

      A great post from Eddy. Eddy is quite correct that the Nats equivalent of the Tea Party are hindering the government from holding any responsible position on climate change.

      As has been remarked by both Marty and Sprout, this same extreme fringe also seems to holding the Nats to hostage in straight dealing with the Maori Party and Tuhoe to the detriment of Key’s hopes for a long term coalition partner.

      (Hopefully) This will have the same negative effect on the government as the climate denier fringe will have, in keeping the Nats away from the Treasury Benches.

      (All polling shows that the Nats other major coalition partner ACT, will not be in parliament after the next election).

      All it will need to definitively keep the Nats out, is for Labour to offer both the Greens and the Maori Party some sort of olive branch, and tone down the pointless and destructive sectarian attacks.

      There are early signs that this is now happening.

      Following Goff announcing support for the Maori Party’s bill for the removal of GST from healthy food, to really break the coalition, all it will further take is an announcement of a Labour Party policy shift around the Foreshore and Seabed.

      In my opinion, for Labour to die in the ditch over this one would be silly.

  6. Pascal's bookie 6

    Polling data: Plenty of.

    http://www.pollingreport.com/politics.htm

    Overall, I think it supports the ‘trouble for the GOP’ theory.

    There is real support, overwhelmingly from Republicans, but there are high numbers of “don’t know enough about them” from Independents. The more is known, they less they are liked seems to also come through.

  7. Lew 7

    Anyway, about the NZ teabag movement: I, for one, welcome the robust internal debates this will cause within National and the wider right. Since Brash failed they’ve been trying to present the kinder, gentler face of inclusive, compassionate, environmentally-aware and progressive/pragmatic conservatism — and in general they have succeeded at rebranding themselves thus. Now those who thought it was a good way to get elected will butt heads with those who genuinely think it is a good way to govern.

    This is a fight for the party’s soul. Much like the left’s internal ructions vis-a-vis identity politics — material versus postmaterial issues — it’s an argument that needs having. A party, or broad coalition of parties, can’t function properly over the long term with such deep internal divisions as are evident here. Historically, right-aligned movements have tended to suck it up and hang together lest they hang apart, whereas left movements have tended to splinter (and usually end up hanging apart as a consequence).

    The one advantage of this latter strategy is that the left now (at least on paper) has most of its disputes out in the open, and those involved are experienced with them. The right has been storing this up for longer, and when the dam bursts, it’ll be a serious flood. In the US there are generations worth of grievances; in NZ only a few years, so my pick is that the orthodox, moderate wing of the National party which currently governs will tell the fringe nutters to bottle it once more in the name of party unity.

    That’s probably bad for the party in the long run, but this is not a political movement which wants to have these battles in public — because they fight really dirty, and many of the positions they hold close to their bosoms are simply distasteful to the electorate. John Banks, bless him, immortalised this with the words “If I wear my policy on my sleeve, I won’t get elected.”

    L

  8. Quoth the Raven 8

    The New York Times did some polling on the Tea Party.

    • Bright Red 8.1

      shows you can be ‘educated’ and still dumb and ignorant.

      • Quoth the Raven 8.1.1

        Oh I agree with that statement.
        The point in linking to that poll was to add some grey to the black and white rhetoric (it seems to be a day of it here today) of the comments above. Yes they’re Republican and conservative, but they’re not exclusively Republican and they’re no more likely to support Palin than the rest of the population and interestingly they’re largely supportive of social security and medcaid.

        • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1.1

          they’re no more likely to support Palin than the rest of the population

          what the poll asked was

          Would Sarah Palin have the ability to be an effective President?

          Tea party people said No 47 Yes 40, which gives the plurality the article mentions, the general population said No 63 Yes 26, which is a massive difference as it happens.

          The figures for approving of Glenn Beck also tell a story

          As do the social issue results, the racial results and the whole package.

          the story is basically, dixiecrats.

          Looking through the results, as opposed to the NYT piece, I’m not seeing much grey added, to tell the truth.

