Wonk Wars: Is The Tea Party Good For America?

"The Tea Party Is Good For America" Discuss!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

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!


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Comments [106]


I guess you just have to look at what you leave behind as in the case of the two big demonstrations of late, theTea Party people and the one nation pigs and their garbage strewn presence. I'll take people over the pigs in the one nation tribe of users and takers any day.

Oct. 04 2010 08:00 PM
Bill Craven from Putnam Valley, NY

Until the Tea Partiers show as much concern for my 1st and 4th amendment rights as they do for their 2nd amendment rights, they have no credibility at all.

Sep. 30 2010 02:54 PM
Joe from Brooklyn

All I can think of is these Tea Partiers who've been suckered into the voting booths on Election Day, ready to vote for their Tea Party candidate. They enter, reality faces them, they click REPUBLICAN, and sulk away.

What a bunch of stooges. Automatons.

Sep. 30 2010 01:55 PM
Lisa from Bergen County NJ

To opening comment that T.P is divisive and racist; To the contrary, if you would only attend one event you'll find the folks inclusive and open to alternatives. That's the whole point, we need another voice than the old GOP and Dems, we need to get their traditional parties attention we citizens are not happy/ locally and nationally with the elected officials we have. We are in support of another choice. If u want less taxation without your position being represented and believe in streamlining government and responsible taxation, you might belong at a Tea Party rally.

Sep. 30 2010 01:39 PM

The Tea Party is a joke. It is composed of the scum of society who lack any real ideas or solutions and so resort to broad sweeping, inflamatory remarks that ignite hatred and violence. All the research you need do to confirm this is take a look at their leaders. Their "best and brightest" consist brainless half-wit who quit her job as governor mid term and self proclaimed witch who seems to think that small government involves oulawing masturbation. It's a joke.

Sep. 30 2010 12:51 PM
Jeremy from Harlem

Maybe I didn't hear correctly, but I'm pretty sure the Tea Party Supporter said Reagan balanced the budget! That is not true; in fact, Reagan said, in 1982, that balancing the budget was no longer a consideration of the administration (after tripling the deficit).
Also, re: his comments comparing Soros to the Koch brothers: Soros has never denied channeling money to all kinds of groups. David Koch actively denies that his money goes to the Tea Party, via his front group. And, Soros' funding would seem to be of the sort that acts against Soros' own best interests, while providing for the good of the commonweal, while the same can hardly be said of the Koch brothers.

Sep. 30 2010 12:24 PM
Dr.Saul Moskowitz from Woodbury,NY.

What is amazing tio me is how the media has made this supposed movement into an expression of true anger and frustration!No examination of the "tea party" can be made without discussing their funding!It has been established that the Koch fund and el. has been behind the disruptions of town meetings,the Beck rally in Wash.D.C. and other so-called "grass roots" angry protests.In my opinion,Jane Mayer should be interviewed by you for this segment!The Governor of California's speech about who is behind the opposition to California's Prop.23 should be high lighted!If the media fails to investigate and inform then all of us will reap the consequences of this Corporate greed!What about the candidates that they have brought before the public?

Sep. 30 2010 11:54 AM
Hal Morris from Hopatcong NJ

I observed my parents (retired and close to 80), who had always been moderate Republicans move towards Tea Party like attitudes; apparently the same thing was happenning with a large circle of their friends.

As far as I could tell, one major think had changed in terms of what was influencing them. Instead of getting the news from the old middle of the road (and hence now labeled ultra-Liberal) TV news programs, and magazines and newspapers, the "News" became another thing to do at the computer. They started forwarding to me "Right Wing Forward" emails (see, many of which contained outrageous and elaborately constructed lies and deceptions. I've tried to tell the story in My Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land (

Sep. 30 2010 11:49 AM
Melissa from Hoboken

Reading through the comments, I can tell a lot of you haven't actually listened to what Moulitsas was saying. He wasn't saying that the Tea Party is full of violent extremists, he was saying that the Tea Party has mollified the violent extremists out there on the fringe by representing a voice of opposition to the administration they hate. I think he's right, and I hadn't really thought about it before. That's the real genius behind the American system -- give people a channel to be heard and it's harder to justify armed insurrection. Healthy debate should expose these Tea Partiers' ignorance and/or willful denial of facts.

My beef with that Republican representing the "conservative" side of this morning's discussion, and with the Tea Party in general, is that no matter what they really believe in their hearts, they're simply being manipulated by a Republican Party that wants the power back to continue its mission of slashing the tax burden for wealthy people, starting wars for specious reasons, and handing out tax dollars in subsidies to the industries that pay to get them reelected. Democrats - of course - are guilty of a lot of the same corporate subsidies, but at least with Obama in the White House, the Democrats finally are passing legislation that aims to correct some of the financial imbalances that Republicans would like to distract us from with their social wedge issues and the ridiculous cries of "socialism."

As for health care reform, as flawed as it is, there is no reasonable way to justify leaving the system the way it was. The private insurance industry is the real reason our govt. pays so much for Medicare/Medicaid -- the private market has failed utterly to provide affordable options, and has been actively pushing more & more people with grave health issues out of the private market and into the publicly funded backstop of emergency rooms and Medicaid.

For 40 - 50 million uninsured Americans, there is no affordable alternative. They can't get healthcare when they're unemployed, or work part-time or for smallbusinesses. When these uninsured get sick, they have to go to public channels for care, and I for one, would rather see a system that provides affordable health insurance that even a minimum-wage earner can afford. Ultimately, in the long run, we're reducing the burden on the taxpayer by making the private system and individuals pay more of their share. It's easy to rail against being forced to pay for insurance, but all of us already pay for these people's care through public hospitals.

So, Tea Partiers & mainline Republicans, if you don't want to force employers to provide coverage to all employees and you don't want to force employers to pay a living wage to the people who pick, package, cook or serve your food, or clean your homes, or keep your car running or mow your lawn or watch your kiddies at day care, how exactly do you propose that the working poor earn enough to provide health care for themselves, hmm?

Sep. 30 2010 11:40 AM
Hal Morris from Hopatcong NJ

The Tea Party seems to me to be a symptom of Americans mostly wanting to ignore politics but occasionally waking up, noticing something terrible is going on, and jumping on some bandwagen. We haven't made a real effort over the years to try to understand how government works or how the political sphere works, and they can't come up to speed in terms of anything like real understanding quickly enough to meet the emergency.

Actually for the most part "coming up to speed" so as to be able to form real analyses of our own is beyond imagining for most of us, so we are apt to be manipulated by whoever has the biggest bullhorn or the one that catches our fancy.

