Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Texas Tea Party rolls GOP establishment

I remember 30 years ago when the Christian Right and the grassroots conservative movement built up through the evangelical churches displayed its muscle in the Reagan sweep, mis-labeled a ‘revolution’. A lot of veteran Democrats got knocked off in that 1980 election, including an old favorite of mine, George McGovern of South Dakota, for whom I briefly worked during my college years. Terry Dolan, the closet case head of ‘Nick-Pac’, the National Conservative Political Action Committee (he later died of a certain disease while his guy Reagan studiously ignored it), crowed at a morning-after news conference about the effectiveness of their negative advertising campaign that banged away at abortion, homosexuality, drugs, and the entire 60s legacy that the activist Christians thought they were reversing. Campaigns have never been the same since, and now any election is an excuse for a barrage of depressing mutual denunciations that reinforce the deeply reactionary idea that all politics are filthy and corrupt.

Who would have thought that these same forces would now be turned against the Republican establishment that seeded them? Today, the church faithful comprise a very loose cannon roiling about the mother ship, full of agitated true-believers with their blood up, ready to beat their flippers like a hired claque at the latest idiocy from Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck. They’re nuts, yet effective. Crusty old sea captains like Bennett of Utah, Lugar of Indiana and now Queen Rick’s carefully groomed No. 2 in Texas have all gone down to ignominious defeat by a popular movement they clearly did not expect to get so far out of hand. While the Teabaggers and other wacko brigades remain useful for them in fights against the hated liberals, in one-party states like Texas the insurgents are not simply going along for the ride. They are determined to be in charge.

No one really can know what this will mean in practical terms when these inflamed ideologues take up their seats in the 2013 Congress. If the current Tea Party-inflicted House of Representatives is any indication, their goal will be to grind the business of state to a halt based on the belief that nothing is always better than something where government is concerned. That sounds good in theory, but as Newt Gingrich learned in an earlier incarnation of this posture, people actually do like to have libraries open and streets cleaned after snowstorms. Drowning the federal beast in the bathtub is a popular notion, but then there’s the corpse to get rid of.

We are living in right-wing times, and the future may include rule by one or a full deck of these cracker dingbats. I don’t look forward to it, but it would be interesting to see how the guys who cranked up this reactionary force for their own purposes will deal with its more bizarre manifestations.

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