          • Quoth the Raven 8.1.1.1.1

            I think it does much more than calling them ‘monsters’ and saying they’ve been whipped “into a frenzy based on ignorance and fear that was totally divorced with reality”. Such is not really shedding light on this phenomenon. On social issues they are disturbingly socially conservative, but then again so is our own Labour. The poll reveals that they are overwhelmingly concerned more about economic than social issues. This is partly why they are a much more heterogeneous group when it comes to other issues. The post here doesn’t mention probably the greatest motivating factor behind the dissatisfaction in America right now the massive upwards transfer of wealth from Bush-Obama bank. bailouts. The post says All over the country, ‘old school’ or ‘moderate’ Republicans (many of whom have pretty extreme rightwing records themselves) are being defeated in the Republican primaries by drolling idiots who are screaming about Obama’s Commienazis taking over. When in reality they’ve only had one victory. The recent victory of Rand Paul. Someone who thankfully opposes the patriot act, which has been renewed twice by Obama. Here’s a piece from a progressive website:

            Count me as one lefty liberal who is not the least bit unhappy with the victory by Rand Paul in Kentucky’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Not because it might make it easier for some Democratic Party hack to win in the general, but rather because he seems to be a principled libertarian in the mold of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and we need more of that impulse in the Congress. What’s wrong with cutting back big government that mostly exists to serve the interests of big corporations? Surely it would be better if that challenge came from populist progressives of the left, in the Bernie Sanders mold, but this is Kentucky we’re talking about.

            Rand Paul, like his dad, is worthy of praise for standing in opposition to the Wall Street bailout, which will come to be marked as the greatest swindle in U.S. history and which was, as he noted on his website, an unconstitutional redistribution of income in favor of the undeserving rich.

            • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1.1.1.1

              “The poll reveals that they are overwhelmingly concerned more about economic than social issues. This is partly why they are a much more heterogeneous group when it comes to other issues. The post here doesn’t mention probably the greatest motivating factor behind the dissatisfaction in America right now the massive upwards transfer of wealth from Bush-Obama bank. bailouts”

              That’d be why 56% of the Tea Party people said Obama’s policies favour the poor then I suppose. They hate the bailouts sure, but they also think Obama is a ‘socialist’ taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the ‘poor’, and they hate him for it.

              That would be part of that ” frenzy based on ignorance and fear that was totally divorced with reality’.

              They had an absolute hissy fit over Health Care Reform, (because they though it was a govt takeover) but are damn near silent about wall st or banking reform. The next thing they’ll be screaming about will be immigration.

              They are nothing like what you desperately want them to be. You need to put them in a long context of US right wing rhetoric. I’d suggest reading up on the southern strategy and Lee Attwater (it might pay to look at neo confederatism as well, and look at the links between that and the US Libertarian movement, incl your Mises.org people).

              • Quoth the Raven

                That’d be why 56% of the Tea Party people said Obama’s policies favour the poor then I suppose. They hate the bailouts sure, but they also think Obama is a ‘socialist’ taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the ‘poor’, and they hate him for it.

                What he has done is taken money from the workers and redistributed it upwards. And we know that his “healthcare reform” is nothing but health insurance reform that will do nothing to address the costs of healthcare in the US and is only just more taxes on the long suffering working class.

                They are nothing like what you desperately want them to be. You need to put them in a long context of US right wing rhetoric. I’d suggest reading up on the southern strategy and Lee Attwater (it might pay to look at neo confederatism as well, and look at the links between that and the US Libertarian movement, incl your Mises.org people).

                I don’t want them to be anything. I’m just saying they’re not monsters driven by ignorance. They’re people.
                It’s vast rightwing conspiracy time is it? I know about the origins of the modern American libertarian movement it’s from the old right. You really think Jews like Rothbard and Mises (both New Yorkers) were part of some “southern strategy”. Lee Atwater? Do you even know what Rothbard thought of Reagan? Why don’t you actually honestly engage in what those at mises.org have to say for once rather than believe your own prejudice. The wikipedia article on the southern strategy mentions that it exploited opposition to the New Left and Vietnam protests whereas Rothbard at this time was striking up a relationship with the New Left (see Left and Right journal) and was trenchantly opposed to the Vietnam war.

