The Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party, as we know it, is moving forward. While they had a tough day Tuesday, Tea Party favorites have won upsets in primaries in Missouri, Texas, Florida, Indiana, Utah, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada and Delaware. Their biggest win came in Indiana with the primary defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar, 80, after 36 years in the Senate.
As of last Friday, Red State reported that Tea Party candidates had won 48 of 103 contests for a success rate of 47 percent; they are kicking sand in the faces of the GOP establishment. They have two wins and two losses in governorships. Five Tea Party-backed Senate candidates have won 13 races (39 percent success) and 41 of 86 House candidates have won (48 percent wins).
A national poll done for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal showed 25 percent of Americans support the Tea Party while 65 percent disapprove. The poll, done jointly by a Democratic and Republican pollster, was conducted on July 18-22, 2012.
Mitt Romney’s picking of Tea Party darling Paul Ryan means the Republican Party is now being driven internally by the most far right forces since those that nominated Barry Goldwater for president in 1964.
Romney didn’t choose Ryan for his ideology; he did it because Romney is still distrusted by hardcore conservatives. Also, the self-important intellectuals at the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard all but demanded Ryan for VP, and Romney caved.
An Etch-A-Sketch Moment
It was, as Eric Fehrnstrom might say, a chance to shake things up and start over. Fearing he was on his way to losing, Romney slammed the Etch-A-Sketch against the wall and saw the face of the architect of what Newt Gingrich derided as “right-wing social engineering.”
Most Extreme In Modern Times
The usually understated New York Times called Ryan’s plan “the most extreme budget plan passed by a House of Congress in modern times.” In an editorial Sunday, the paper said it was “a blueprint of a government that will be absent when people need it the most. It will not be there when the unemployed need job training, or when a struggling student needs help to get into college. It will not be there when a miner needs more than a hardhat for protection, or when a city is unable to replace a crumbling bridge.”
Ryan vs. The Bishops
The cuts were so severe that Catholic bishops protested publicly, calling the Ryan budget “unjustified and wrong” that “failed as a moral test.” In April the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a stinging public letter to the House warning that Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment.”
Ryan, a devout Catholic, used Catholicism to justify his proposals, saying that reducing government is consistent with church teachings on self-reliance, local control, and allowing civil society to flourish.
The most shameful aspect of Ryan’s plan is that it slashes help for middle class and poor people in order to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. Ryan seems to treat human beings as if they are numbers and categories.
Ryan’s political plan was to raise his national profile and give his colleagues something concrete that they could point to as the GOP’s deficit-fighting strategy. It worked. Romney picked him because Ryan was well regarded in right-wing political circles and because Romney was losing ground to Obama and had no big budget fix.
It Ain’t Broke
Politico interviewed three dozen Republican consultants in the chattering classes, of various ages and stripes; nearly all believe Ryan is a high-risk, low-reward choice. They fear his ideas on Medicare could spell disaster not just for Romney but for their candidates for Congress and Senate. Fixing Medicare, Ryan’s most controversial idea, is always a tough sell for the GOP, especially since voters don’t see anything wrong with it.
Wait Until 2040
Ryan’s plan produces, stealthily, a balanced budget by 2040(!) with no new revenues, while boosting the Pentagon budget — the only item Republicans agree must always be raised.
If the Ryan budget were fully implemented, our government would begin to resemble that of North Korea, obsessed with its military and indifferent to the needs of its citizens, like eating or learning.
Tea Partiers Are Republicans, Not Yahoos
A New York Times/CBS News poll done last year found that the one in five Americans who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters tended to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45. They were wealthier and better educated than the general public. Most are not the placard waving yahoos you often see on TV.
The New Religious Right
Serious political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, writing in the New York Times, found that next to being Republican, the best predictor of a Tea Partier was the desire to see more religion in American life and more God in government.
Dan Payne is WBUR’s Democratic analyst. For more political commentary, go to our Payne & Domke page.
This program aired on August 15, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.