Let's all join the "Pay Attention and Don't Take Any Wooden Nickles" party. A very, very incomplete "manifesto" at

Sep. 30 2010 11:33 AM
Dan from NYC, Manhattan

I am an independent (my political views tend to be slightly left of center). My impression of the Tea Party movement is that a majority of them are very "self-centered" people who are concerned about "I/me", and have no sense of the commonweal, i.e. a society sharing responsibility for the common good.
They also seem to be uninformed about American history both recent and "ancient". Karen from Westchester and Steve from Manhattan have expressed my sentiments on that point in concise, to-the-point language.
One additional thing: why did it take the Tea Party movement to get going just after Obamam's election? If they were so mad about looming budget defificts, why did they not act duing the first term of Bush II when the Federal government was spending billions upon billions ("off the budget") for our military action/occupation in Iraq. I would not be surprised if these same people voted for that "idiot of a President" in 2004. Consequently, Karen from Westchester's refernece to Menken is also an incisive observation about the American electorate.

Sep. 30 2010 11:30 AM

Those who think that our winner-take-all, and hence two party system is the problem, should try living a while in a country where there is a "parliamentary system" where you have a zillion parties and constant coalition politics, and governments falling every other day. Italy and Israel are two that come to mind.
Trust me, with all its shortcomings, our essentially winner-take-all, two party system is the most stable and still the best choice over anything else out there, that I know of.

Sep. 30 2010 11:12 AM
Lisa Smith from Forest Hills, NY

When George Bush won the presidency for the second tme in 2004, many democrats were so shocked and apalled they considered the possibility of moving to another country. When Obama won the presidency in 2008 republicans were unable to make the same consideration, as being patriotic to the country is part of how they define themselves. The tea party is a way for republicans to save face. George Bush wrecked the image of being a republican, possibly beyond repair. The tea party is the only way for the republicans to keep their party from disappearing. Its all smoke and mirrors.

Sep. 30 2010 10:56 AM
Jack Jackson from Central NJ

I am appalled that the Democratic Party is not taking advantage of what the Tea Party actually is.. a third party.

Teddy Roosevelt, George Wallace, John Anderson, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader were all third party candidates that did not have a hope to win but cost the more 'orthodox' frontrunner the election. The Tea Party can do the same thing for the standard GOP.

For every Independent vote that is attracted by the Tea Party rhetoric there is at least one Independent vote that is repulsed by it and will vote for no one. With GOP self-identification at an all time low, this is an incredible opportunity for Democrats. However, we need to get excited and go vote on Election Day. Perhaps with a bigger mandate Barack and the Democrats can push a peoples' agenda more forcefully.

Sep. 30 2010 10:55 AM
GB from NJ

That parting shot about women candidates is the last straw. The tea party only supports women who are themselves anti-equality. He didn't even address the question of supporting gay rights or diversity.

Palin, O'Donnell, et al have found success and approval with conservatives, who then return the favor and say "see? we support women." Where are the openly gay tea party candidates? Where are the nonwhite candidates?

I had thought "tokenism" went out of style but these backward-looking reactionaries have revived it.

Sep. 30 2010 10:52 AM
CT from Harlem

To those who claim that the Koch brothers are just the conservative equivalent of George Soros: How ridiculous! George Soros puts his money toward political causes that redistribute money AWAY from the wealthy people like himself because it's morally right. The Koch brothers, conversely, put their money toward political causes that will increase their own wealth and shield it from being redistributed through taxes and regulations - not because it's morally right but because it is personally advantageous.

Sep. 30 2010 10:51 AM
Mike from Park Slope

To reiterate my earlier post:

So long as US politics is determined by single member winner take all election districts (as it is), there can only ever be 2 parties.

Major changes in history (such as the doubling of the population by westward expansion and the civil war) have produced a change in what those 2 parties are... but there will always only be 2 parties.

In this system, 3rd Parties are useless except in introducing new themes to debate.

As it is now, the effect of a 3rd party is thus:
Election A - DEM (51%), REP (49%) - DEM WIN
Election B - DEM (48%), REP (49%), GRN (3%) - REP WIN

There are only 3 ways to introduce a 3rd party to this system BY DESIGN.

The aforementioned major change/disaster... lets hope not.

Switching the seat allocation to PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. This is not a horrible idea but is very unlikely and would require a massive change to the constitution.

Multi-round voting; where the primary is essentially a winnowing of mulitiple parties to two front runners who then fight it out in the general. This is done in France and thus the country has 4 parties (2 left and 2 right).

The Tea-Party brings this country one step closer to option 3, which COULD be very good for the country by forcing the major parties to actually be a coalition of 2 or 3 sub-parties. It could lead to increased compromise and better governance.

Even if Tea Party people are KKK bible-beating, gun-toting, racist, stupid, nut-job hypocrites. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Sep. 30 2010 10:49 AM

Lots of great comments coming in here. Remember that we'll take this same topic into our live-chat experiment later today at 12:30. Hope to see you there!

Sep. 30 2010 10:49 AM
jane from Hudson Valley

I always agree with Jay from Brooklyn..short and to the point.THANK YOU Brian for having this discussion. We all need to hear more discussion of TOPICS that potentially affect us all.
Does the senior Citizen who moved to South Carolina really want no health care..sick people at the malls where she shops..sick people carrying guns which she thinks are so important. Or only Tea Party folks carrying guns. To study the Constitution she doesn't need the Tea Party. Just get a copy from a government office.

Sep. 30 2010 10:47 AM
Lisa from Bergen County NJ

The Tea Party is a 3rd choice for Americans to get the attention of politicicians. We want to let our representatives locally and in DC know that citizens are unhappy with the status quo, with continued over-spending, ear-marks, and special interests placed (hidden) into major bills such as the Health Care Reform, TARP, etc... Time for fiscal conservatism. Tea Party organizations are made mainly of independents and conservatives, also some democrats. Read the research, don't listen to the gossip and fall for the lies anymore, attend a local meeting and see for yourself.

Sep. 30 2010 10:43 AM
Ken from Little Neck

I'm as opposed to the tea party as anybody, but I don't think Markos Moulitsas is doing that viewpoint any favors with his inflammatory rhetoric. There are plenty of reasonable ways to oppose the tea party and refute some of the bald lies that they have spread, but name calling will only make things worse.

Sep. 30 2010 10:43 AM
The Truth from Becky

Ok if the Taliban is too extreme, then who should we compare them to?

Tea Party and spin offs like them are not productive they cause division in the country.

Sep. 30 2010 10:43 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Markos, put your tin foil hat back on, the tea party scanners are probing you right now and trying to erase all the precious "facts" from your synaptic pathways! Hurry!

Sep. 30 2010 10:43 AM

funny how the government stopped listening all of a sudden when a black man was elected president...

Sep. 30 2010 10:42 AM

While I strongly disagree with the Tea Party's political and fincial views, I respect their determination to do something. Instead of complaining about them, form your own party! If enough new parties are created, the establishment parties and politicians will be forced to listen.

