In the recent GOP primaries, there have been a number of Tea Party candidates who have won their GOP contests. The Democrats are ecstatic about those outcomes because they believe that these extreme right wingers will lose big to their Democratic opponents in November. I am not so sure about that.
Personally, I would have preferred to never have heard of people like Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle or Carl Paladino, but I did not have that option. I would feel so much safer if these fringe demagogues had never come to the party. Do these new faces represent a real need for change, or are they political instruments that breed intolerance and unrest? Are they just inexperienced, right-wingers, basically new faces, ready to take their places in a government that is supposed to be representative of America-at-large? After all, wasn’t our government built upon the premise that ordinary, everyday people should hold leadership positions? How come, then, it is okay for these far-right wingers to rise up through the ranks of elective office but not so for our sitting President, who is routinely chastized for his socialist and elitist (aren’t they opposites?!) policies, as well as his unique upbringing? Aren’t these Tea Party mavens rejecting and criticizing in our President exactly what they are pushing themselves? Their overwhelming message is that President Obama is an outsider, that his history paints him as way out of the mainstream of the American vision. It couldn’t be a cultural factor, now could it? Is middle ground a political concept that is in danger of falling victim to extremism? Is it an excuse to actually impinge on our rights? The Democrats should should be a lot more worried about what can happen at the polls in November.
We have always had certain fringe elements on our political radar screen. However, the fear that this fringe will become the majority is a possibility we must face. We have always had those blocs that cry out for less government in our lives, a stance usually coupled with restrictive rights for those who have less. It is no secret that their proclamation of states’ rights usually means less rights. Economics has always driven political ideology and today’s recessionary situation is no different. Thus, we are seeing some far right conservatives, fired up by a strict, imposing religious element, taking advantage of the frustration of Americans in a financial bind. Out of hopelessness and frustration, Americans are falling for this strategy without realizing that it could backfire on them in areas they couldn’t even imagine.
One element that runs through this ideological and political war, and it is much bigger than just an “undercurrent”, is the cultural revolt. Above all of the criticisms of President Obama, the opposition’s comments always refer back to his birth, upbringing, educational credentials and religion. Really though, the GOP is furious that a black man won, and decisively so, the highest office in our land. This is the real danger of the escalation of the fringe groups: they will talk a good line of economic issues, but in reality they have intentions to alter our social and cultural values. Christine O’Donnell, the GOP Tea Party candidate for senator in Delaware, expressed this war on civil and cultural rights when she said the other day that morality can definitely be legislated.
We know Maureen Dowd of the New York Times as a funny, edgy Op-Ed writer. She wrote of the hypocrisy, meddling, rights violations and outright racism of the ultra-conservatives. Specifically, she wrote about Newt Gingrich:
This article is absolutely scathing and after I read it, I was ready to designate Dowd as a national treasure. By not acknowledging the war of culture underlying the far right’s platform, the American people are setting themselves up for an even bigger disaster than their pocketbooks. Will the mainstream GOP adopt this exclusionary stance, or will they admit that the proposed economic austerity is just a veil for social and cultural restrictions? And will the people recognize this as well?
The loudest complaint about these Tea Party candidates is that the GOP has lost any middle ground, their moderate faction. Democrats are also critical that the President is too close to the center, not progressive enough. I must admit that our previous governments of moderation have botched things pretty badly. Perhaps this bi-partisan unhappiness is something more than just a knee-jerk kind of reaction to our recent decades of government; perhaps there is some validity there. However, the alternative must be considered. A severe turn to the right or the left could drag down this country even more seriously than we have been so far. Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post makes an excellent case for a centered, healthy government being a necessity for a like economy:
One issue that is contrary to common sense is the GOP’s as-yet refusal to end the Bush tax cuts. They and their Tea Party cohorts scream for less spending and deficit reductions. Yet at the same time, they have closed minds to revoking those Bush tax cuts that, according to actual numbers and expert opinion, are the single largest revenue loss to our budget. Not one of President Obama’s proposals, i.e. health care, stimulus, middle class tax cuts, etc. come even close to the amount of funds that could be available by cutting taxes to America’s wealthiest.
The advent of Elizabeth Warren to head up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, although currently as an “adviser” and not a permanent assignment, has both Republicans and Democrats running very scared. That is a good thing. Warren is a tough cookie, dedicated to honest financial standards and a solid supporter of what is left of our middle class. She will play footsie with neither party. Her appointment could be the most significant hire of this administration. I can’t wait to see her hold firm to her principles and fight for fairness for all Americans. (For more Yo Mama on Elizabeth Warren, go to: https://yomamaforobama.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/elizabeth-warren-a-voice-of-warning/)
Finally, a word about our President. He is not a socialist. He is not a lefty. Hell, I don’t think he is even a progressive. He is the epitome of the center (with a definite conservative bent). He is middle ground. He has earned his characterization as an intellectual, a man in control of his emotions, a decent human being and, I daresay, a statesman. He has never, not during the Presidential primary, general election campaign or in his time in office, stooped to the lowest common denominator of civility as too many of our other elected officials have. Read Andrew Sullivan:
Sure: he is top banana now and that alone is reason enough for him to stay above the fray, not to sling mud, FOR THE SAKE OF ALL AMERICANS. He has never forgotten what his role is and who he is working for. And he has fulfilled that role with dignity, sacrifice and moderation.
In a country as diverse and segmented as ours, perhaps moderation is the most productive course of action. It is our anchor. We need to unite, not divide. We must include, not exclude. To use economic policy as the supposed template to legislate social and cultural extremism is as old as the hills. To use a person’s differences to justify their own quite exclusionary and narrow agenda, the Tea Party/GOP candidates represent the height of hubris. Nevertheless, it is a strategy that we must take seriously. A victory in November for these people is not as far-fetched as we would like. The recent primary turnout numbers suggest that only a miniscule electorate showed up to vote. Yet, the voters who did show were the most extreme of the right-wing. Moderates did not bother to make the trip to the polls. Thus, on Election Day, we must make the effort to vote and get as many people as possible out to cast their ballot. Extreme conservative candidates often win when the center fails to show up. Middle ground: we could do a lot worse.
Hey, middle ground
A place between up and down
He could be safe and sound
Oh, to know middle ground*
*lyrics by Mary Chapin Carpenter