The One Big Issue has just been inserted into the 2012 presidential election campaign: the Supreme Court will hear a case challenging Obama’s healthcare law. The decision – whether the healthcare reform act, specifically the individual mandate requiring all citizens to purchase healthcare insurance, is constitutional or not – will come in late June 2012, in the midst of the presidential campaign.
As blogged about earlier on here, the healthcare issue is the one big rallying point for conservatives against Obama. If the Supreme Court strikes it down, we may regard Obama’s presidential term as a failure. Moreover, if this Court strikes down the individual mandate as in violation of the Commerce Clause (which allows the federal government to regulate the economy), the floodgates are open. To put it bluntly, the entire regulatory and welfare structure in America as constructed since FDR’s 1930s then comes into jeopardy. It may become the end of the New Deal.
That’s of course the wet dream of every contemporary Tea Partier and Republican. So watch out, as the US economy may be catapulted back to the late 1700s by a conservative Supreme Court…
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The development set the stage for oral arguments by March and a decision in late June, in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign.
The court’s decision to step in had been expected, but Monday’s order answered many questions about just how the case would proceed. Indeed, it offered a roadmap toward a ruling that will help define the legacy of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from just one decision, from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, the only one so far striking down the mandate. The decision, from a divided three-judge panel, said the mandate overstepped Congressional authority and could not be justified by the constitutional power “to regulate commerce” or “to lay and collect taxes.”
The appeals court went no further, though, severing the mandate from the rest of the law.
On Monday, the justices agreed to decide not only whether the mandate is constitutional but also whether, if it is not, how much of the balance of the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, must fall along with it.
A brilliant piece in The New Yorker by Jeffrey Toobin about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas, appointed by George H. Bush, is arguably the most conservative Justice on the Court since the 1930s. He adheres to a very strict originalist and textualist reading of the Constitution, meaning that he believes it should be applied to the twenty-first century the way the Founders intended it for society in the late eighteenth century (whoever came up with this comically absurd idea should receive a prize). In addition to that, unlike the other textualist Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Thomas has no qualm about ignoring precendent in court rulings: when he thinks a previous decision is wrong in his interpretation of the Constitution, he will overturn it. In Thomas’ case, this also means historically exploring how the inhabitants of the thirteen American colonies two-and-a-half century ago meant this or that piece of law.
Adhering to a very strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution means that you believe that only a very small, limited government is constitutionally allowed (just like it was intended back then). If if were up to justices like Thomas, the US government would have no business regulating anything in the American economy or society (although they have, of course, no qualms about executive branch overreach when it comes to military affairs or torture). This leads to predictable conservative positions on such issues as gun rights and federalism, but also – and here it comes – on healthcare. The Obama administration has relied on a ‘broad’ interpretation of the Commerce Clause, which by New Deal-era judicial interpretation has allowed the federal government to intervene in the (trans-state) economy, to mandate individuals to buy health insurance. But it is very much the question whether the current conservative Court, including Justice Thomas, will uphold this interpretation of the Commerce Clause. It is very much possible that Obama’s healthcare reform law will sometime soon be judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Why is this piece on Clarence Thomas so relevant in this context? Well, because according to Toobin, Justice Thomas’ once extreme positions on various issues he has held since his 1991 confirmation have in the past twenty years become more mainstream. Take, for example, the gun rights issue. Among conservatives today, it is commonplace to argue that the lines in the Constitution about ‘the right to keep and bear arms’ apply to individuals, allowing personal gun rights. But just two decades ago (I didn’t know this), this was considered a radical position in a legal profession that held that the lines apply to state militias only, thus warranting more strict regulation on guns. It was Thomas who came up with the former interpretation, striking down Bill Clinton’s 1999 Brady Bill, and ever since, gun rights in the US have expanded. The same thing has happened on other issues: Thomas’ positions, at first considered radical, move the borders of the acceptable and allow judicial discourse to shift rightwards.
In the era that has seen the rise of the Tea Party out of protests against healthcare reform, the same thing could happen to Obama’s laws. Or, the piece warns, even more broadly to the entire 1930s New Deal-era constellation of laws and regulation that have awarded the federal government a role in protecting the people against the worst excesses of capitalism. Clarence Thomas and his wife are frequent speakers and ardent supporters of the Tea Party and other manifestations of extreme rightwing politics. These people want to take the economy back to the 1920s law of the jungle. In the words of Walter Russell Mead at the American Interest, their goal is to bring the Blue Empire down…
So read this must-read profile of Clarence Thomas to see why he has already been compared to Lord of the Rings’ Frodo – an overlooked actor slowly but steadily moving towards his goal, not taken seriously by his opponents until it is too late.