Sep. 30 2010 10:42 AM
Wambler from Manhattan

The tea party clearly doesn't like the health care reform that is being implemented, but one hears nothing about what they'd prefer to be done instead. If people have the right to go uninsured, do all doctors and hospitals have the right to refuse treatment to those unable to pay? Unless the health care industry has the right to let sick people die because they cannot pay, there exists a form of universal health care insurance. New health care reforms simply make that universal coverage explicit, and by forcing everyone to help pay their way, they try to make it less expensive. The alternatives are a Dickensian world where we let the poor die in the street, or perpetuating a hypocracy where we pretend to live in a health care free market when in fact none exists.

Sep. 30 2010 10:40 AM

Re: Brian's reading of the post re: democracy.

Unfortunately we get caught up in making the larger argument about freedom of speech. I had this argument with a Brit friend of mine when Nick Griffin got a seat in the European parliament. She was adament that the larger argument was not what the man believed, but that he had the right to express it. When you actually listen to the tea partiers, they are not good for this country, are all over the map, seem very poorly educated, cannot back up their own assertions, and very obviously racist. The larger problem is letting them in.

Sep. 30 2010 10:40 AM
Robert from NYC

should be bring guns at 12:30?

Sep. 30 2010 10:39 AM
Robert from NYC

Well like you pay for schools, others pay for your Soc Sec. See, it actually works out.
Stop complaining.

Sep. 30 2010 10:39 AM

Tyranny is when I now have to pay $30,000 in health insurance AND pay for the Medicare of the elderly when they don't want to pay for schools. Who do they think is going to care for them when they are old if none of our children get a decent enough education to become health care practitioners? I haven't heard of one single person being arrested for not having health insurance. In the meantime, the health insurance company is laughing all the way to the bank and lying about who is responsible for my increase in rates. Oh yes, my brother the firefighter would be happy to stop taking as many calls from those who don't have health insurance and call up 911 for what would be better treated through primary care. It is actually preventing his ability to respond to real emergencies. Really, the speaker who doesn't want to pay for my child's school can opt out if I don't have to pay for his health care.

Sep. 30 2010 10:38 AM
andy from manhattan

My beef with the Tea Party is that they disregard real facts, and seem to have easily swallowed all the bile and fear that Fox News has been spewing for the last decade or so. Thus they blame Democrats and incumbent Republicans for the trouble they face or fear.

If they would actually take the time to dig in and find the facts, they would know that their anger is not well directed at the Democratic Party, but the big businesses which have taken over our nation. Both parties are guilty of taking the money and disregarding the interests of the people.

Strictly public financing of elections is the only path out of this disingenuous 2 party system. Then we can elect people for who they are and what they stand for, and lower the influence of money in our system.

Sep. 30 2010 10:38 AM
Dorothy from NYC

The Tea Party is not new - as far as I know it started with Ron Paul. But God forbid the media report anything positive connected to Dr. Paul....

If I had to pick a party, I'd pick the Tea party. I am not a republican or a man. The Tea Party people are people that are fed up with an ineffective government that does not listen to the people. We are overtaxed and no one in the government seems to care how they spend our money - they can't balance the budget - we are in trillions of dollars of debt but they want MORE money? I don't think so.

Have you been to the Post Office or Driver's License office lately? Now they want to manage my healthcare? No correction, FORCE me to pay them to manage my healthcare... I don't think so. Enough is enough. America has gone off track and finally the people in this country have woken up.

Sep. 30 2010 10:37 AM
andy from manhattan

My beef with the Tea Party is that they disregard real facts, and seem to have easily swallowed all the bile and fear that Fox News has been spewing for the last decade or so. Thus they blame Democrats and incumbent Republicans for the trouble they face or fear.

If they would actually take the time to dig in and find the facts, they would know that their anger is not well directed at the Democratic Party, but the big businesses which have taken over our nation. Both parties are guilty of taking the money and disregarding the interests of the people.

Strictly public financing of elections is the only path out of this disingenuous 2 party system. Then we can elect people for who they are and what they stand for, and lower the influence of money in our system.

Sep. 30 2010 10:37 AM
Max from Manhattan

I'm horrified by the Tea Party. I feel like it is just a rebranding of the Ku Klux Klan. I blame John McCain and Sarah Palin, most Palin, for this, because this tenor began in their rallies before the election. African-Americans know exactly what the tea party stands for. This is about rage against the first black president period, and white Republican sour grapes. Why else would Rep. Joe Wilson feel empowered to shout during the president's speech, "You lie." This is mob mentality, pure and simple.

Sep. 30 2010 10:37 AM
Chez from Englewood, NJ

The ingredients of this tea will poison America!

Sep. 30 2010 10:36 AM
Max from Manhattan

I'm horrified by the Tea Party. I feel like it is just a rebranding of the Ku Klux Klan. I blame John McCain and Sarah Palin, most Palin, for this, because this tenor began in their rallies before the election. African-Americans know exactly what the tea party stands for. This is about rage against the first black president period, and white Republican sour grapes. Why else would Rep. Joe Wilson feel empowered to shout during the president's speech, "You lie." This is mob mentality, pure and simple.

Sep. 30 2010 10:36 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I'm not going to defend the Tea Party but I'm with anyone who condemns the Dems - what is their pitch now, is it "it's us or something worse", wow. that is visionary! And with control of both the executive and legislative branches of government to boot. Progressives: you deserve the Tea Party, you've earned it.

Sep. 30 2010 10:35 AM

@present caller
We're living as a society!!! Of course educated children benefit us all.

And where does he think the legislation comes from to tax gas in the first place?

Sep. 30 2010 10:34 AM

What a surprise - a conservative who stopped listening.

Sep. 30 2010 10:33 AM
Robert from NYC

Well like you pay for schools, other pay for your Soc Sec. See, it actually works out.
Stop complaining.

Sep. 30 2010 10:33 AM

If you are caught driving without auto insurance, you can get your license suspended, or even revoked. If you drive without a license, you can be jailed. If you get into an accident without automobile insurance, probably the taxpayer will pay the costs to save your health, and maybe even your life.

The question of whether the gov't can require you to purchase some kind of insurance is a highly debatable subject. Is it tyranny? The US Constitution does protect the right of the citizens to take up arms against tyranny. But at what point do you define the emergence of "tyranny?" To some, all taxation is tyranny.

But regarding health insurance, I knew someone in ISrael who was jailed because he had not paid the minimal health insurance and had gotten sick and run up a bill he, a welfare recipient, could not pay. In fact, I bailed him out. IN the US we do not have debtors prisons, but it is still on books in many countries.

The Tea Party is against tyranny, and that is good and healthy. The question is, at what point can we define the emergence of tyranny? That is the ideological question that our society is actually debating.

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
The Truth from Becky

TEA PARTY PEOPLE: Which freedoms? What programs? Which taxes? BE SPECIFIC!

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
Mike from Park Slope

I disagree with much of what the pro-Tea Party people have said but I'd like to voice one way in which I think the Tea Party is at least interesting and possibly good for America that no one seems to be talking about.

