Sometimes it’s frustrating to be in Santa Fe’s bizarre political bubble. Everything is falsely rosy and the most pressing issue is red, green or Wi-Fi? Other times our irreality bubble is pleasantly insulating: There are no outraged, militant lunatics getting violent because the government is helping them. But we should remember that what happens beyond our bubble won’t necessarily stay beyond our bubble, especially as an important election season kicks off.
In New Mexico, even our “Republicans” are usually Democrats. After all, Democratic US Rep. Harry Teague just couldn’t support health care reform because its detailed deficit reductions are too “financially reckless.” And it’s prominent Democrats like state Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia, and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Hidalgo, who are lambasting Gov. Bill Richardson for vetoing the ridiculous food tax the state Senate tried to re-impose. Anyone who’d rather tax tortillas than millionaires is clearly a Republican, right?
Of course, we can thank our diehard Democratic governor for instigating tax breaks for the wealthy in the first place. We’re so thin on Republicans that Democrats have to play both sides of the aisle.
Still, the ponderous predominance of tea party this and tea bagging that has helped to bring a few Republicans into our play space—as SFR reported recently, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, New Mexico Congressional District 3 challenger Adam Kokesh and runner-up in Santa Fe’s recent mayoral election Asenath Kepler all have wooed or been wooed by tea partiers at some point.
But even Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul-associated Kokesh, a smart candidate undermined by not being quite smart enough to avoid running as a Republican, probably can’t hang with what the tea party Republicans—really the Republicants—have become in the process and wake of health care reform. Dim-witted hate speech? Misspelled threats? Asinine assassination plots? Kokesh’s campaign is based on “r3VOLution.” Only in Santa Fe, right? And it’s certainly not the face of the status quo DC conservatives who have become appeasers to the radical white minority whack jobs who preach the Constitution but don’t understand it.
Pro-love and pro-gun Kokesh, after all, must know what Salon columnist Joe Conason pointed out in a Thursday, March 26 piece: If it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate health insurance, it was unconstitutional for George Washington to have signed the Militia Act of 1792, mandating able-bodied citizens to purchase and maintain firearms.
But pick-and-choose politics that Republicans practice as a matter of course, like their collective flip-flop on health care reform, has been taken to a new and profound level of hypocritical idiocy by tea party Republicants. How is it that Sarah Palin’s brigade of allegedly constitutionalist stalwarts failed to march on Washington when the previous administration wiped its ass with our civil liberties, but has suddenly awakened to the suspicion that health care reform is a one-way ticket to FEMA death camps?
On the one hand is stone-cold craziness and too much time spent in internet chat rooms while sitting atop a cache of lead bullets. But the other hand is holding cold hard cash. A March 24 national poll conducted by Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University reveals that a scant 5 percent of tea partiers identify as politically independent. As has long been anecdotally obvious, 74 percent of tea partiers are Republicans. Another predictable result: 88 percent are white.
But the tea party has become the tale that is wagging the dog. When US Rep. Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, pretends to be an unruly populist and Republican congressmen sneak out the balcony to whip their “base” into a hate-filled frenzy, it’s obvious to everyone else that mainstream Republicans are kowtowing to a lunatic fringe. And it’s a fringe of which they’re not in control. If tea partiers ever exchange their Republicant status for armed insurrection can-do, soft and self-important despots like Boehner will be eaten just as quickly as Pelosis and presidents have been falsely labeled as socialists.
Although 77 percent of tea partiers voted for McCain, only 13 percent of Americans consider themselves to be part of or sympathetic to the tea party “movement.” Which is to say, let’s not confuse the media attention they’ve received with actual political clout at the polls. Let’s also not confuse the current Republicant condition—a kind of cross between petulance and vengeance—as harmless.
If 2008 was an important year to get your citizen on, 2010 is more so. Progressives who complain about the Obama administration’s lack of radicalism have my sympathy, but not my ear. Things are moving in this country and they’re moving in the right direction. Don’t let that be crippled by midterm elections. Don’t let it be crippled by failing to vote for local politicians who can be an effective part of the process.
In our recent New Mexico legislative session, the difference between young, progressive legislators and good ol’ boy, status quo Democrats-in-name-only became painfully clear. This won’t be a year to rest and watch; this will be a year to put a seal on the letter we sent to America in 2008.
We’re done with hope, now we’re getting around to that change bit.
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