The Tea Party Is Five Years Old: Here's What It Has To Show For Itself

The fifth anniversary of the Tea Party gives us an opportunity to look back not only at the many myths surrounding the movement, but also at what it has to show for its five years of political nihilism:

1) Government Shutdown

Many Tea Party activists seemed to be under the delusion that the GOP was pummeled in the 2012 election because Republican candidates weren’t conservative enough, and that voters really want more of their brand of uncompromising, ultraconservative, ideological politics. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gave them just that when he convinced Republican congressional leaders to go along with him in forcing a government shutdown over the health care reform law.

The GOP and the Tea Party suffered a massive backlash from the public, but Cruz fixed things by “unskewing” the polls and insisting that the GOP was actually winning the shutdown battle.

Of course, Republicans ended up getting nothing out of the shutdown, and Cruz is now desperately trying to claim that it was actually Obama and Senate Democrats who were responsible for it.

2) Debt Limit Fights

With Tea Party-aligned members of Congress acting like “lemmings with suicide vests,” Tea Party politicians and organizations have repeatedly pressured GOP leaders to engage in hostage-taking over the federal debt limit, warning that they may refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agrees to their demands — even if that means throwing the economy into crisis. One problem is that many Tea Party leaders don’t understand how the debt limit works, or the dangerous consequences of their political strategy.

While GOP leaders have vowed not to follow the insane policy anymore, the Tea Party still has two debt limit crises to “celebrate,” and a third if they get their way.

3) Candidate Drama

Tea Party-backed candidates such as Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell and Richard Mourdock are best known for their spectacular ability to lose winnable races, not to mention their high entertainment value. But we shouldn’t be surprised that Tea Party activists are drawn to such candidates, as many take after more successful Tea Party leaders like Cruz and Michele Bachmann.

Just in case you thought Republicans had learned their lesson about fringy Tea Party candidates, Glenn Beck spent last year trying to encourage extremist figures including Rep. Louie Gohmert and pseudo-historian David Barton to take on incumbent Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in this year’s Republican primary. Ultimately, the equally far-right congressman Steve Stockman got in the race.

4) GOP Takeover

Despite much talk about “establishment” Republicans fighting back against Tea Party insurgents, very few Tea Party congressmen are facing primary challengers. After the 2013 shutdown and debt fights, business groups like the Chamber of Commerce announced that they would take on the Tea Party…but they made the same threat after the 2011 debt limit crisis, and ended up funding Tea Party-aligned Republicans anyway.

“Despite making statements and sending letters voicing their concern, the Chamber has failed to spend a single penny in advocacy against the Tea Party hostage-takers,” Lee Fang notes. “[A]fter helping the Tea Party seize the House and several governors’ mansions during the midterms, business groups pumped funds into an effort to gerrymander the Tea Party into permanent rule.”

Hardline activists have also taken over groups such as Heritage Foundation and empowered new organizations such as FreedomWorks, Senate Conservatives Fund and The Madison Project, who are now backing Tea Party challengers in GOP Senate primaries states like Kentucky, Kansas and Mississippi.

While there is a lot of fuss about fired aides and ad firms as signs of the GOP civil war, in the end Republicans have embraced most of the Tea Party’s agenda — if not their tactics — and the many Tea Party congressmen from deep red districts seem to be here to stay.

5) Obama’s Second Term

While the Tea Party is far from the only factor that helped President Obama win re-election, the Tea Party — along with their close allies in the Religious Righttalk radio and Fox News — moved the GOP and its leaders towards unpopular and extreme positions on issues ranging from immigration to Medicare.

The Tea Party “makers-and-takers” worldview was most infamously stated by Mitt Romney in his notorious remarks about the “47 percent,” a line that conservative activists actually loved.

A CNN poll [PDF] taken a month after the 2012 election found that a 53 percent of Americans believe the Republican party is “too extreme,” a seventeen-point increase from 2010.

Completely divorced from reality, few Tea Party supporters predicted that Romney would lose: Two months before the election, a whopping 84 percent of Tea Party members believed that “pollsters [were] intentionally skewing their polls to help Barack Obama.”