              • Pascal's bookie

                I knew I shouldn’t have bothered, but I’ll try again.

                This debate is about what the tea party is. I’ve not called them monsters, that’s just been you, being you, which is why I never usually bother with you.

                What he has done is taken money from the workers and redistributed it upwards

                A distraction, I understand he has made taxes more progressive, but not relevant to this deabate.

                But on topic, from your cited poll “56% of the Tea Party people said Obama’s policies favour the poor” How do you square that with what you say they are concerned about?

                That’s the southern strategy shining and blinking like a big red light. Especially when you combine it with what else the tea party people say about themselves.

                Lee Atwater:

                You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

                Re the Mises institute, that was partially a stir, but read up on Thomas Woods, unlike Rothbrad and Mises, he is still alive, and he’s a neoconfederate, and a senior scholar at the mises institute.

                All I’m saying that the tea party is better understood as part of that history of the GOP rather than through any decent form of libertarianism. I’m not calling them monsters.

                And Rand Paul, a few quotes from his site:

                I”BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY Leading United States Senate candidate Rand Paul today criticized the Obama administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and try terrorism suspects in United States Civil Courts.

                “Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution,’ said Dr. Paul. “These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil. I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.’

                —————

                Under Dr. Paul’s vision, the percentage of our federal budget spent on national defense would increase.

                Dr. Paul supports keeping enemy combatants at Guantanamo and never bringing them to American soil. He supports military tribunals and not civilian trials for detainees. He would end visas that allow terrorists to come to our country with our permission….

                Additionally, Rand has clearly stated that once war is underway, how we wage war is up to our generals and the President. It is Congress’ job to decide whether or not the threat requires war. It is our commander-in-chief’s and military’s job to win it.*

                ———–

                * that’s the unitary executive theory.

                Seriously, if you want to get all precious and demand people debate you, you should try and be a little more honest yourself.

                You claimed they didn’t like Pailn anymore than the gen pop, that’s false.

                You claim they are concerned about wealth goping from the poor t the rich, but they claim Obama is giving too much to the poor.

                I point this out, and put their beliefs in an American context, and you just fall back on your usual abuse and claim that I’m not being honest.

                Good luck with that.

              • Lew

                Bookie, it should be crystal clear by now that, whatever you’re arguing against, QtR isn’t arguing for. No matter what it actually is he/you are arguing for/against.

                It’s Scotsmen all the way down, and not a one of them True.

                L

              • Quoth the Raven

                I’m happy to concede the argument to you (I wouldn’t to Lew because he’s never right you are) and I’ll happily concede I don’t know much about Rand Paul (clearly not his father) or the history of the American right. I do know about the history of libertarianism and you weren’t honestly engaging when it came to mises.org you were as you said just stirring. When it comes to libertarians, like Lew, you simply aren’t honest. I remain trenchantly opposed to conservatism (especially social whether it’s from tea partiers or the Labour party). I agree with other libertarians in calling the tea partiers authoritarians. (see how scathing they can be of the tea party).
                You claim they are concerned about wealth goping from the poor t the rich, but they claim Obama is giving too much to the poor. No I said they were concerned about the bailouts which was welath going from the poor to the rich. Which is as that progressive pointed out is the biggest swindle in American history One carried out jointly by the Republicans and the Democrats. Certainly not just a “distraction”
                I will point out that Obama hasn’t yet closed Guantanamo (it was supposed to be closed by January). He’s exapanding Bagram. He’s offloading Guantanamo detainees on to poor island nations. So Rand Paul may have horrible opinions but Obama carries them out in reality.

  9. randal 9

    if 99 people out of a hundred say 2+2= 5 it still doesnt make it so.
    what the teabaggers represent is the thread of irrationality that has managed to attach itself to the political process in the united states and furthermore they believe that all their thoughts are facts.
    ya get that.

  10. Clarke 10

    It’s a great analysis, Eddie. And the saying “live by the sword, die by the sword” rather comes to mind.

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