In several of the most important areas of constitutional law, Thomas has emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court. Since the arrival of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in 2005, and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., in 2006, the Court has moved to the right when it comes to the free-speech rights of corporations, the rights of gun owners, and, potentially, the powers of the federal government; in each of these areas, the majority has followed where Thomas has been leading for a decade or more. Rarely has a Supreme Court Justice enjoyed such broad or significant vindication.
The conventional view of Thomas takes his lack of participation at oral argument as a kind of metaphor. The silent Justice is said to be an intellectual nonentity, a cipher for his similarly conservative colleague, Antonin Scalia. But those who follow the Court closely find this stereotype wrong in every particular. Thomas has long been a favorite of conservatives, but they admire the Justice for how he gives voice to their cause, not just because he votes their way. “Of the nine Justices presently on the Court, he is the one whose opinions I enjoy reading the most,” Steve Calabresi, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law and a co-founder of the Federalist Society, said. “They are very scholarly, with lots of historical sources, and his views are the most principled, even among the conservatives. He has staked out some bold positions, and then the Court has set out and moved in his direction.”
The implications of Thomas’s leadership for the Court, and for the country, are profound. Thomas is probably the most conservative Justice to serve on the Court since the nineteen-thirties. More than virtually any of his colleagues, he has a fully wrought judicial philosophy that, if realized, would transform much of American government and society. Thomas’s views both reflect and inspire the Tea Party movement, which his wife has helped lead almost since its inception. The Tea Party is a diffuse operation, and it can be difficult to pin down its stand on any given issue. Still, the Tea Party is unusual among American political movements in its commitment to a specific view of the Constitution—one that accords, with great precision, with Thomas’s own approach. For decades, various branches of the conservative movement have called for a reduction in the size of the federal government, but for the Tea Party, and for Thomas, small government is a constitutional command.
In recent weeks, two federal courts of appeals have reached opposing conclusions about the constitutionality of the 2010 health-care law; the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, upheld it, while the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, struck down its requirement that all Americans buy health insurance. This conflict means that the Supreme Court will almost certainly agree to review the case this fall, with a decision expected by June of next year. It is likely to be the most important case for the Justices since Bush v. Gore, and it will certainly be the clearest test yet of Thomas’s ascendancy at the Court. Thomas’s entire career as a judge has been building toward the moment when he would be able to declare that law unconstitutional. It would be not only a victory for his approach to the Constitution but also, it seems, a defeat for the enemies who have pursued him for so long: liberals, law professors, journalists—the group that Thomas refers to collectively as “the élites.” Thomas’s triumph over the health-care law and its supporters is by no means assured, but it is now tantalizingly within reach.
Check out this video from yesterday night’s CNN/Tea Party debate for Republican presidential candidates. Wolf Blitzer asks libertarian Ron Paul the hypothetical question what should happen when a 30-something who doesn’t have health insurance gets terminally sick.
At the point when Blitzer asks “Should society let him die?”, the Tea Party crowd starts to cheer and scream “Yeah!”:
My esteem for the American voter -- at least, this subsection of the American electorate, of which I really don’t know how representative it is for the American voter at large anymore - could not sink any lower.
Republicans really are monstrous, barbarous animals. You’d almost wish some deadly, painful disease upon these ‘people’ themselves.
Because this incident does not stand alone. Watch this excerpt from the previous GOP debate, in which the interviewer mentions that under Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, the most inmates ever -- 264 people -- have been executed. Check out the reaction of the audience:
Michael Lind has an interesting political analysis up at Salon.com on the three fundamentalisms that nowadays mark the Republican right: Biblical fundamentalism, constitutional fundamentalism and market fundamentalism. I think this is a way of putting things that is largely correct. The Republican Party is now so far removed from any other political party in the Western world that it can only be described in these terms.
It does not explain, however, the seeming contradictions in this fundamentalist philosophy; for example, how can you adhere to a hardcore market fundamentalism along the lines of Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand, and at the same time claim to be a Bible-following Christian? After all, the teachings of Christ have nothing to do with considering selfishness a virtue. Rand, who along with God and the Founding Fathers is always named the greatest inspiration for every Republican presidential candidate, herself proclaimed to be anti-Christian in her ‘thinking’.