The Tea Party has created a meaningful republican primary. For the first time, a third party posing meaningful competition to the main 2 parties has elected to fight out their differences in the forum of the primary rather than a general election. I not only think this is good, but I'd like to see left wing parties do the same with the democrats. This is the closest we've ever come to a two-ballot election as they have in France and could eventually lead to the first real opportunity for third parties to make an impact in US politics in decades (perhaps since the Bullmoose). This is because supporters do not need to risk their own beliefs at the final ballot by splitting votes. I don't think the Tea Party is at all unique from other republicans but their supporters seem to think so and that's what matters. Perhaps more parties, Working Families, Green, etc., may engage in this same sort of meaningful challenge to the major parties at the primary level creating a situation where the two major parties are not monoliths but consensus parties ruling by more fluid and malleable coalitions instead of the same guaranteed voting blocks (stupid racist whites and rich greedy whites for R, and people of color, labor, and white educated activists for D).

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
C.H. from Gr. Village

One question for Tea Party people who oppose to compulsory health insurance:

If you have no medical coverage, what would you do in a medical emergency that could cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in medical expense?

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM

Matt Taibbi's latest article in Rolling Stone is (slanted - definitely) but interesting.
Saw this posted on this site by someone yesterday.

Check it out online :

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
Frank from West Babylon

The tea party talks about freedom and all that good stuff - but when it comes to a woman's right to choose, gay's right to marriage, etc,. they are all for Government control. AMny of them even want pryer in the class room, and creationism taught in schools. What's is their belief in freedom anyway - is it only economic freedom they espouse???

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
Ero from NYC

Hope someone addresses the astroturf nature of all this-- that the Tea Party is largely created and financed by the same huge corporate backers that have been backing other conservative causes.

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
Dash from NYC

To claim the Tea Party represents the demographics of the US as a whole is a blatant lie. Laughable. No facts, figures etc.? No challenge on this, Brian?

Sep. 30 2010 10:32 AM
Karen from Westchester

This guy is making a marketing spiel. The Tea Party spokesmen are being funded and trained by corporate interests. People are being sold the Tea Party line -- which is rife with factual errors, over-simplifications, and just plain lies -- by experts. The ordinary guy is buying the Tea Party just as he buys cigarettes, Big Macs and Cheetos. The recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens Union just made the situation worse.

If our fellow citizens are dupes, what do we do? That's the real question. How do the rest of us get out from in front of a speeding train?

Sep. 30 2010 10:30 AM
John from New Jersey

The only thing that would be good for America is if we can stop being angry and start coming up with and implementing solutions to our problems.

The polemicists, on both sides, do nothing but waste our time and convolute our national debates.

Sep. 30 2010 10:30 AM

We have all sorts of laws requiring people to pay for car insurance. It is accepted. The problem with the Tea Party person who lives in our building is that she hasn't worked in the 11 years I've lived in the building. She is certainly physically fit enough to work. she gets free health care at Roosevelt Hospital, which raises MY insurance rates. As small business owners, my husband and I have to pay at the highest health insurance rates possible because we cannot compete with the large subsidized businesses that masquerade as small business. Moreover, we have higher rates because those rates must cover the extra hospital expenses to keep them afloat from free riders like our resident Tea Partist. Oh, and our health insurance company just lied to us when they jacked up our rates from $22,000 year by an additional 40% saying it was due to the health reform bill. This insults my intelligence. It is all a big scam. I am angry too, but I would not touch the Tea Party given my experience with the number of freeloaders who only want government for them and not anyone else.

Sep. 30 2010 10:30 AM
moo from manhattan

trust me, most people who voted for obama, even if slightly disappointed in some things, are NOT supporters of tea party ideas. no way. and we're still the majority.

Sep. 30 2010 10:30 AM
Rick from Long Island

Why wont they answer the question of who he thinks benefit from taxes.

Sep. 30 2010 10:29 AM
The Truth from Becky

Noooo not just angry white men, there are a lotta hard face white ladies in there too..hellloo Sarah Palin?!

and puhleese don't use demographics of the "country" as to why they are mostly white...these people truly beleive they are the "true" Americans. The rest of us are?????

Sep. 30 2010 10:29 AM
Carmel from Forest Hills

This movement, if you can call it that, is hardly surprising. In severe economic times, the right moves further to the right, inevitably an enemy is declared, a "them" that must be defeated, nationalism skyrockets, and reason is marked as the enemy of the people. To say that this is about government spending assumes that the people shouting the slogans have any clear idea of how government spending works, or how government works at all. It is a rash of simplistic rhetoric, non-sequitors, and a mob mentality waiting for torches and pitchforks, riled up by hysterical and unaccountable demagoguery of extremely dubious personalities. This is about as good as the flu: perhaps it builds resistance once you get over it.
Lastly, to those who kid themselves that this is somehow above and beyond politics - see if you can find a "tea party" candidate who is not to the far right of the GOP.

Sep. 30 2010 10:28 AM
Steve from manhattan

The representative of the tea party is spouting the usual right wing lies. Of the 13 trillion dollar deficit, Ronald Reagan created 2 trillion dollars of it Bush 1 created 1.6 Trillion dollars of it, and George W created 5 TRILLION of it (8.6 TRILLION total). That is fron the treasury web site. Most of what Obama spent was due to repairing Bush's disaster.

Sep. 30 2010 10:27 AM
David Goldbeck from Woodstock NY

Don't we require people to buy auto insurance and punish them with no license and punishment for driving without?

Sep. 30 2010 10:27 AM
John Lobell from New York

Notice that Brian can't have on a tea party person without a counter person. How often has Brian had on someone presenting a liberal issue as common sense without any counter person

Sep. 30 2010 10:26 AM

An insurgent political movement can be a good force -- or at least a force for positive change. But the Tea Party has shown itself to be steeped in irrational rhetoric, displaying a willful ignorance of the facts, infused with more than a tinge of racism and fear mongering. Tea Partier's inchoate anger about government may be passionate but they're not doing the intellectual heavy lifting to offer real solutions. I have yet to see anything I can respect or hold on to in their political grievances.

Sep. 30 2010 10:25 AM
Karen from Westchester

The senior citizen who just called in does not need to purchase health insurance; she has Medicare. It is my health insurance, not hers that she will make impossible to purchase if the health care reform bill is repealed in whole or part.

We all obey laws. We pay taxes to finance our schools and roads. Your conservative guest completely misrepresents the so-called Tea Party, which intends to create "freedom" (whatever that means to them and "small government," but will end up eroding their own, and my interests.

Every "fact" that the conservative has uttered is untrue and can easily be refuted. He is talking a marketing line -- selling a product -- not delivering accurate information. Every word he has said is a lie -- a real whopper.

H.L. Mencken said it best: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Sep. 30 2010 10:25 AM
Dave from Brooklyn

The Tea Party is good in the sense that at a base level it does raise awareness of issues and positions that have become dormant to the American consciousness. However, there is no denial that most members are angry without true education on the issues. Using talking points and bumper sticker slogans as arguments, and rallies for strength in numbers visual without any kind of substance in their activism is just as dangerous as the emotionally based voting for candidates who are in no way qualified for office, i.e. Paladino.

