Tea Party movement can't grasp meaning of "socialism"

So the North Iowa Tea Party covered up their Mason City billboard that juxtaposed pictures of Adolf Hitler (“National Socialism”), Barack Obama (“Democrat Socialism”) and Vladimir Lenin (“Marxist Socialism”) over the slogan, “Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naive.” (Here’s a photo.) Activists in statewide tea party circles repudiated the billboard. Ryan Rhodes, chairman of the Iowa Tea Party movement, wants fellow travelers to educate the public about freedom and U.S. history. Rhodes’ problem was the Hitler imagery, not the underlying message that we’re headed toward socialism.

I know I’m supposed to be outraged that right-wingers would compare Obama to Hitler, but I’m too stunned that anyone paying attention to the news could view Obama as “socialist.” I got a window onto the tea party mindset from Bob Johnson, one of the Mason City billboard’s creators. For your weekly dose of unintentional comedy, I recommend Jennifer Jacobs’ interview with Johnson on the Des Moines Register blog. Among his insights:

“It was absolutely not the aim to just create controversy. Nobody’s more surprised about the thing than I am,” Johnson said. “This billboard was misunderstood. I’m not going to say it was a mistake.” […]

“We had some hesitations about it,” Johnson said, “but for those that understand it, it’s just such a powerful billboard, so we said screw it and go ahead with it.” […]

“When we put that Hitler up there, it just totally overwhelmed everything on the billboard,” Johnson said. “That’s the one thing that just destroyed the whole concept we did not realize the power Hitler still has, the emotion.” […]

“When you want to compare the present administration to Hitler, Hitler took over the banks. Gee, what’s this administration doing? Hitler took over the health care. Gee. Hitler took over the transportation and what’s this administration doing? If that wasn’t a direct comparison to socialism, I don’t know what is.”

Let’s consider the so-called government takeover of health care, a major area of concern for the tea partiers. Under socialized medicine (as exists in real socialist countries), the government employs all the doctors and runs all the clinics and hospitals. Under single-payer health care (as exists in Canada), the government pays for medical care, but most doctors and medical institutions are privately operated.

In contrast, Obama had his top aides cut deals with health industry interests, working closely with the most corporate-friendly Congressional  committee drafting a health reform bill. The key staffer charged with writing that committee’s bill, Liz Fowler, came straight from one of the largest health insurance companies. Obama broke many significant campaign promises on health care so as not to tread on corporate interests. As a result, key industries got virtually everything they wanted from the bill that passed. Private health insurance companies are now guaranteed millions of new customers in the coming years, with no new competition from government-run entities. Completing the circle, Fowler is now working for the Obama administration to help implement the health reform law.

Rest assured, no corporate CEO in America is lying awake at night worried about “socialist” health care the way Johnson says he worried people might bomb his house because they didn’t like his billboard.

Most of the Obama administration’s economic team came straight from the Wall Street culture, and the president hasn’t tried to “take over” or even break up major financial institutions.

I have no idea what Johnson is talking about when he suggests the Obama administration has been taking over the transportation sector.

Anyone who has such a skewed view of this corporate-friendly administration could gain perspective from spending a few weeks in a socialist country.

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Lessons from the "Enlightened Eight": Republicans Can Vote Pro-Environment and Not Get "Tea Partied

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Only eight Republicans – we'll call them the “Enlightened Eight” – voted “aye.” These Republicans were Mary Bono-Mack (CA-45), Mike Castle (DE-AL), John McHugh (NY-23), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Christopher Smith (NJ-4).

Republicans voting for cap and trade in the year of the Tea Party? You'd think that they'd be dumped in the harbor by now. Instead, they're all doing fine. In fact, to date, not a single one of these Republicans has been successfully primaried by the “tea party” (or otherwise). Instead, we have two – Castle and Kirk – running for U.S. Senate, one (McHugh) who was appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama, and five others – Bono-Mack, LoBiondo, Lance, Reichert, Smith – running for reelection.

Rep. Lance actually was challenged by not one, not two, but three “Tea Party” candidates. One of Lance's opponents, David Larsen, even produced this nifty video, helpfully explaining that “Leonard Lance Loves Cap & Trade Taxes.” So, did this work? Did the Tea Partiers overthrow the tyrannical, crypto-liberal Lance? Uh, no. Instead, in the end, Lance received 56% of the vote, easily moving on to November.