Lind also shows how the intellectual project of re-constituting a moderate conservatism as a political ideology in the 1960s led, by and large propelled by the rise of evangelical Protestantism and the presidency of Ronald Reagan, to the extremist fundamentalism that nowadays marks the Republican Party. All of the hallmarks of Biblical, constitutional and market fundamentalism can be found, for example, in the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.
What I’m worried about (as if the adherence to a triple fundamentalism by one of the world’s two most important political parties is not frightening enough) is the emergence of a similar kind of orthodoxy emerging in the Netherlands today. Whereas the Dutch polity used to be marked by agreement across the political spectrum on such issues as the multicultural society (in hindsight perhaps a bit too much consensus in that respect), political equality, tolerance for differences and care for weaker groups in society, the governing coalition nowadays seems to converge ideologically to adherence to a monocultural society, treating people with non-Dutch backgrounds as second-class citizens, and implementing a by European standards pretty hardcore market fundamentalism.
In other words: rightwing orthodoxy in Europe, at least in the Netherlands, is intensifying and growing more extreme just like it has in the US. The question is how those still believing in political equality, a rights-based citizenship, and a market tempered by government interference can defend themselves in an increasingly hostile climate, in which such very basic and once universally accepted notions are painted ‘elitist’.
In contradiction to the hostility to Darwinism shared by many of its constituents, the American right is evolving rapidly before our eyes. The project of creating an American version of Burkean conservatism has collapsed. What has replaced it is best described as triple fundamentalism — a synthesis of Biblical fundamentalism, constitutional fundamentalism and market fundamentalism.
Following World War II, the American right was a miscellany of marginal, embittered subcultures — anti-New Dealers, isolationists, paranoid anticommunists, anti-semites and white supremacists. Russell Kirk and others associated with William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review sought to Americanize a version of high-toned British Burkean conservatism. While the eighteenth century British parliamentarian was embraced by conservatives for his opposition to the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, a champion of the rights of Britain’s Indian, Irish and American subjects, could also be claimed by liberals like Yale Law School’s Alexander Bickel, who preferred gradual, cautious reform to radical social experimentation. In its liberal as in its conservative forms, Burkeanism disdains reaction and radicalism alike, and favors change in lesser things when necessary to maintain the continuity of more fundamental institutions and values.
The religious equivalent of Burkean politics is orthodoxy, not fundamentalism. Orthodoxy means the continuity of a tradition, as interpreted by an authoritative body of experts, such as priests, rabbis or mullahs. The term “fundamentalism” originated in the early twentieth century as a description of reactionary evangelical Protestants in the U.S. who rejected liberal Protestantism and modern evolutionary science and insisted on the inerrancy of the Bible. The phrase is nowadays applied indiscriminately and often inaccurately to various religious movements, some of which, in the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim traditions are better described as ultra-orthodox.
The increasingly-Southernized American Right has transferred the fundamentalist Protestant mentality from the sphere of religion to the spheres of law and the economy. Protestant fundamentalism is now joined by constitutional fundamentalism and market fundamentalism.
In all three cases, the pattern is the same. There is the eternal Truth that never varies — the will of God, the principles of the Founding Fathers, the so-called laws of the free market. There are the scriptures which explain the eternal truths — the King James Bible, in the case of religious fundamentalism, the Constitution or the Federalist Papers, in the case of constitutional fundamentalism, and Friedrich von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom in the case of market fundamentalism (The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand can be substituted for Hayek, on request).
“There’s only one book you ever need to read,” a Bible-believin’ Texan Baptist once assured me. He was two books short of a populist conservative bookshelf. But in the age of post-intellectual, fundamentalist conservatism, three books are sufficient to make anyone the equal of the most erudite intellectual. The books need not actually be read, and for the most part probably are not; it is enough, in argument, to thump the Bible, and to thump “The Road to Serfdom” and “Atlas Shrugged,” too.
Modern American market fundamentalism, too, is recognizably modeled on the fundamentalist Protestant version of church history, even though market fundamentalists need not be Christian conservatives. Ignoring the long history of tariffs, land grants, military procurement and mixed public-private corporations in the United States, the market fundamentalists pretend that the U.S. was governed by the laws of the market until Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal replaced capitalism with socialism (or statism, or fascism, or whatever Amity Shlaes or Jonah Goldberg want to call it). Russell Kirk wrote that any true conservative would be a socialist before he would be a libertarian. But then he was a Burkean High Church conservative.