It would be nice if the media would stop treating this movement as anything more than a wild fringe hivemind.

Sep. 30 2010 10:24 AM
Monica from NYC

The Tea Party is hardly good for America. Like the lady from South Carolina aptly showed, most of the supporters have no critical thinking skills. They are against social policies they benefit from. At a Tea Party rally a senior woman screamed " I want the government to get its hands off my medicare." As the NYT uncovered, most of the Tea Party is founded by rich individuals who are nothing more than manipulating the gullible masses. Instead of teaching what the founding fathers wanted, I would teach them some science and some reasoning and logic skills because they are entirely devoid of this. I personally think the Tea Party people embody a view of reality that is not real but a simulation or what the French philosopher Baudrillard called the "hyper-real."

Sep. 30 2010 10:24 AM

Tea Party members: which programs do you want to cut? Please be specific. I'm tired of hearing slogans like "Less government" and "no taxes".

Sep. 30 2010 10:24 AM
JT from LI

The guest just linked the war in Iraq to 9/11. That alone discredits him.

Sep. 30 2010 10:23 AM
Karen from Westchester

The senior citizen who just called in does not need to purchase health insurance; she has Medicare. It is my health insurance, not hers that she will make impossible to purchase if the health care reform bill is repealed in whole or part.

We all obey laws. We pay taxes to finance our schools and roads. Your conservative guest completely misrepresents the so-called Tea Party, which intends to create "freedom" (whatever that means to them and "small government," but will end up eroding their own, and my interests.

Every "fact" that the conservative has uttered is untrue and can easily be refuted. He is talking a marketing line -- selling a product -- not delivering accurate information. Every word he has said is a lie -- a real whopper.

H.L. Mencken said it best: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Sep. 30 2010 10:23 AM
Yourgo from astoria

Where were they during the excessive spending of the Bush administration??

The Tea Party is very simply put an expression of american racsism funded by oil companies.

Sep. 30 2010 10:23 AM
Rick from Connecticut Coast

These so called Tea Party extremists are as old as our nation. From the "Know Nothings" in the 19th Century, the KKK, red scare, anti-flouridation societies, militia groups, minutemen in the 20th century, to the "Birthers" these wacky movements has been duly noted in Richard Hofstadters books, "Anti-intellectualism in American Life", and "The Paranoid style in American Politics"

Sep. 30 2010 10:23 AM
Robert from RBC

This guy on he Jersey shore is right!
Good question, Brian. Oh roads are ok? Healthcare isn't?

Sep. 30 2010 10:22 AM
elaine from LI

The 'idea' of the Tea Party might be good but the reality of this Tea Party is just awful since this group seems to be made up of of extremely uninformed individuals that delight in anger and victimhood not based on fact or reality and too mentally lazy or lost to do their homework. Coloring a Hitler sign is easy.

Sep. 30 2010 10:21 AM

Well said, you Jersey Shore Caller!

Sep. 30 2010 10:20 AM
Safiya from nyc

i'm so sick of hearing about the tea party! I have not heard one valid policy proposal from the tea party. the tea party is only there to distract us from dealing with the real problems we face. all of the "anger, frustration, energy" they are supposedly tapping into is really an expression of America's underlying ignorance and racism. All you have to do is look at their leaders: Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. How can any intelligent person take that seriously? why are we wasting our time with them? they are not in reality!

Sep. 30 2010 10:20 AM
The Truth from Becky

Don't know why he is trying to call these tea party freaks anything other than republicans, because thats one of the things they are.

Sep. 30 2010 10:20 AM

Bob: it's obvious, right? Obvious to anyone with a SHRED of education and common sense.

Sep. 30 2010 10:19 AM
Robert from NYC

Marcos Moulitsas has a wild imagination.

Sep. 30 2010 10:17 AM

None of them can answer reasonable questions with any clarity. They are not smart people. It's been shown over and over again.

Sep. 30 2010 10:16 AM
JT from LI

I think the Tea Party is good for America because it's getting people to speak more freely about what they believe. We finally get to see people's real positions on race, gender, poverty, etc. Unfortunately, the country seems to have more racism and intolerance than I had expected. At least now we know who a lot of those people are.

Sep. 30 2010 10:11 AM

I am by no means a Tea Party supporter and probably as far left of center as anyone. However, I think the Tea Party is valuable in a way. They have brought to the forefront of public discourse a few issues that I think we need more conversation about. Chief among those issues is racism. The anti government sentiment of the Tea Party was galvanized when the face of the government became black. And their anger represents an undercurrent of sometimes closeted and sometimes subconscious racism running through a large swath of white America. They want "their" country back and want things to be "they way they were" before the big bad government ruined America. The more this coded language is brought to the forefront the more chance we have for dialog around the pervasive problem of racism in this country. So, I would say that the Tea Party is good for America, but not because of their loosely defined goals, but because of the conversation their existence creates.

Sep. 29 2010 03:34 PM
marcus - greenpoint

The Tea Party to me appears to be a successful re-branding of the Libertarian party. It's an expanded libertarian party that now includes social conservatives, conspiracy theorists and gun nut militia types. The Tea Party is good for America because they are pushing forward the debates that need to happen on whether we truly want to eliminate the social safety net or fully fund it, whether we want the Govt to invest in infrastructure and industry (ex. alternative energy) or leave it the to the private sector, and whether Federal regulation on business protects us or hurts us. I think it forces the left to educate the country that Fed regulation and investments benefit the country and it forces the right and left to deal with our underfunded government.

Sep. 29 2010 11:01 AM
John from Fanwood, NJ

Admittedly, I’m well left of center in the political spectrum. However, I don’t think our system benefits from the Tea Party. This group repeatedly claims to be a grass-roots organization that gathers spontaneously. On the contrary, they’re backed by enormously wealthy sponsors including Dick Army’s Freedom Works, and the billionaire Koch brothers, among others. I believe the group, which is overwhelmingly white, claims to represent the repressed portions of American society. To the contrary, the group represents the religious and political right. Not exactly the most tolerant population. Since the gatherings and candidates get so much press coverage, they are able to sway opinion. Tea Party events get covered because they are noisy and supported by Fox News, not because the are large or homogeneous. Carrying firearms to these rallies is also dangerous in my opinion.

Sep. 29 2010 10:53 AM
Peter from New York, NY

The Tea Party is a toxic additive to the mix in U.S. political discourse. The movement's supporters inject rampant and inflammatory misinformation (e.g. "death panels"), as well as patently illogical demands (e.g. "I don't want the government to mess with my Medicare!") into otherwise important political debates. I believe they are a product of the U.S.'s largely failed education system and the success of right wing largey corporate-sponsored propoganda. I think most of us feel the raw anger they channel against large institutions that don't work in the public interest; but their agenda of shrinking government and cutting taxes would manifestly work against their own self-interests and the public good. Perhaps the only good that could come of their astonishing popularity is that it could galvanize the vast majority of us to fight their rhetoric with facts, logic, and hopefully action.

