Wonk Wars: Is The Tea Party Good For America?

Welcome to Wonk Wars, a weekly feature from It's A Free Country as part of the Brian Lehrer Show's 30 Issues in 30 Days. Early each week, we'll post one of those issues in the Wonk Wars sections of the website and invite two or more policy experts to start the discussion online, along with your input. Then, each Thursdays, the conversation continues on-air at the Brian Lehrer Show.

This Week's True/False: The Tea Party Is Good For America

Opening statement from Markos Moulitsas, founder and editor of the left-leaning blog Daily Kos and author of the new book American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right

After the 2008 election, reeling from the election of an African American with the middle name "Hussein", a series of politically motivated violent incidents swept across America. Fueled by conspiracy theories about Obama's birth certificate, FEMA camps, ACORN thugs, and a looming communist order, these violent-prone nuts started shooting up cops and people. One flew his plane in an Al Qaida-style suicide mission into an IRS building in Dallas. They started stockpiling weapons and ammo at such rates, that a severe ammunition shortage continues to this day.
But that violence tamped down in the summer of 2009, and the reason seems to be the Tea Party. Given the promise of electoral validation, these Tea Party types have funneled their energies into the 2010 elections, and of course, it's better that they rail against non-existent "death panels," than actually become real-life death panels. But the big test will be in 2010 and 2012, if the electoral results don't validate their fantasies, and the American people decide to keep Congress and the White House in Democratic control. Then we'll see if they, as a movement, are truly committed to the democratic process.

Opening statement from Lenny McAllister, conservative political commentator and host of Launching Chicago on WVON radio.

Regardless of the bad reputation that the vast majority of Tea Party activists have unjustly procured due to the high-profile actions of the few, the Tea Party Movement has been a positive for American politics just as Barack Obama's ascent to the presidency in 2008 was vital for the involvement of new media technology and non-traditional voters to take an interest in the ongoing of national politics. In fact, I truly believe (and often state) that President Obama is the political father of both the usage of new media in major political campaigns as well as the rise of the Tea Party Movement. Neither occur as quickly or as powerfully without the commencement of the Obama Era in 2008.

The Tea Party movement has encouraged conservatives that have been asleep at the proverbial "electorate wheel" for years now to finally become involved in the political process. What they have found - as evidenced by the primary campaign season this year - is this: that they have serious apprehensions with both major political parties. When these activists talk about "take back America", they refer to a scaling back of government spending, but also address the need to make American politics - from town halls and state governments to Capitol Hill - accountable to the American people in a representative relationship that befits our republican form of government. Each political party in Washington promises to save America. However, with its energy to engage more everyday Americans with the political process, it may end up being the Tea Party that actually accomplishes this task.

Opening statement from Jonathan Tasini, president of the Economic Future Group, a national strategy consulting group. He was a recent candidate in New York's 15th Democratic congressional primary.

Agitation and the awakening of voters is essential to democracy. The Tea Party is tapping into a lot of anger, fear and frustration in the country—emotions that I believe, speaking as a Democrat, the Democratic Party has failed to harness into a positive agenda. I am not speaking of the people who are drawn to the deplorable racist and anti-government themes of the Tea Party. I speak of the many people who believe that the American Dream is no longer reachable and that a decent job is no longer a foregone conclusion. I believe that, indeed, the American Dream is now beyond the reach of millions of Americans—but that isn’t the fault of immigrants, the government or same sex couples, to mention just a few of the favored “culprits” bandied about by some Tea Party leaders.

It is very much the end game of 30 years of robbery by a corporate economy. And, in the void left by a Democratic Party that will not confront the domination by powerful corporate interests of our economy and politics—and, in too many instance, encourages those interests (read: corporate “free trade”, campaign contributions and the Robert Rubinization of the Democratic Party)--people feel abandoned. Left abandoned by a political system that will not boldly confront the true culprits of our economic crisis, I see Henry Ford’s old maxim rearing its ugly head: that he could get half the working class to kill the other half. People who don’t have pensions, rather than demand that decent pensions be a right guaranteed at every job in the private and public sector, are attacking those people who do have decent pensions, particularly public sector workers. I believe the Tea Party is dangerous in what it stands for. But, I understand why some of its supporters are drawn to its ranks.

What do you think? We'll have more voices and reactions in Wonk Wars soon, but...we're all wonks, so chime in!

»» And don't forget, live chat on this topic, moderated by Brian Lehrer, Thursday 9/30 at 12:30 on the It's A Free Country home page. Join us!