Lively Defends Anti-Gay Criminalization Laws: 'The Gay Movement Has Brought This On Themselves'

Yesterday, anti-gay pastor Scott Lively told Religious Right radio host Janet Mefferd that there is a Satanic, socialist “conspiracy” to “homosexualize the world” that can only be stopped by a “revolution.”

Lively didn’t discuss this supposed gay-demonic conspiracy during his appearance today on NPR, but he didn’t exactly tone down his rhetoric either.

Speaking with NPR’s Michel Martin, Lively defended Uganda’s harsh new anti-gay law, arguing that the “gay movement has really brought this on themselves” and that the law is necessary to stop pedophiles.

When confronted with remarks made by a gay Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha about how anti-gay bias affects his daily life, Lively insisted that Mugisha is the real victim.

BarbWire Changes AP Headlines To Support Its Anti-Gay Agenda

It looks like Matt Barber's new BarbWire news site has taken a page out of the American Family Association's playbook and started rewording headlines from Associated Press articles that it runs in order to better promote its right-wing, anti-gay agenda.

For instance, an AP article reporting that a federal judge has ruled that Kentucky must recognize gay marriages that were performed in other states ran on most news websites under the headline "Ky. gay marriage ruling looks to precedents."

But that was not quite the headline the article received when it was posted at BarbWire:

Religious Right Activists Promise 'Epic Battle' In Texas Marriage Case

Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who has called this week’s marriage equality ruling in Texas a “hollow victory,” yesterday called it “one of the most egregious forms of judicial activism of our generation.” “The federal judiciary is out of control,” Saenz told Family Research Council head Tony Perkins on yesterday’s edition of Washington Watch.

He promised that there would be an “epic battle” to defeat marriage equality in Texas.

Similarly irate, Perkins said that judges and the Obama administration believe they can “tear away at the foundation of the rule of law” when it comes to the issue of marriage equality, which he warned will lead to “anarchy” and a “breakdown of society altogether.”

Heritage Chief Economist Complains 'Rich People' Are The Only 'Group You Can Legally Discriminate Against In America'

One of the actions that the Heritage Foundation has taken recently to cement its shift from conservative think tank to right-wing political bludgeon was to bring on as its chief economist Stephen Moore, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer who is fluent in Tea Party dogma.

In a speech to the Tea Party Patriots convention today, Moore did not disappoint. He advocated eliminating the departments of Education, Energy and Commerce and burning the entire tax code in a bonfire and replacing it with a regressive flat tax or national sales tax. As a starting point he suggested, “Let’s make the entire south of America, south of the Mason-Dixon line, let’s make it one gigantic income-tax free zone.”

Moore further displayed his preference for politics over policy when he recounted a meeting he had with congressional Republicans earlier this week at which he told them, “Whatever question you are asked, on whatever subject it is – Ukraine, the Middle East, what’s happening in social policy – the first answer is, ‘Well, of course we have to repeal Obamacare.’”

Finally, Moore said that he was “sick” of “the class warfare of the left.”

“You know, it’s interesting, in America there’s only one group you can legally discriminate against in America anymore: rich people,” he said.

Tea Party Patriots Speaker: When Obama Talks About 'Doing God's Work,' He Means 'God Must Be Dethroned'

As Brian noted earlier today, the Tea Party is no longer even pretending that it is focused exclusively on economic issues and not the culture wars. A case in point: At today’s Tea Party Patriots fifth anniversary convention today, Breitbart News author Sonnie Johnson was met with a standing ovation for a speech at which she insisted that President Obama is a Marxist who may or may not believe in God, but definitely thinks “God must be dethroned.”

“Karl Marx had two main goals: to destroy capitalism and to dethrone God,” Johnson said. “So when you hear the leader of progressivism, aka American Marxism, say that you are doing 'God’s work,’ understand he means it. He  means you’re taking over God’s work. God must be dethroned.”

“If God is in all of these things,” she said, referring to government services, “why are the Ten Commandments not allowed in the social services building? If God is in all of these things, why is there even a question if Little Sisters of the Poor have to pay for abortion? If God is in all of these things, do we have to ask him where he stands on marriage? “

“I have to ask sometimes, ‘What God are you serving?’” she said of the president. “But that’s not my place, and kind of, truthfully, I don’t really want to know.”

