Monday, July 26, 2010

Policy: "Tea Party" FAIL? And Progressives' Opportunity?

A year ago, they were heralded as the most significant sea change to happen in American politics since... Well, since Barack Obama's election as President. (Ironically.) But now? The "mainstream media" are asking if they're more of a nuisance than a benefit to the Republican Party.

Now, as Republicans try to capitalize on what is widely expected to be a difficult election for Democrats, the Tea Party could become more of a hindrance than a help. In addition to a lack of organization, the movement has suffered a number of public relations scandals nationally that could distract from its message of fiscal conservatism and constitutional principles.

“A lot of the Tea Party’s problems are created by the Tea Partyers themselves,” conservative political operative Chuck Muth said. “They are just new and not organized and sometimes they are their own worst enemy.”

In the most recent example, Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams penned a racially charged blog post responding to an accusation by the NAACP that the movement includes racist elements. The post, which Williams described as satire, prompted the national Tea Party Federation to expel the Tea Party Express from its coalition and Williams to resign.

Ah, yes, Tea Party Express... Sharrontology's very best friends! And this is what they're really concerned about. Did the rush to embrace Sharron Angle put them at risk to lose the Senate election? Perhaps so.

Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated with Sharron Angle and her lackluster campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), fearing she is jeopardizing what they had long viewed as a sure pickup and costing them a chance to reclaim the majority.

Senate Republicans quietly acknowledge that Angle’s controversial views on some issues remain a political liability. But the former Nevada Assemblywoman’s larger problems are a progression of unforced errors stemming from a lack of campaign experience and an amateurish staff incapable of offering her the necessary guidance. However, Angle has proved to be adept at fundraising, corralling $2.6 million in the second quarter. [...]

“It’s dysfunctional,” a Nevada Republican added, when asked to give an assessment of the Angle campaign. “She can still win, but the operation seems odd at best.” [...]

“It gets down to pure message discipline, and she doesn’t have it,” a second Nevada Republican said. “There’s no one in the campaign to enforce it.” [...]

The Nevada race is too prominent, and too affordable, for the NRSC to ignore. But Cornyn cannot even threaten to withhold committee funds to pressure Angle to hire specific personnel because she is raising plenty of money on her own, and outside groups are expected to spend millions in an effort to unseat Reid. “The NRSC is in an awful position,” the GOP operative said.

And more than that, the "tea party" risks losing whatever credibility they have left. Despite all their corporate handlers and attempts at slick campaigning, they can't hide the fact that they have no real ideas to get the country moving again.

Think about it. They complain about unemployment and home foreclosures, but they don't like any sort of government action to address it. They complain about debt and deficits, but they don't address the expanding deficits during the Bush Administration and they don't provide any realistic plan to slash their feared debt. The point here is that the teabaggers know how to yell and shout and scream, but they don't seem to care about discussing serious policy and real solutions to what presently ails us.

This is their ultimate dilemma. I know, I know, I'm just a "policy wonk romantic" and most Americans don't really care about real policy... Supposedly. But you know what? I know they do. When I hear from my neighbors, the school teachers, about having to buy their own supplies for the kids because Clark County School District cut the budget again for school supplies, I know they care. When I hear from my cousin and her husband about their recent scare over "being between jobs", I know they care. When I hear from friends worrying about how they'll get all their needed credits when UNLV is considering cutting the very classes they need to take, I know they care. People care about policy... It just needs to be tangible for them!

I was thinking about this last weekend at Netroots Nation when I dropped into a few panel discussions on the election, campaigns, and messaging. It was something bloggers and activists were talking about, but this is something I've now come to know about from real life experience. Living here in Las Vegas can do this to someone. I hope we all understand this.

The teabaggers have nothing to offer but hot air. We all realize this. So now it's up to us to explain what's happened in the last year and a half, explain what still needs to be done, and explain the kind of policies we need that will have a real, positive impact on real people's lives. Let's be up for this challenge.

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