Meanwhile, 100 miles or so south on the Jersey Turnpike, Rep. LoBiondo faced two “Tea Party” candidates – Donna Ward and Linda Biamonte – who also attacked on the cap-and-trade issue. According to Biamonte, cap and trade “is insidious and another tax policy… a funneling of money to Goldman Sachs and Al Gore through derivatives creating a carbon bubble like the housing bubble.” You'd think that Republican primary voters in the year of the Tea Party would agree with this line of attack. Yet LoBiondo won with 75% of the vote.

Last but not least in New Jersey, Christopher Smith easily turned back a Tea Party challenger – Alan Bateman – by a more than 2:1 margin. Bateman had argued that “Obama knows he can count on Smith to support the United Nations' agenda to redistribute American wealth to foreign countries through international Cap & Trade agreements and other programs that threaten our sovereignty.” Apparently, Republican voters in NJ-4 didn't buy that argument.

Across the country in California's 45th District, Mary Bono-Mack won 71% of the vote over Tea Party candidate Clayton Thibodeau on June 8. This, despite Thibodeau attacking Bono-Mack as “the only Republican west of the Mississippi to vote for Cap and Trade.” Thibodeau also called cap and trade “frightening,” claiming that government could force you to renovate your home or meet requirements before you purchase a home. Thibodeau's scare tactics on cap-and-trade clearly didn't play in CA-45.

Finally, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert has drawn a Tea Party challenger named Ernest Huber, who writes that Cap and Trade “is widely viewed as an attempt at Soviet-style dictatorship using the environmental scam of global warming/climate change… written by the communist Apollo Alliance, which was led by the communist Van Jones, Obama's green jobs czar.” We'll see how this argument plays with voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, but something tells us it's not going to go over any better than in the New Jersey or California primaries.

In sum, it appears that it's quite possible for Republicans to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation and live (politically) to tell about it. The proof is in the primaries.

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King bound for Colorado, whether Republicans want him or not

Representative Steve King won’t cancel his planned trip to Colorado this weekend, even though the conservatives he had planned to help don’t want to be associated with him. Via Swing State Project’s morning news roundup I found this Loveland Connection article following up on the controversy over King’s recent comments on race. King is not backing down on his claim that President Barack Obama’s “default mechanism” on race “favors the black person.” As I discussed yesterday, the comments prompted Colorado Congressional candidate Cory Gardner to cancel a fundraiser King was supposed to headline and got King uninvited from a Northern Colorado Tea Party rally to be held in Loveland. From the Loveland Connection piece:

King said he called both [Northern Colorado Tea Party director Lesley] Hollywood and Gardner on Tuesday after their cancellation announcements.

“I have spoken with her and Cory Gardner both, and neither one of them disagreed with what I said or the position I have taken,” King said in an interview.

Gardner’s campaign manager, Chris Hansen, flatly rejected King’s characterization of his conversation with the Northern Colorado congressional candidate: “That is not an accurate reflection of Representative Gardner’s views,” he said in an e-mail.

Hollywood was interviewed Tuesday morning but couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after King’s interview.

The Iowa congressman said he told Gardner and Hollywood he’d be in Colorado on Saturday.

“I pointed out to them that I’m coming to Colorado, that’s in my schedule and they’ll have to figure it out from there,” he said.

He declined to elaborate on his weekend plans: “We will make some arrangements so that works out to be effective.”

A spokesman for Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, a Republican Senate candidate who also will speak at the Loveland rally, also rejected King’s statement.

“His comments do not represent the Tea Party,” Buck spokesman Owen Loftus told The Associated Press.

Stay tuned–this could get interesting over the weekend if the rank and file Colorado tea partiers stand by King. He typically gets a warm reception from tea party crowds, as Joseph Morton noted in this story for the Omaha World-Herald:

King said that the controversy over his comments had been drummed up by liberal activists and that he was surprised both the Gardner campaign and the local tea party leadership “caved” in the face of that controversy.

“That’s not the kind of people I want guarding my back,” King said. […]

King has spoken at numerous tea party rallies, including one in Washington in April. King was introduced to the enthusiastic crowd as a “tea partier on the inside” and a congressman who is “tea party tested and tea party approved.”

He also hung one of the “Don’t Tread On Me” flags popular among tea party regulars outside his Capitol Hill office. He said at the time that the flag has become “the symbol of taking our country back.”