Owens: 'Anti-Christian' Obama Wants To Destroy The Church

In an interview with Janet Mefferd yesterday about his call for the impeachment of Attorney General Eric Holder, pastor William Owens insisted that President Obama is “anti-Christian” and the worst president in at least the last 75 years.

“We elected the wrong black president,” Owens said. “His strategy was, ‘If I get the Catholic Church, I can get all the churches because of their size; let’s knock them off, we’ll get all of them.’ He’s anti-Christian, he stands up for no Christian values whatsoever.” 

Owens told Mefferd that he’s refraining from calling for the impeachment and removal of President Obama because he wants the president to leave a legacy of backing marriage equality and being the worst president ever: “Since he took this bold position and he wants to leave a legacy, we’re gonna see that he does leave a legacy, that he does leave the legacy that he did more to demoralize this country than anybody, any president, any administration since I’ve been here and I’m seventy-five years old.”

Barton: Right Wing Worries That Obama Will Grant Himself A Third Term Is Proof That He Is 'Lawless'

On today's "WallBuilders Live" radio program, David Barton responded to a question from a listener asking if he thought that President Obama might declare a state of emergency so that he could cancel the 2016 elections and serve a third term in office.

Barton said that he didn't think that such a scenario was very likely, but used the question to assert that nobody voiced this sort of concern about Presidents Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. The fact that people are asking such questions now, Barton said, is a sign that Obama is "lawless."

"It's interesting that this is the question that is asked by people when they find their presidents to be lawless," Barton declared. "If you have a president who is not lawless, you don't ask the question. You know that Ronald Reagan is not going to do a third term; he followed the Constitution. You know that George Bush, you may not like all that he did but he stayed with the Constitution in a very public way ... Nobody debated that he was going to change the Constitution for himself, for his own benefit. The fact that you have this question indicates something of the nature of the presidents with whom you're dealing ... Asking the question is the character of the leader who is in office at the time":

5 Tea Party Myths Debunked As Movement Marks 5 Years Of Dysfunction

As the Tea Party celebrates its fifth anniversary, we decided to look at five of the myths that Tea Party supporters, and many pundits, continue to believe about the far-right movement.

Myth #1: Tea Party Cares About Economic Stewardship

If Tea Party activists believe they are on a crusade to save the American economy, they have an odd way of showing it. The Tea Party was responsible for an economically harmful and utterly pointless government shutdown and has several times threatened economic catastrophe by refusing to raise the debt limit — with their hostage-taking strategycontributing to a S&P credit downgrade and lower consumer confidence.

The Treasury Department warned in the midst of last year’s government shutdown [PDF]: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse…. Because the debt ceiling impasse contributed to the financial market disruptions, reduced confidence and increased uncertainty, the economic expansion was no doubt weaker than it otherwise would have been.”

One problem might be that Tea Party leaders seem to have no clue what they are talking about.

Tea Party politicians dismissed concerns about failing to raise the debt limit — with one Tea Party-aligned congressman arguing that such a move would help the economy — and didn’t seem to grasp the fact that “raising the debt ceiling simply lets Treasury borrow the money it needs to pay all U.S. bills and other legal obligations in full and on time” and isn’t a “license to spend more.”

Similarly, a Bloomberg News poll found that 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe the federal budget deficit is growing, even while it is rapidly shrinking.

Myth #2: Tea Party Wants Entitlement Cuts

We keep hearing about how the Tea Party will lead a push to cut entitlement programs, but Tea Party members are disproportionately entitlement program benefactors. A New York Times/CBS poll found that Tea Party members are more likely than others to claim that they or a family member receives Social Security benefits or is covered by Medicaid, and 62 percent believe “the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare [are] worth the costs of those programs.”

According to a McClatchy-Marist poll, 76 percent of Tea Party supporters oppose Social Security and Medicare cuts while 70 percent said they were against cuts to Medicaid.

Of course, many Tea Party supporters don’t seem to mind public programs when they are the ones benefiting from them, and Republicans continue to criticize reductions in future Medicare spending that they voted for.