Sep. 29 2010 10:46 AM
Terrence from Staten Island, NY

It depends what you mean. Is the Tea Party as a movement pushing the country in a positive direction? No. Is the Tea Party winning elections good? Yes. The quicker we put them under serious scrutiny and put them in positions of power the sooner it will be revealed that they have no coherent platform and no idea how to actually run a government.

Sep. 29 2010 10:35 AM
Bob R. from nyc

There's nothing new about this. The 'tea party' is the political equivalent of the epstein-barr virus - harmless when the body is sound, potentially dangerous when we are in a weakened state. I'ld like to suggest that folks google Richard Hofstadter's 'paranoid style in american politics'. What's truly unfortunate is that this inchoate mob is being exploited by powerful economic interests to undermine our republic during a time of crisis.

Sep. 28 2010 05:36 PM

Apparently the tea party candidates are throwing stones at the very same glass house they want to occupy. In this age of reality television and the 24–hour news cycle the unabashed become famous and highly regarded it seems. The effervesced and sensational Sarah Palin is the leading lady, playing an illegitimate spawn from the GOP that has seemingly placed its own up for adoption.
Mandate 7 of the "Contract for America" drawn up by the Tea Party states, "Repeal the health care legislation passed on March 23, 2010: Defund, repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act". A hint of economic or Social Darwinism here as only the wealthy should be afforded proven healthcare whilst the sacrificial lambs of the monetarily challenged souls are discounted. It is a neoevolutionist view in which I characterize our evolving society; the vast majority paying the higher costs who are increasingly dissatisfied with the disparaging returns of income and social inequality. The advantage goes to the best-adapted and most successful social groups to survive socio-economic challenges as a society evolves. Currently, the healthcare system is the best screener for the survival of the fittest based on Social Darwinism.

Rising healthcare insurance costs embedded in our paychecks correlates with a rising out of pocket expense. Decreasing coverage coupled with increasing healthcare costs and prescriptive medicine equals one major disease, infection, or accident from filing bankruptcy. The Social Darwinian aspects of certain physical and mental traits do not apply here, not inasmuch the affluent nature of the individual.

Constitutional theory is not an elitist-driven idea it only works through the coalescence of the American society as a whole and not just in its powerful and rich parts. It subsumes the American Diasporas of all walks of life whom toil to borrow, invest, pay, and compete for resources or rather gain some comparative advantage, as coined by David Ricardo that alleges to afford an individual a subsistent life. The classical economist’s comparative advantage theory posits that “even the weaker members of society are valuable even if the stronger members are better or can afford to do everything” furthermore they maintain the stronger members’ status in more ways than one.

As reported by the NYTimes, if the Tea Party supporters have deep rooted resentment and “pessimism about the direction of the country”, in particular with “the policies of the Obama Administration who they view as disproportionately helping the poor than the middle class” then these disproportionately white ultra-conservative middle class grass roots movement just doesn’t realize how relatively homologous they are to those “poor people” they despise so much.

My apologies but briefly commenting on the Tea Party is not possible with me, there is just too much farcical material there.

Sep. 28 2010 01:24 PM
Mark from Centerport NY

The "anger, fear and frustration" I see is rooted in racism. You didn't see this kind of response when we had a White president who, signed TARP, approved the use of TARP funds to "bail out" (aka loan) the car companies, drove the economy into this ditch we've been trying to climb out of for the past 3 years, and blew through the treasury like a drunk sailor on shore leave.

All this "anger, fear and frustration" and a desire to "take their counrty back" suddenly appears as soon as a Black man moves into the White house.

Take their country back from whom?

Sep. 28 2010 12:50 PM
T. Phillips from Manhattan

The Tea Party is a distraction, one that benefits the Republican Party.

While there is real anger and fear out there about the economy, it has been completely hijacked by the extreme right wing of the Republican party, which has heavily financed this group, and is directing a lot of their views, whether they all know it or not, or like it or not. And all TPers are not legitimately concerned with improving life in America. Many simply hate and fear a black President, and there is a lot of big Republican money feeding that hate, as irrational as it is.

The Tea Party originated to head off Democratic explanations at Town Hall meetings about what health care reform should be. Period. Not to contribute to the discussion. To disrupt and END the national discussion before it could even begin. In other words, they were for the status quo. But while Tea Party-ers were preening (with the press cheering them on) about shutting down any and all debate about health care, polls showed that 75 % of Americans understood that the health care system was broken and needed to be fixed. Was I thrilled with the end result or how it was arrived at? Not really. But it's a start, and changes can be made for the better.

The press, of course, finds the Tea Party a far more interesting and dramatic story than they do the Dems, who as usual are all over the map and seemingly reluctant (though they shouldn't be) to back up our President to the hilt And while we get extreme right wing views spewed at us everywhere, the 'liberal' point of view is relegated to Olberman and Maddow. I'm grateful for them (and Jon Stewart) but where is everybody else? Oh, yeah, at the Tea Party rally, that should be good for a story.

This liberal is old enough to remember Nixon, Agnew and 'The Silent Majority.' Then it meant a middle-aged, seemingly conservative middle class. Now it means us, the 75% who where glad to see Obama enter the White House. But it's the 25% tail that's been wagging the dog for the last year, enabled by Republican money and cheering from the press corps at the whole, juicy mess.

Sep. 28 2010 12:22 PM
BigMax from NYC

Wow, how incredibly closed minded the "liberals" are. I am a liberal in the true sense (and definition) of the word. I have no problem with the Tea Party as I have no problem with the Republican,Working Family,Socialist etc....parties. The fact that these folks can get together and find a united voice (whether I agree with it or not) is what makes this country so wonderful. You don't have to agree with them(and painting them with broad strokes is ignorant at a minimum) but if you are a true liberal you should be able to accept the fact that another "party" is in the true spirit of our democracy.

Sep. 28 2010 12:02 PM
Nick from lost in NJ

The Tea Baggers are an extreme right wing creation. For the most part, the people I have seen at these rallies are ignorant (i.e., uninformed) and unwilling to be convinced by facts! These are the people who believe in death panels, phantom birth certificates, have a lack of understanding about the fundamentals of how the government works, have a lack of fundamental understanding of economics and most important, don't know anything about our federal budget. For example, fully 2/3's of the federal budget cannot be cut - consisting of social security, medicare, medicare and interest on the debt! The other 1/3 is everything else and common sense should tell you that you can't "cut" the budget unless you are willing to get turn off the military, and just about everything else. Taxed Enough Already? Maybe but unless you are willing to eliminate the social security (the third rail of politics), slash medicare and medicade and stop servicing the debt, bringing in right wing tax cutters won't solve budgetary problems. The typical Re-pub- LIE-ican lie is that cutting taxes (remember trickle down?) increases revenue. If that was true, why did Raygun have to raise taxes? He had to because his tax cuts killed the budget and raised the deficit. Bush 41 had to raise taxes. Clinton raised taxes too (oops and produced a surplus AND had a booming economy). Alas, Bush 43 cut taxes, waged an unpaid for war (an unnecessary war too, but that's another story) which crashed the economy and spiked the deficit.