Obama and race also were mentioned in a speech made last month by King.

“When he had an Irish cop and a black professor, who’d he side with?” King asked. “He jumped to a conclusion without having heard the facts. And he ended up having to have a beer summit.

“The president of the United States has got to articulate a mission. And instead, he’s playing race-bait games to undermine the law enforcement in the state of Arizona and across the country.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn clearly wants this controversy to blow over, but King would rather stand his ground, even if he embarrasses fellow Republicans in the process.

UPDATE: King tweeted on Thursday, “I will do media and two events in Colorado Saturday. One at Elizabeth at 11:00, one at Loveland at 2:30 with Tancredo and others.” Can’t wait!

Meanwhile, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky said today,

“King’s statements reflect an absolute callous disregard for the truth and is an embarrassment to all Iowans,” Dvorsky said. “I’m calling on Sen. Grassley, Terry Branstad, and Iowa Republicans to join me and the Northern Colorado Tea Party in denouncing Steve King’s irresponsible and divisive comments.” […]

“It’s truly unfortunate that Matt Strawn and other Iowa Republicans haven’t mustered the courage to put him in his place,” Dvorsky said. “This is a Congressman that spends more time trying to make the news than working for his constituents. It’s time for Iowa Republicans to make a stand and let Rep. King know this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated.”

UPDATE: Isaiah McGee, the rising African American star of the Republican Party of Iowa, defended King in this post at The Iowa Republican blog. The Iowa Democratic Party asked whether Terry Branstad was indirectly defending King, noting that McGee serves as Young Professionals Chair for the Branstad campaign.

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How did Terry Branstad do it?

(A lot of good points in here. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

This diary is actually a response to a desmoinesdem post earlier today.  I was going to make a comment, but my response was more robust, so here are my two cents that attempts to answer the burning question:

How did former Governor Terry Branstad avoid a Tea-Party challenger, when so many other Republicans around the U.S. have not?

Let’s be clear.  Everyone knows that Terry Branstad was not a pure conservative while he was governor of Iowa.  However, this year we have seen several candidates who were challenged from the right because many believed that they were not conservative enough, whether it be Charlie Crist in Florida, or Senator Bob Bennett in Utah.  To be clear, this is happening on the Democratic side too (i.e. Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania), so this is not only one party’s quest for purity.  However, this post is about the GOP.

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Five Reasons Clean Energy Trumps Tea Party Slogans

Sometimes I think America is the proverbial child-star-gone-bad of nations: we have a crippling addiction, but we still won't go to rehab.

We are hooked on burning dirty fossil fuels like cavemen, and no matter how many times we hit rock bottom — deadly coal mining accidents, the uncontrolled oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and American soldiers risking their lives overseas — we won't embrace the safer, smarter, cleaner path of renewable energy.

Change shouldn't be this hard.

That is the message behind a new ad campaign launched by NRDC's Action Fund this week. The ad urges senators from both sides of the aisle to put America back in control of our energy future.

Americans want change: a recent poll found that seven in ten Americans think clean energy legislation must be fast-tracked in the wake of the catastrophic Gulf oil spill.

Yet our elected officials haven't delivered the clean energy that voters want. Too many lawmakers fear that if they vote for a clean energy future, they will fall prey to populist mood swings come November. But they are mistaken and here is why:

1. Support for clean energy and climate action is not a flash in the pan. President Obama made clean energy one of the three planks of his platform. His energy policies have been vetted, reviewed and fleshed out through the longest presidential campaign in history and into his administration.

And all the while, clean energy has remained popular with American voters. So much so that Tea Party candidates now talk about it themselves. Most of their claims are bogus, but it is revealing that they haven't left clean energy on the cutting room floor.

2. Tea Party candidates are like the streaker at a football game. They get a lot of attention for their bold, rebellious positions, but after you get a closer look, you want to turn your head away. Their catchphrases simply don't hold up to scrutiny, never mind a 24-hour news cycle.

Rand Paul sounded good in his 30-second campaign spots, for instance, but just days after he won the primary, he started saying business owners should be allowed to kick people of color out of their establishments. After seeing Paul on The Rachel Maddow Show or Sarah Palin being interviewed by Katie Couric, viewers start to realize that Tea Party slogans don't always make for sound governing policy.

