Let's do a Lieberman on the Tea Party

Believe it or not, Joe Lieberman may have a plan to save America!

It should be clear to reasonable Americans of all political persuasions that the band of radical right lunatics called the Tea Party is dangerous and must be taken down. Principles are important, but what should one do when confronted with those that center on ideals such as racism, naked self- interest, corporatism, contraction of personal liberties, and states rights arguments straight out of the 1832 Nullification Crisis? One exaggerates only slightly when comparing the Tea Party to the rightwing putsch that brought Hitler to power. This time evangelical churches play the compliant role that Roman Catholicism played in Germany and Italy.

Okay, it’s a bit much to call every local who hates taxes and dons a tri-cornered hat a Nazi-in-training. Call him instead the puppet of shadowy masters whose identities he does not know and whose agenda he does not understand. Lots of those who show up at rallies are angry white men engaged in boyish conniption fits. Many feel disempowered, and quite a few lack the intellectual wherewithal and skill sets necessary in today’s economy. They are the collateral damage of globalism, a system created by the very masters who pull their strings. (Globalism is another conversation that needs to take place.) 

But let us make no mistake about their masters–they are beyond unpatriotic. Many of them unabashedly call for the overthrow of the American government. In an ideal society, the FBI and Department of Justice would be making treason arrests. At the very least, they’d be infiltrating such groups with the same ardor with which they got inside the liberation movements of the 1960s. (Most of those groups, I hasten to add, spoke of participatory democracy and greater freedom; only a fringe handful used the word “revolution” to mean a violent overthrow of the government.) Don’t take my word for the treasonous statements made by Tea Party leaders, Google “Tea Party + overthrow government” and see what your search yields.

As in Germany during the 1920s, the very structure of a republic makes it harder to ferret out the traitors in our midst. The Bill of Rights must protect citizens and scoundrels alike to have true meaning. Moreover, money-driven primary elections and the nature of representative democracy make it easy for Tea Party activists to get elected to office. Once in Congress, they need not actively subvert government, simply use procedural moves (filibusters, filing technicalities, arcane Congressional rules, etc.) to undermine political machinery and wait for it to rot away. Often, all they do to subvert is utter the word "no," over and over. In fact, when nothing gets done, it increases their attractiveness to the tri-cornered crowd. 

Luckily, representative democracy is also the way to take down the Tea Party. I say it’s time to Lieberman the Tea Party, a strategy named for (now) retired Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Slick Joe was certainly one of the oiliest politicians of recent memory. Lest we forget, Lieberman lost the 2006 Democratic nomination to the far more progressive Ned Lamont; in fact, he lost by 4%, which is on the verge of a trouncing in elections these days. Instead of licking his wounds, Lieberman simply declared himself an “independent,” raised twice as much money as Lamont, and won the three-way general election.  (Four if you count the Green Party, whose 6,000 votes would have given Lamont the election if no Republican had run.)    

Many people perceive an elision of the two major parties, the so-called “Republicrats.” In ideological terms, Republicrats are hard to love; in pragmatic terms, a strategic alliance between what I’d call “non-crazy Republicans” and “payback Democrats” could save the nation from Tea Party toxic tannin. This would involve a sort of “Lieberman Plus” tactic. There are districts in this country that are the GOP equivalent of Democratic Massachusetts; that is to say, if you run for Congress as a Democrat, your chances of winning lie between slim and none. It makes no sense for Democrats to waste resources in red-meat sections of the old Confederacy. What it could do is engage in old-fashioned you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours politics. In districts where “moderate” Republicans are in jeopardy or lose primary elections,  Democrats should strike a deal in which they sit out the general election and extract policy promises from the newly declared "independent." In those districts in which a Tea Party Congressman currently reigns, the Democrats should get behind a fusion candidate. Eric Cantor, for instance, won reelection with 66% of the vote against a Democrat, but would he win against a GOP independent? Such a candidate would claim roughly a third of the vote upfront–those who'd rather gargle razor blades than vote for Cantor–and would need only to convince 30,000 GOP Virginian voters–less than a quarter–to switch. If that happened, Cantor would go down. And he's in one of the safer Tea Party districts. 

The Lieberman Plus strategy is, I grant you, low on principles. As political strategy, though, it could be a winning gambit. Here’s another thing about representative democracy–it works best when there’s give-and-take. Compromise has a tendency to frustrate ideologues of all stripes, but it is to be preferred to rule by refuseniks. Democrats–a group never known for their long-term vision–may think it’s in their best interest to allow the GOP to hemorrhage internally, but this is a risky strategy in an electoral system in which a Tea Party Republican needs only win the primary to secure overall victory. As Lyndon Johnson might have said, in politics you have some son-of-a-bitch with whom you can make a deal. It has to be one that at least has the word “yes” in his vocabulary. The future of America may rest upon Democrats willingness to go Lieberman and ransom the electoral present to save America from the traitors at the gates of power.    --Rob Weir

1 comment:

Art Gow said...


I agree wholeheartedly; yeah I know, take a second to digest that.
I do believe that this is a way around the extremism that has overtaken American politics. An example, that I’m not sure made the national news, was the senatorial election of 2010 here in Alaska. During the primaries, Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent senator lost to a Tea Partier – Crazy Joe Miller. It was extremely disappointing to say the least. Well the good Senator realized after a huge outcry from her base, that Mr. Miller did not truly represent all Alaskans. She ran as a write in candidate. The tea baggers went on their predictable rant that she couldn’t do that, she lost the primary, yada, yada, yada… but the state’s highest court said she could.
The campaign from this point on was pretty tense but funny at the same time. Since she was a write in candidate, the ads during the last days before the election focused on spelling her name on the ballots. In the end she won the election quite handily, Joe Miller kept filing motions to block her to no avail and ended up displaying himself as the train wreck that he and the party he represented were. We avoided an extremist Senator and at the same time saw the Tea Party implode; their “movement” is pretty well entrenched outside of the mainstream political arena in Alaska, where it belongs.
While Ms. Murkowski never left the party, she was able to circumvent an extremist organization and go on to represent what most Alaskans truly want.

--Art Gow