The rise of triple fundamentalism on the American right creates a crisis of political discourse in the United States. Back when conservatism was orthodox and traditional, rather than fundamentalist and counter-revolutionary, conservatives could engage in friendly debates with liberals, and minds on both sides could now and then be changed. But if your sect alone understands the True Religion and the True Constitution and the Laws of the Market, then there is no point in debate. All those who disagree with you are heretics, to be defeated, whether or not they are converted.
For their part, progressives have no idea of how to respond to the emergent right’s triple fundamentalism. Today it is the left, not the right, that is Burkean in America. Modern American liberalism is disillusioned, to the point of defeatism, by the frustration of the utopian hopes of 1960s liberalism in the Age of Reagan that followed and has not yet ended. Today it is liberals, not conservatives, who tend to be cautious and incremental and skeptical to a fault about the prospects for reform, while it is the right that wants to blow up the U.S. economy and start all over, on the basis of the doctrines of two Austrian professors and a Russian émigré novelist.
Although all media on the right vehemently refuse to discuss the possibility, it seems the extent to which Tea Party and Palin militant and violence-drenched rhetoric about socialist tyrannical government and the right of people to turn to ‘Second Amendment remedies’ has been a contextual influence on Loughner pulling the trigger is still an open question.
At the same time, it is true that some medical research lately seems to point towards marihuana use possibly exacerbating schizophrenic disorders in patients. That is: if you are somebody with a disposition for or history of schizophrenia, it might be the case that marihuana use is bad for you. Although this blog has consistently been in favour of marihuana legalization, this is a topic that needs to be addressed. One thing that should be clear is that marihuana does not cause schizophrenia. That idea should immediately be done away with. But it seems that people who have a disposition for schizophrenia are more prone to smoke marihuana, which may then trigger the disease earlier and exacerbate it. On the other hand, other research indicates that smoking marihuana actually may have beneficial effects on schizophrenic patients. So in addition to being a chicken-egg question, medical results are pretty unclear. But it’s probably not a good idea to recommend these people to smoke a lot of pot; nor drink a lot of alcohol; nor recommend this to anyone.
But what’s the most unfortunate thing about this whole affair is that arguments about the context and causes of a political murder attempt now become fodder in the political culture wars themselves. According to ‘the right’, Loughner was a Communist Manifesto reading left-wing anarchist pothead; according to ‘the left’, he was a Tea Party inspired violent gun-toting paramilitary. Although it’s absurd to leave the political context out of this issue – since this was a plot to murder a political figure – and portray this as a lone gunman situation, maybe every position shouldn’t be driven to the extremes.
Because one fact is that left and right wing paranoid anti-authoritarianism are lying close together, and Loughner seems to be someone who doesn’t necessarily lean towards either one, but picked up pieces from both strands. And another fact is that in the hyperbole of both sides in the debate about what caused this, some truth may reside. Yes, smoking a lot of marihuana is bad for people with a disposition for psychotic disorders. Yes, swamping the airwaves with talk about ‘aiming’ and ‘reloading’, and painting political disagreement as Armageddon, and delegitimizing the democratic process is reckless and irresponsible, as it might drive people who have difficulty separating rhetoric from reality to crazy deeds.
So maybe at a minimum, that can be admitted. And maybe then everybody can behave civil again and engage each other in normal debate about the future course of the country.
Now that the dust from yesterday’s assault has more or less settled, it’s time for reflection. The NYT has a number of good analyses, although they suffer a bit from attempting to be even-handed in assigning the roots of the vitriol and polarization in American political debate to both sides of the spectrum.
The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.
Consider the comments of Sharron Angle, the Tea Party favorite who unsuccessfully ran against Harry Reid for the Senate in Nevada last year. She talked about “domestic enemies” in the Congress and said, “I hope we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Then there’s Rick Barber, a Republican who lost his primary in a Congressional race in Alabama, but not before airing an ad in which someone dressed as George Washington listened to an attack on the Obama agenda and gravely proclaimed, “Gather your armies.”
Currently, it’s unclear whether the gunman, rejected military recruit Jared Lee Loughner (22), was motivated in any way by Tea Party propaganda about government takeover, ‘socialism’ and ‘tyranny’, or by the militant and violent rhetoric of someone like Sarah Palin, with her crosshair map and talk about ‘aiming’ and ‘reloading’.