3. The Tea Party is today's rebranding of conservative Republican voters. It baffles me that people talk about the Tea Party as if it were something new, when in fact it is just the latest packaging of the radical right.
We have seen this before and we know how it ends: people who identify with the radical group of the day are people who already vote and who will continue to vote for the most conservative candidate. This is not a new batch of voters up for grabs, and therefore, there is no point in pandering to them.

4. Angry voters may scream the loudest, but that doesn't make them powerful. It is human nature to pay attention to the loudest person in the room, but that doesn't mean you have to like them. The official Tea Party page on Facebook has only 200,000 fans. The “Can this poodle wearing a tinfoil hat get more fans than Glenn Beck” Facebook page has 280,453 fans.

Right now, every politico is trying to figure out how to win in November, and some are getting distracted by the noise of the radical right. The truth is that these people have been angry for a long time and they will be angry long after lawmakers leave Congress. It is how they live their lives. And while they have extra visibility right now, it looks like most elections will be decided on issues particular to each state, not Tea Party anger.

5. People will vote for lawmakers who create jobs, growth and security. In the end, winning elections and governing the nation is about making people's lives better. Passing clean energy and climate legislation will do that. It could generate nearly 2 million jobs, put America at the forefront of the global clean energy marketplace, strengthen national security and reduce dangerous pollution.

Now is not the time to be bullied. It is the time for lawmakers to stand up and put America on a path to a cleaner, better future. This kind of change isn't hard at all.

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Tax day linkfest

Although most Americans say their income taxes are fair, today is “Christmas in April” for Republican politicians trying to stir up resentment about the tax burden. As I mentioned yesterday, last year’s stimulus bill contained tax cuts for 98 percent of American families and particularly helped lower and middle-income families. Gail Collins commented,

Thanks to the tax credits in President Obama’s stimulus plan and other programs aimed at helping working families, couples with two kids making up to $50,000 were generally off the hook this year.

Naturally, anti-tax groups held rallies to thank the president for doing so much to reduce the burden on the half of the country least able to pay. Not.

One of the biggest tax breaks in the stimulus bill reduces taxes owed by $400 for individual filers and $800 for married couples filing jointly, but reportedly this credit and the accompanying “Schedule M” have confused many taxpayers.

Here’s a truly disturbing trend mostly ignored by the media. Annie Lowrey reports that in recent years the IRS has shifted toward more audits of mom-and-pop businesses and less scrutiny of the big corporations that “can defraud the federal government for much more vast amounts than their smaller counterparts.”

At today’s anti-tax rallies, some speakers will argue for a “flat tax,” meaning that the income tax would be set at the same level regardless of your income. That’s a bad idea, which hasn’t worked in countries that have adopted it.

Other conservatives, such as Representative Steve King and presidential contender Mike Huckabee, will repeat their support for a “fair tax,” which would replace the income tax with a huge consumption tax. That’s a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad idea.

Speaking of conservative fantasy-land, Senator Chuck Grassley decided to make stuff up during a conference call with reporters yesterday:

Grassley spoke of his belief that America is sliding toward a European-style economy. Actually, he said the Obama adminstration is moving the country in that direction, so he envisions President Barack Obama will ask for a tax increase via a value-added tax, since he can’t politically backtrack and increase income taxes on middle income people.

“They are going to need European-type taxes to maintain it, and that’s where the value-added tax comes in,” Grassley said. “…They just can’t get enough money from taxing wealthy people, to do all the things that they want to do. So you can add a value-added tax, and it is a hidden tax, because it is built into the price of the commodity you’ll buy. So, they can increase taxes on middle income taxpayers, contrary to what they promised in the election.”

Riiiight.

Today’s rallies will surely generate a lot of media coverage, as well as some controversy over how significant the “tea party” movement is. Blog for Iowa cross-posted a piece from News Corpse casting doubt on the political strength of tea partiers.

I’m watching several upcoming Republican primaries as a test of the tea party in Iowa. If Dave Funk does surprisingly well in the third Congressional district, Chris Reed wins in the second district, or Mike La Coste or Jim Budde exceed expectations in the first district, that will be a sign of real grassroots power for the movement, but I expect candidates with more GOP establishment connections to win all three of those primaries.

Share any thoughts about taxes or tea partiers in this thread. I’ll be back later to comment, after waiting in line at the post office for who knows how long to mail my return (note to self: get this done earlier next year!).

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