Tea Baggers would serve the republic better if they channeled their energy into getting rid of the many elected incompetents we have (in both parties) in government and replacing them with people who think win/win - not I win. you lose.

They also have to turn off Faux News... But that too is another story.

Sep. 28 2010 11:51 AM
Rex Thomas from NJ

False. This is not a grass roots movement, and I find it insulting that the media refuses to address the issue.

The Tea Party, and all its variations, is a well-funded political apparatus, created be a selected few, who wish to prevent any structural change to the American psyche. Unwittingly, Mr. Rourke nailed it when he said that the Tea Party is the only political movement fighting against what he calls "Positive Rights;" i.e. Social Security, Medicare, and so on. Interestingly enough, the Republican party has been looking to undo those programs since their inception. The media fails to pull this veil back and examine this "movement" because it provides good theatre, as did they're chasing after Acorn and Shirley Sherrod.

Sep. 28 2010 11:02 AM
Bob Tribeca from NYC

What I love about the Tea Partiers and others is their 'Alice in Wonderland' belief that the Government is the problem and that all our problems would be solved by the 'Free Market' handling everything.
Wasn't it the 'Free Market' and its collapse and excesses which got us into this present mess in the first place?
Perhaps I would rather have the Government handling, for example, my healthcare rather than General Motors, Bernie Madoff, John Paulson, AIG, Lehmann Brothers, and their like.

Sep. 28 2010 10:50 AM
kara from catskill, ny

It's the property taxes that are a problem for upstate home owners. We pay close to $5,000 a year for a house that is worth 180K. My friends in the city pay about the same for a house that is worth over 500K.

Sep. 28 2010 10:24 AM
g.e.Taylor from Bklyn., NY

Too elaborate on my "True" response to the initial question, I shamelessly borrow some text and direct your attention to the following site:

"Mass political movements often begin with a single, striking event. The Insurgency began in the fall of 2008, when President Bush, Senator Obama, and Senator McCain appeared together to endorse the TARP bailout. At that moment the lights came on for many Americans. It was glaringly obvious that both political parties jointly operated the system, and the system existed to protect the well connected at the expense of everyone else. The public opposed the TARP bailouts; the banks got their money anyway. The Insurgency, long brewing, began." [read more at the site - h/t Instapundit]

Sep. 27 2010 11:03 PM
gaetano catelli from greenpoint, brooklyn

@Teresa: Eva doesn't seem angry at all. she does sound disappointed, though.

i think you're dishonestly trying to put a reverse spin on Eva's words, instead of paying attention to what she is writing.

Sep. 27 2010 10:24 PM

Whoooa! Eva, you are way too angry to have a meaningful conversation, sorry about that. However, that said, just a final note to state that I would rather see your intelligence,energy and dedication working for issues and causes instead of trying to bring them down. We are all entitled to our opinions but not to making up facts.

Sep. 27 2010 09:34 PM



...Teresa should have been listening to any number of economists that Brian Lehrer has featured over the last year, INCLUDING the venerable Simon Johnson who explained why the bank bailout was wrong. Clearly, Teresa is not paying attention. (Or works in the banking sector!)

Or she could just listen to former GOP’er Liz Warren on what was wrong with the bank bailout. Yes, Obama supported the bailout, but there is no reason that ordinary Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should have done so.

There is in fact a middle ground for “bipartisanship” – unfortunately, our utterly captured Dem and GOP representatives aren’t interested in real bipartisan issues that affect ordinary Americans. With the exception of a few congressmen (Grayson and Weiner come to mind) the incumbents are only interested in their donors. On that point, and perhaps that point alone, the tea partiers have a valid point.

On a factual basis, I don’t believe what I wrote about the President’s lack of leadership qualifies as “invective”, as Teresa insists. I was tough in my criticism, but I was also more than fair.

Teresa also wrote:
“We elected this President based on his campaign promisses. One just cannot turn against issues that we voted for before!”

And that’s exactly the point. We voted for this President based on his campaign promises, but it is the President who turned against those issues. I am loyal not to a celebrity personality, but to the issues. And this President has reneged on a large number of promises.

Exempli Gratia: The public option was traditionally the domain of GOP’ers like Teddy Roosevelt and believe it or not, Nixon. Thus, the public option was a compromise position for liberals, to take that step away from single payer.

I personally thought it was a good compromise. The problem is that the President, as we later learned from Robert Reich on Brian’s show, never had any intention of following through on that promise. And in the end, after letting the public option twist in the wind, after allowing the GOP to paint it as “socialism”, after hiding in the White House instead of coming out and fighting for what he said he stood for, President Obama just let it die.

The responsibility of the voter does not stop at voting. It is not: “my team vs. their team”. Being a good Democrat means holding Democratic politicians to their promises. It means reminding ex-Democrats of what the party stood for, sometime before the terminal triangulations of the Clintons. (Ask Liz Warren what it was like trying to get Senator Hillary Clinton to support bank reform – impossible. The Senator from New York, regardless of party, is always the senator in support of Wall Street at the expense of ordinary Americans.)

I know that the GOP is totally nuts. As I have said many times, I will be supporting my party again this election.

But when will my party start supporting my fellow Americans, and not just their lobbyist buddies?

Sep. 27 2010 07:27 PM
eva from CA

To adsf, thanks, but I gave up the blog to focus on a historical project, which has been a lot more enjoyable than organizing around issues the White House and Congress promised to support and then abandoned!

To Gaetano, you're right, as Teresa made clear, some people don't want to hear.

I’m going to split this comment into two parts, due to WNYC’s comment limits.

Part 1

In response to Teresa’s questions, it is true that I am a Democrat.

As a lifelong, fourth-generation Democrat, I spent most of 2009 organizing against the bank bailout and in support of health care reform.

Liz Warren, Simon Johnson, and Gretchen Morgenson served as important guides in this work, and I was grateful for WNYC's repeated interviews with them.

My work on Health Care reform means I worked very closely with some of the lead public option and single payer proponents in my state. I put on a fairly substantial and well-attended seminar that featured a prominent single-payer physician, and assorted notable academics (even getting a former Bush admin economic advisor to argue on behalf of the public option.)

I organized people to go to pro-HCR demonstrations. Together with my fellow Democrats and “progressives” (whom I consider to be just traditional Democrats), we raised money for Democratic representatives and progressive institutions.

And yes, some of us did pro-HCR and anti-bailout outreach to tea partiers, who are, politically, somewhat diverse in their views. (Libertarians v. religious conservatives, to name one conflict I saw in the tea parties.)

I think I was very clear in saying that MANY of the participants that I encountered at the Tea Party were ex-Democrats, not, as Teresa suggests, that they were all ex-Democrats.