Looking at Loughner’s ramblings on YouTube, he seems to be more of a ‘general’ paranoid conspiracy theory-believing, anti-government anarchist than either a left-wing or right-wing activist; although it is noticeable that ideas about ‘currency’ (the gold standard) and ‘mind control’ seem to be prominent in his incoherent babble. This may indicate some infatuation with Tea Party topics.
His favorite book list is actually rather good, I must say, featuring Orwell’s Animal Farm, Huxley’s Brave New World, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Hesse’s Siddharta (as well as Marx’ The Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf). While these are all masterpieces, they have in common that they deal with the topic of reality perception being controlled by higher powers, as well as the possibility of alternate realities. Loughner in his YouTube videos writes about ‘conscience dreams’, and his MySpace is called ‘fallen asleep’. His talk of grammar being controlled by the government calls to mind Foucault. The inclusion of The Communist Manifesto on this list has been cited by some as proof that Loughner could not be a Tea Party activist, but since the Manifesto deals with the topic of organized revolution more than it does with imposing a state-controlled economy, I find its appearance on the list not so strange.
It also seems that Loughner had came in contact with (campus) police a couple of times, so a picture more or less emerges of a troubled adolescent, who reads stuff that’s maybe a few levels too complex for him. But these are exactly the people that you shouldn’t expose to the sort of militant, violent political rhetoric that since Obama’s presidency has been employed by the Tea Party and the Republican right. Because let’s face it: the whole imagery of the Tea Party, and of those politicians who’ve embraced them, is about violent revolution, 18th-century style. They wave around with banners from the Revolutionary War, saying ‘Don’t tread on me’, they bring guns to town hall meetings (and vigorously defend their Second Amendment right to do so), and they talk about ‘tyranny’ and ‘socialism’, about ‘taking their country back’. Sarah Palin talks about electoral battles in terms of ‘aiming’ and ‘reloading’, and continuously revels in the use of guns. Above the crosshair map Palin wrote ‘We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution’ – a dimly veiled threat. All because of political disagreement with Democrats! All because of a healthcare law that aims to provide uninsured people with basic necessities.
The problem with the American hard right these days is that they paint political differences in terms of doomsday’s and Armageddons. They don’t debate their political opponents; they deny them the right to exist. For Tea Partiers a Democratic presidency is something that’s inherently illegitimate, and not the outcome of a democratic process. That is why they cast their political language in terms that hark back to the foundation of the American polity: the Revolutionary War. But by doing so, they damage what was the result of this struggle: a democratic republic in which political differences are solved through peaceful procedure. And, in addition, they vindicate twisted individuals like Jared Lee Loughner, who lives in his own reality, in which ‘conscience’ is but a dream, to take matters into their own hand, and start using guns.
That is why it is not at all far-fetched, or an attempt at politicization, to cross-connect Tea Party and Republican right political rhetoric, and yesterday’s gunman act. Even if it turns out that Loughner had nothing to do with the Tea Party or their discourse (which I doubt, particularly the latter), it must still be admitted that with the very rhetoric they use, they enable people who have trouble taking rhetoric for just text to start taking things literally, and start their own little one-man violent revolution.
- Edit: I’d also like to say that one of these days, someone is going to point at Loughner’s marihuana use, and find the cause for everything in that. This will then be used as another argument in hysteric anti-drug arguments. Of course this will completely ignore the bigger causes and context of Loughner’s act, but it will happen.
They really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and, you know, even things for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. when people do that, you gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.”
Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was not actually holding a town hall when her gun incident occurred. She was conducting a “Congress on Your Corner” at the Douglas Safeway — a simple event where people line up to get help with things like Social Security or documentation. But the health care protests have spread way beyond actual meetings about health care, and a handful of irritated conservatives have been following Giffords around almost everywhere.
“When you represent a district — the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, the town too tough to die, nothing’s a surprise,” she told a reporter later, showing a commendable ability to respond to any crisis by throwing in a plug for local tourist attractions. Rudy Ruiz, the father of one of Giffords’s college interns, saw the gun hit the floor. “It was an older gentleman, 65 or so. Basically, he was one of the ones holding up a banner saying ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ ” said Ruiz. “He bent over, and it fell out of the holster is what it did. It bounced. That concerned me. I just thought what would happen if it had gone off? Could my daughter have gotten hurt?”
This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tuscon, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers
When a congresswoman is shot in the head in the very act of democracy, we should all pause. This is fundamentally not a partisan issue and should not be. Acts of violence against political figures destroy democracy itself, for both parties. We don’t know who killed congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and we should be very cautious in drawing any conclusions yet about why. But we can know that, whoever killed her and for whatever reason, political rhetoric involving words like “target” and “gun-sights” is inherently irresponsible.
