Monday, November 18, 2013

Tea Party Debacle?


The shut down of the Federal Government a few weeks ago seems to have been almost completely forgotten.  Fears of a global economic meltdown have subsided, and most Americans have readily accepted the media mantra that the Tea Party was to blame and that it and the Republican Party have been badly damaged by the debacle. But was the Tea Party to blame?

First, let’s dismiss the attempt to make Senator Ted Cruz of Texas the arch-villain of the shutdown. Cruz is a Republican Senator and while he might be somewhat outspoken, he has no actual power in the Democrat controlled Senate. Moreover, the Senate leadership refused to allow any votes on the various budget proposals sent to it by the House of Representatives. In fact, Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid, would not even allow discussion.

The House of Representatives actually sent two budget bills up to the Senate but they were dead in the water. So the shutdown was the result of a conflict between the Republican controlled House of Representatives and President Obama. In the House the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, had to walk a tightrope since many conservative members resisted any compromise with the intransigent President. 

 Boehner, who obviously could not count on any support from Democrat members, had difficulty controlling members of his own party. In particular, the difficulty was with the 50 to 60 Republican members who were identified with the “Tea Party” although the media liked to call them right wing radicals. During the controversy it struck me as odd that such a small minority, most of whom were elected recently, could have such influence.

Nevertheless, the finger pointing, especially by the media, was all directed at the Tea Party. Why?

I know that most members of Congress are elected over and over again for almost as long as they want to serve. Incumbents of either party are re-elected over 95% of the time. But still the House of Representatives, more than any other part of our government, is supposed to represent the people of this country. The so-called Tea Party members did not get their positions by a kind of coup. They were all elected by constituents in the home states and often by wide majorities. To attack them is to attack the people who elected them.

Moreover, most of them were elected in the past two or four years. They must reflect something that is really going on in the country. There are many other issues that bother Americans but no one can deny that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is the main issue.

From the first, Obamacare was suspect. The way it was pushed through Congress was suspect. At that time both Houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats but even then Democrat leadership had to resort to foul play to get it passed. Some Senators got special treatment for their states. Also, remember that the Senate version was different from the House version but that instead of going through a reconciliation process, the House of Representatives was “deemed” to have agreed with the Senate version.

Then, the Supreme Court very kindly saved the proposal by an equal bit of political evasion. The President had always insisted that the “mandate” for every American to purchase coverage was not a tax. While Chief Justice Roberts argued that such a mandate was unconstitutional, he allowed the law to continue by calling the mandate a tax!

Finally, the Administration gave itself four years to get this new system up and rolling. In that period the Tea Party came into existence even before it became clear that the implementation of the overhaul of the Nation’s health care system would be a fiasco.

I know it’s ridiculous to talk about our Constitution anymore. But as I said above the House of Representatives was supposed to be the voice of the people. Originally, the President was elected by an Electoral College chosen by the various states. His term of office was four years. Senators were not elected by popular vote but nominated by state legislatures. They were elected for six years. But Representatives were elected by a direct vote of the people and their terms were limited to two years in order that they would be more responsive to their constituents.

In my opinion the Tea Party has been stigmatized by the ruling class in America, a class made up of politicians, lobbyists, union leaders, and government employees centered in and around Washington D. C. In the October 2013 issue of the St. Croix Review, my favorite journal of opinion, editor Barry MacDonald reviewed a new book, “This Town, Two Parties and a Funeral,,,” about life inside the D.C. beltway. It is a frightening story about how the political elites join together to achieve their own personal goals.

Here is MacDonald’s summation.

Intelligent, observant, caring and involved Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum are bamboozled. We misunderstand when we focus on ideology, because the hearts of the Washington players aren’t invested in ideology—ideology is a tool. The hearts of the players are in self-advancement and in the preservation of the system of self-advancement.
Americans on the left should see that the many programs designed to uplift the poor have worked precisely as designed: the redistributors of money are uplifted, the poor remain poor.
This governing class is not only out of touch with the American people, but it also doesn’t want to be in touch. The public uproar over the President’s proposed military action in Syria forced the President to back down. Fortunately, he was bailed out by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. That uproar now seems minor compared to the furor over the botched opening of the ACA and the loss of medical coverage by millions of Americans. Already, the ruling class is backing down. Who will they blame?


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