29th Jul, 2011

Dysfunctional Republicans; Mythical Tea Party

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If anything confirms what this blog has been saying for over a year about the Republican Party this debt extension mess confirms it. When House Republican leader John Boehner announced that he was pulling his bill because he lacked the votes it confirmed the theory I have been throwing out that there no longer is a Republican Party, that what passes for the organization with that name is nothing more than an alliance of convenience between a variety of interest groups that have no common ground.

Many have been quick to blame Boehner with a death watch already started in the press as to how long he will last. There have even been several references to bring back the era of Tom “the Hammer” DeLay, the former GOP House leader who was sentenced to three years in jail for illegally funneling campaign contributions.

DeLay’s jail sentence and Boehner’s frustrations show how different life has become for the Republican Party. DeLay actually started it all when he formed his own PAC to funnel money to GOP candidates, an idea he borrowed from Newt Gingrich. The Republican Party no longer controlled the votes in the House, DeLay’s PAC called the tune.

Today with the changes in campaign finance in part spurred by the Citizens United decision, politics has now become the play ground of the PACS, with the parties becoming more irrelevant except as coalitions of convenience.

Delay’s PAC was his “hammer,” but Boehner has no such hammer. That he has been able to hold his coalition together for this long is a tribute to his leadership.

The Tea Party Myth

The media continue to blame what they loosely describe as “the Tea Party” for the problem. Let me repeat one more time: there is no Tea Party, period. Any reporter who says there is is either stupid or lazy or both.

There are actually several potential claimants to the title of Tea Party and none of them like each other and all of them have questionable ties. All this was reported here last year. One group, the Tea Party Patriots has as one of its spokespeople a woman who owes back taxes and whose husband ran a company that recruited foreign workers for American jobs. The other, the Tea Party Express, is the creation of a political consulting firm.

Neither of these qualify as a political party. In addition there are a host of local organizations that call themselves tea parties, some affiliated with the above organizations, and some not. All of this adds up to the reality that there is NO monolithic national tea party calling the shots for people in Congress.

Now that is not to say the Express and the Patriots do not have power. They did contribute money, expertise and grassroots organizers to several campaigns, so in that sense they do have some power over those members.

In the Shadows

More to fear–and to blame–for this mess are the shadowy figures like the Koch brothers and not so shadowy figures like Karl Rove who have been making their will felt behind the scenes. Rove’s American Crossroads “super Pac” was a significant player in the midterm elections that put some of the current GOP Congress in place. As a result they answer to Karl Rove not John Boehner.

As the New York Times reported last October:

Republican operatives have embraced the use of nonprofit issue groups that can keep donors’ identities secret.

Now those chickens have come home to roost: those secret donors are the ones gumming up the works in DC.  Until they come out of the shadows no one will truly know why the extension of the debt ceiling is being held hostage–and given the current Supreme Court that is not likely to happen any time soon.

The Big Picture

What we have, to quote a famous movie line, is a failure to communicate. The media, as usual, have totally botched the job by not explaining the roots of this crisis or dragging up nonexistent scapegoats like the tea party.

The issue of extending the debt ceiling is without a doubt one of the most serious crises to hit this country in quite some time. BUT…it is the symptom of something far more serious–the failure or our current party and political system. What the debt ceiling crisis tells us is that neither party controls its members any more. Instead they are controlled by various shadowy political groups and PACs that finance and help run their campaigns.

In short there are some people out there whose names you will probably never know who are willing to let this country default of its debts for the first time in history because they stand to gain from it. This is not a half-crazy paranoid fantasy, the evidence is there for all to see in John Boehner’s inability to control his own caucus.

The bigger question is if the GOP is no longer calling the tune who is?

The bigger issue is how can we take back our country from the likes of Karl Rove and these shadowy PACs?

When James Madison wrote about the evils of faction in Federalist #10 one of his major points was that money was the most insidious form of faction.  He feared that more than any other threat to our democracy. Madison thought that the division of powers in the Constitution would help dilute the power of money, but from a systems point of view he missed one thing–in a system with a division of powers its is EASIER for money to hold the rest of government hostage.

Right now that is what a minority of people are doing. There needs to be a better way.



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