For a public figure who has appeared on a national ticket and who commands a cult-like following, the irresponsibility is even more profound. And so one reads the following sentences from the Arizona Wildcat last September with the blood draining from one’s face:
Palin Reloads; Aims For Giffords
Earlier this year, Palin drew sharp criticism for featuring a map on her web page riddled with crosshairs targeting Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts. Tucson’s Gabrielle Giffords is among the 20 Democratic incumbents whom Palin intends to use for target practice.
Giffords was one of twenty members of Congress placed within metaphorical “gun-sights” in SarahPac’s graphic. That is not the same thing as placing a gun-sight over someone’s face or person. No one can possibly believe – or should – that Sarah Palin is anything but horrified by what has taken place. But it remains the kind of rhetorical excess which was warned about at the time, and which loners can use to dreadful purposes. It is compounded by the kind of language used by the Arizona Wildcat as well. Maybe “Palin Reloads; Aims For Giffords” is good copy as a headline. But next time, an editor should surely pause before enabling forces whose capacity for violence is real.
And it kept getting hotter. In June 2009, still just six months into the Obama presidency, the Fox News anchor Shepard Smith broke with his own network’s party line to lament a rise in “amped up” Americans “taking the extra step and getting the gun out.” He viewed the killing of a guard by a neo-Nazi Obama hater at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington as the apotheosis of the “more and more frightening” post-election e-mail surging into Fox.
The moment passed. Glenn Beck, also on Fox, spoke for most on the right when he dismissed the shooter as a “lone gunman nutjob.” Those who showed up with assault rifles at presidential health care rallies that summer were similarly minimized as either solitary oddballs or overzealous Second Amendment patriots. Few cared when The Boston Globe reported last fall that the Secret Service was overwhelmed by death threats against the president as well as a rise in racist hate groups and antigovernment fervor. It’s no better now. In a cover article last month, Barton Gellman wrote in Time that the magazine’s six-month investigation found that “the threat level against the president and other government targets” is at its highest since the antigovernment frenzy that preceded Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Yglesias thinks what I think too. If Sarah Palin gets the nomination for Republican presidential candidate, she has a very, very decent chance at winning. I put the odds at 50 percent. The idea that Obama will easily defeat her deeply underestimates (or overestimates) the American electorate. If a one-term black senator with “Hussein” for a middle name could win, why not Palin?
You better prepare your shelter, gather non-perishable food, etc.
John McCain was a widely admired war hero with a reputation for moderation who had favorable ratings well over 50 percent on Election Day and he lost to a first-term senator with a black nationalist spiritual mentor. Palin isn’t the most formidable candidate out there, and in a very close election her flaws could easily deny the GOP the White House. And very close elections do happen—think how important the 2000 presidential election was in retrospect. But most elections aren’t that close, and if the fundamentals are strongly against Obama—which they may be—Palin will beat him.
An ugly scene took place outside the Kentucky Senatorial debate Monday night as what appeared to be a supporter of Republican candidate Rand Paul was captured by a local news affiliate literally stomping the head of a member of the progressive-activist organization MoveOn.org.
The MoveOn volunteer, Lauren Valle, went to the hospital after explaining what had happened to local press. As of 11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time she remained there, according to another MoveOn official. According to a local Fox station, Valle had attempted to approach Paul before the debate took place, dressed in a blonde wig and with a “RepublicanCorp” sign mocking him as a stooge of special interests.
Attendees around Valle are heard screaming, “get the cops” as cameras captured her being dragged to the pavement by her red sweater. Once on the ground a man wearing white sneakers pushed the sole of his shoe down on her head.
There is no definitive word on who stomped on Valle or why they went to such lengths to stop her protest. A call to the Lexington police department was not immediately returned. The Kentucky Post, however, reported that: “Police say she refused treatment and later filed an assault report. Her identity is not yet released.”
The paper also reported that a second fight broke out before the debate, with a Conway supporter stepping on the foot of a female Paul supporter. The Paul supporter, who recently had foot surgery, refused medical treatment but filed an assault report.
UPDATE: A spokesman for the Lexington Police Department, Lt. Edward Hart, tells The Huffington Post that as off 12:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time they have not yet identified the man captured on video stomping the head of the MoveOn volunteer. Hart said that the department would be reviewing news footage of the incident and that they “are hoping someone can identify who the person is.” Until then, he said, it is a “pending investigation.”