I think if Teresa wants to deny the possibility that there are ex-Democrats at some of these venues, then she understands NEITHER the historical legacy of Nixon’s Southern Strategy nor the term “Reagan Democrat.”

I am in fact a lifelong Democrat, but I have good reason to be dismayed by my party, which I will nevertheless again be supporting this election. I feel that the party long ago abandoned its economic justice goals. A Democratic Senator such as Dianne Feinstein can be utterly captured by the banking industry, but as long as she claims to be in favor of fill-in-the-blank-hot-button-social-issue, then we rally around her. The result is that you alienate your base.

No real FDR Democrat or LBJ Democrat or even Carter-era Democrat would have supported the bank bailout such as it took place. No real Democrat would have supported the appointments of Geithner, Summers, et cetera.

Teresa should have been reading Gretchen Morgenson to understand why paying out 100 cents on the dollar on credit default swaps was absolutely criminal (that took place under Bush, not Obama, but of course Obama supported it, as he has so many other Bush policies.)

cont. in Part II

Sep. 27 2010 07:26 PM
gaetano catelli from greenpoint, brooklyn

@Eva: you're wasting bits -- they can't hear you.

Sep. 27 2010 06:37 PM

I have to strongly disagree with Eva from CA.
If she had not identified herself as a liberal democrat, I would definitely have pegged her as a tea partier. If, a big if, she is a democrat, she is 180 degrees from me, a liberal democrat. Maybe that is the problem with democrats, we are all over the place and have all kinds of ideas and opinions and are unable to toe the party line; its like herding cats!
And, by the way, as a liberal, (1) I supported the bank bailout - there is no economy without banks - and (2) I just cannot imagine that the people who are in the tea party spewing all kind of nonsense and racism about President Obama, the banking system, the health care reform, etc. are ex-democrats, as Eva claims. We elected this President based on his campaign promisses. One just cannot turn against issues that we voted for before!
Seriously Eva, you should do some soul searching and figure out your political allegiances because with all the invectives that you're throwing at our President and the democrats, we don't need any republicans....

Sep. 27 2010 06:33 PM
g.e.Taylor from Bklyn., NY

The answer is "True".
What's all the "blah", "blah", "blah" about?

Sep. 27 2010 01:03 PM

eva do you have a blog or something? i enjoy reading your work.

Sep. 27 2010 12:20 PM
eli from astoria

to determine whether the tea party is "good" for america simply check out the people they elect/love: palin, odonelle, paladino, glen beck, etc and see what you think of their policy ideas. emotions aside that will be the bottom line.
it is also useful to see where a huge chunk of their funding comes from.
from what i can tell the tea party has tapped into extremist right wing fear/anger directed towards obama. it's multi billionaire funders will use it to destroy public health care, environmental/corporate/financial regulation, and anything else they see as contrary to their financial interests.

Sep. 27 2010 12:14 PM
Jay from Brooklyn

The Tea Party is an artificial construct of The Koch Brothers, Fox News and other right wing idealogues, in order to deflect populist disafection toward a pro-corporate, pro-upper class agenda. What is needed is a true people's movement that unites working people and middle class familes to work together to promote an economy that benifits them and political integrity.

Sep. 27 2010 10:24 AM
The Mad Hatter from Wonderland

Definitely not good for America, and tarnishing the name of reputable tea parties everywhere else for that matter. Those people are just craaazzy!!

Sep. 27 2010 10:04 AM
Bernstein from NJ

I keep hearing/reading the news (from many different outlets) that Obama policies are causing the rush to join the Tea Party. If that were true then they would all simply vote Republican. I believe that the real anger is directed at the Repulican Party more than anything else. Bush was about to drive the country over a cliff and they are the only one to admit it.

Sep. 27 2010 09:43 AM
eva from CA

I did quite an exhausting bit of outreach as a Democrat to tea partiers last year, even bringing a pro-Stimulus sign to a tax day tea party. I found that many of these 'right wing extremists' were former Democrats who well understood that neither party was serving them. I did not find them to be overtly racist. I did note a class difference, and I continue to note that my side (liberal Democrats and soi-disant progressives) continues to snub these people when really they should be doing outreach. I found that even though I am bi-racial, all of the tea partiers I encountered in early 2009 were open to hearing a liberal perspective from someone who didn't disdain them.
As the year progressed, and the tea parties became less grass-roots and more Koch brothers-esque, it became more difficult.
But I will also say that it became more difficult as the focus shifted from banking issues to health care. Two reasons stand out:
1) there was rational common ground between liberals and tea partiers in opposition to the BANK bailout, but our Democratic political leadership wasn't interested in addressing that (say hello to regulatory capture)
2) once Obama showed how little fight he had in him by Autumn 2009, the tea partiers went ape. Why? Because people go ape in 'the absence of strong and meaningful leadership. Obama continued to show that he was afraid of his own shadow, and for many working class people, he continued to confirm that he was woefully out of touch with reality.
I have to say that I'm disappointed with my side for Not recognizing that it was possible and necessary to retrieve some of the ex-Democrats at these events. Instead, Dem leadership missed an opportunity, and the momentum swung to the right. But seriously, even though I'll be voting Democratic as always this year, my party has ill-served the working and middle class... If the tea partiers' jobs hadn't been outsourced, they sure wouldn't have time for these demonstrations. (Duh.) the Prez should at least TRY to put people back to work instead of licking the boots of Blankfein and Hayward.
But the ultimate takeaway is this: when Dems are spineless, tea parties are what you get. The right respects authority, and I don't know that they're entirely wrong to seek that. but Obama refuses to employ authority even a little. He may have gone to Columbia and Harvard, but he lacks an understanding even at the most basic level, of how to communicate with non-Ivy Leaguers, which is most of this country.
I believe LBJ went to teacher's college in Texas, but he had what it took to get the civil rights act passed, AND Medicare. Perhaps between Summers, Rubin, and Obama, we can assess the Ivy League for what it is: (unprintable.)

Sep. 27 2010 04:48 AM
Marnie from chicago

I would describe the tea party as the "..angry, scared, mis-informed and looking for easiest most simplified explanation for problems they see - mourning the loss of the american dream that they are 'entitled to' (no work required, the world doesn't change, and it doesn't cost anything, the 'keys' to the good life are handed out at the door) - party. They seek answers that pander to their fears and anger. I have a friend who asked about the constitutionality of Healthcare Reform
When I went through what allows for such changes, and then attempted to explain 'legal precedent' and how law changes, versus amendments.. He exclaimed "but that's complicated!".
I don't even know if there is agreement among these folks, much less what it means for the country

Sep. 24 2010 07:16 PM
fatima randolph

The tea party is good for america because it expands the dialogue. what is not good is that it really is the extreme right wing of the republican party disguised as a separate entity. Also, the political quality of its candidates is extremely poor - see Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell among others.

Sep. 24 2010 12:45 PM

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