Hart additionally offered some details from the police report filed from the incident. There were, he said, roughly 300 protestors outside the debate and only a handful of officers. “We were not anticipating any issues,” he acknowledged
Valle had been sent from Pennsylvania for the purposes of appearing outside the Paul event, according to Hart. “She had been attending multiple rallies with the same purpose. She stated that she was wearing a wig and as she was running up to Rand Paul she was either tripped on purpose or pushed to the ground.” Following the incident Valle “complained of injury to the temple area.”
Hart relayed that a fourth-degree assault report had been filed with the policy department — as is customary when the result “is a minor injury.” Once the suspect is identified it will be up to Valle “to file for warrant or the summons to bring that person into court.”
Now frankly, I am pretty apathetic about MoveOn, and I think this stunt is a good example of why. MoveOn has done some good work in the past, but to the degree that they are wasting their time and effort on stupid pranks like this when they could be doing something of value reinforces my ambivalence about them. And to be clear this I am not saying all political pranks are stupid. There are examples of great pranks in politics that have had real effects. But whose mind, exactly, is a picture of her holding a sign beside Rand Paul going to change? How many votes are we talking here?
Now all that being said, what the hell is the matter with Paul supporters? Politics has really gotten down to the lowest of lowest common denominators when trying to enact a harmless prank – as stupid as it was – result in a woman (not that it would be better if it was a dude) being tackled by a bunch of overweight men and stomped about the head. There can be no justification for this. What the hell is next. Are Tea Partiers going to start using those guns they were bringing to demonstrations? Beyond the charges that better follow I hope this helps to reinforce the image that the Tea Party is little more than a bunch of populist whingers. Or is this what they mean when advocate returning to American principles?
A thoughtful analysis by statistician Nate Silver, on his 538 blog, of the electoral chances of Tea Party candidates and the Republican Party at large in the House and Senate elections this November.
Silver gives at once an assessment of the institutional strength of the Tea Party movement, and analyzes the effects of the rise to prominence of Tea Party candidates on Republican Party chances along five dimensions: the likely outcome of specific races, impact on voter enthusiasm, voter perceptions of the GOP, conservative policy objectives and the idea of “big-tent” Republicanism.
The crucial variable is this, however: the Tea Party remains extremely unpopular among large segments of the broader public. How this plays out in the next elections, and those to come, is the big question.
Whatever the outcome of the Nov. 2 elections, you can be certain that commentators around the country will be fixated on the impact of the Tea Party movement.
At the nucleus of the Tea Party is disquiet over the direction of the country, and antipathy toward what is seen to be profligate levels of spending and governmental involvement in the economy.The Tea Party, however, has little formal organizational infrastructure. Some groups -– like FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Express, and the Tea Party Patriots –- claim to speak for it, as do some individuals like Glenn Beck and Jim DeMint. But they do not always agree on things as basic as which candidates to endorse. FreedomWorks, for instance, declined to endorse Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, fearing she was unelectable, while many of the other groups did.
Nor does the Tea Party have any official platform. And there seems to be little interest among members of the Tea Party at forming a political party proper; instead, most of its stakeholders are seeking to reinvent the Republican Party’s brand.
Any effort to assess the impact of Tea Party needs to keep this context in mind. Moreover, there are several distinct dimensions along which the Tea Party might be evaluated -– and they lead to some relatively complex conclusions about its effects.
Dimension 1: Tea Party’s impact on specific races
This first dimension -– how a Tea Party candidate has affected Republican chances of winning a particular Congressional or gubernatorial seat — has probably been the most widely examined, perhaps because it is relatively tangible. We can evaluate, for instance, the impact of Tea Party candidates on specific United States Senate races.
Other than in Delaware, then, the immediate impact of Tea Party candidates upon electoral outcomes is therefore somewhat more ambiguous than you might think (although it has probably been harmful to the Republicans on balance). Delaware, however, counts for a lot, having significantly reduced Republican chances of taking over the Senate.
Dimension 2: Tea Party’s impact on voter enthusiasm
The contours of this election are unusual. While the Democratic Congress has become very unpopular, and the Democratic president somewhat so, views of the Republican Party remain highly negative, and have not improved appreciably from the damaged condition following George W. Bush’s two terms as president.
The Tea Party, however, has made some conservatives feel as though they have a real alternative -– something new and fresh and different — to Democratic governance. The impact of this is hard to evaluate, but it could easily outweigh the loss of a Senate seat or two in specific cases like Delaware.
Dimension 3: Tea Party and perceptions of Republican “extremism”
After several victories by Tea Party candidates, like Mr. Paul’s in Kentucky and Ms. Angle’s in Nevada, there has been something of a feeding frenzy on liberal blogs (and to some extent, political media outlets in general), which have sought to unearth whatever uncouth statements, or unorthodox policy positions, the candidate has in his or her background. This process is still underway with Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware. What liberals seem to be banking on is that candidates like these will pollute the Republican brand by being poor standard-bearers. Indeed, the White House is considering formalizing the strategy, according to reporting by The Times.
Dimension 5: The Tea Party and the Republican “big tent” The Tea Party also presents longer-term risks to the Republicans. It’s one thing to mount primary challenges in states like Utah and Alaska, which can support (very) conservative Republicans. A party that cannot also support moderates like Mike Castle of Delaware, however, or Rick Lazio of New York –- states with long traditions of moderate Republicanism –- would seem to have limited upside in the majority.
The struggle between establishment and insurgent Republicans will not have been resolved –- instead, it will continue against the background of the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, which is almost certain to be combative.
But there is one fundamental Republican problem that the Tea Party has not resolved: the brand remains extremely unpopular among large segments of the public.In fact, the Tea Party is in some ways a reaction to this: particularly after Delaware, we should probably take the Tea Party at its word that stands in opposition to the Republican and Democratic establishments alike.
A new documentary film, promoting the Tea Party movement:
A nice effort by director Ray Griggs to make a Michael Moore documentary, including funny newsclips, animations, “experts” and commentary by “normal people on the street” (in this case Tea Partiers), which is being coined “controversial” by the filmmaker, in the trailer, before the movie has even come out. Ofcourse Obama is freely associated with “socialism”. Weird that there’s not one reference to President George W. Bush, who pushed the national debt to a record height and who’s mess Obama is now desperately trying to clean up. Obviously Reagan is portrayed as the big prophet. Why Reagan is still known for phrases like “small government” and “government is the problem” is quite incomprehensible when you look at this chart:
Sarah Palin’s speeches – at Fox News, Tea Party rallies, or elsewhere – often contain mysterious utterances. Rather than in full sentences, words hang in a sort of word cloud, conveying feelings and sentiments rather than arguments and statements. Quite postmodern, actually.
Slate has gone there, and has put the literal quotes of Sarah Palin, all sentences taken verbatim and unchanged from speeches, in a more poetic form. This way, she really sounds like an oracle. Tip: read it slow and carefully, like you read poetry.
“That Mr. Klein Is No Pal of Mine”
What a piece of work
That Mr. Klein is!
For the piece
That he wrote, that is
Something else, you know
You would hope,
That the powers that
Be at a, quote, unquote,
Like Time magazine
That they would hold
And I assume that
Mr. Klein gets paid
For the columns that
He writes—that they
The rise of Rand Paul and his securing the GOP nomination for the Kentucky Senate seat is one of the things that will spark divergent reactions in DSCC headquarters and in the minds of responsible liberals. By nominating a lunatic, Republicans have suddenly taken what should be a hopeless Senate race and turned it into something Democrats can win. At the same time, by nominating a lunatic, Republicans have suddenly raised the odds that a lunatic will represent Kentucky in the United States Senate.
We gaan door met onze “fair and balanced” verslaggeving van de “Dutch Tea Party movement”. Deze bij voorbaat mislukte operatie probeert zichzelf nu te promoten met een nieuw filmpje. Een amateuristische interpretatie van een Fox News-reel, vol dreigende echo’s en Rambo-muziek. Inhoudelijk raakt het kant nog wal. Eerst sprongen ze op de bres voor de hypotheekrente-aftrek, en nu voor de kinderbijslag. Ze zijn erg bevreesd dat deze staatssubside inkomensafhankelijk wordt, zo blijkt uit het filmpje. Kortom, strijden tegen “potverteerders” en ander “links tuig”, maar ondertussen wel willen blijven profiteren van allerhande staatssubsidies. Hoe valt dat in godsnaam te rijmen? Ach, het maakt ook eigenlijk niet uit dat het inhoudelijk voor geen meter klopt, met publiekstrekkers als Joshua Livestro, Bart Jan Spruyt, Eddy Bilder en Eline van den Broek zal het Plein stampensvol staan, dat kan niet missen!