“[W]hat many of the Tea Party candidates have found is that when push comes to shove, their backers want to protect their entitlements as much as the next guy,” writes Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation. “In fact, much of the fury of the Tea Partiers against government stimulus and bailouts might have less to do with any principled belief in the limits of government and more to do with fear of what this will do to their own entitlements.”

Myth #3: Tea Party Faces Government Persecution

The Tea Party has desperately clutched onto a conspiracy theory that the IRS specifically targeted Tea Party groups to help seal President Obama’s re-election. Of course, it turns out that the IRS actually scrutinized liberal and conservative groups alike. The faux-scandal was hyped and distorted by congressional Republicans, and Tea Party leaders predicted that it would rejuvenate the movement.

As Alex Seitz-Wald reported: “We know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kinds of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimately crossed the line; that the IG’s report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans’ request; and that the White House was in no way involved in the targeting and didn’t even know about it until shortly before the public did. In short, the entire scandal narrative was a fiction.”

Rather than face facts, leaders are out with a fresh and similarly dubious conspiracy that proposed IRS rules on political activity by certain nonprofits will target conservative organizations for discrimination.

Myth #4: Tea Party Ignores Social Issues

Many Tea Party leaders -- including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann, Mike Lee, Jim DeMint and Glenn Beck -- are also favorites of the Religious Right. The GOP victories in the 2010 midterm election brought about what the Daily Beast called “one of the most religiously conservative [House of Representatives] in recent history” and Republican politicians in Congress and state legislatures immediately pursued a crackdown on abortion rights.

Glenn Beck’s massive 2010 Tea Party rally on the National Mall turned into a religious revival meeting. Last year, even the openly gay founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots addressed an anti-gay marriage rally in front of the Supreme Court. And far-right pastor Rick Scarborough decided to establish his own group, Tea Party Unity, to promote his call for a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality.

Pew found that just as “the Tea Party is much more Republican and conservative than the public as a whole… Tea Party supporters also tend to take socially conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.” Tea Party activists oppose marriage equality and abortion rights at rates nearly identical to Republicans at large, and are just as likely to cite religion as the driving force on their stances on such issues.

A 2013 American Values survey observed that the majority of Tea Party activists “identify with the Christian Right,” and a study by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell found Tea Party members to be “disproportionately social conservatives” with a penchant for the “overt use of religious language and imagery.” “It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity,” they added.

Myth #5: Tea Party Has Wide Popularity

Tea Party politicians like to fashion themselves as champions of a broadly popular movement that has supporters across partisan lines. Bachmann thinks the Tea Party represents “virtually 90 percent of America” and a poll of Tea Party supporters found that 84 percent agree that “the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans.” Beck even believes that most Americans are in the Tea Party and to the right of the GOP.

But while the Tea Party is far from dead, a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of the right-wing movement.

In December, Gallup found that the Tea Party has never held widespread support:

Huelskamp: Impeach Eric Holder Over Marriage Equality

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said this week that he will join efforts to impeach of Attorney General Eric Holder over his stance on marriage equality, citing a petition by the Coalition of African-American Pastors and accusing Holder of trying to “thwart” the Constitution by not defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

Of course, the Obama administration would be far from the first administration to decline to defend an unconstitutional law, with Republicans and Democrats alike doing the same in the past.

Several Republicans have already proposed a resolution seeking Holder’s impeachment.

“More lawlessness from a lawless administration; Attorney General Holder should not advise other attorneys general to violate their oaths of office. These elected officials have a duty and a solemn obligation to defend their states’ laws and Constitution - not allow ideology and politics to cloud their legal decisions. Whatever one’s personal opinions on the Second Amendment, the Internal Revenue Service, controlled substances, the freedom of the press, or even marriage, an Attorney General simply can’t pick and choose the laws or parts of the Constitution he or she would like to defend.

“In recent years, I have grown increasingly concerned by Holder’s actions – and those of others in the Obama Administration - to disregard the laws and the Constitution they have sworn to defend. I am not alone in these concerns. Dozens of my colleagues have called upon Holder to resign. Dozens have asked the President to remove Holder from office. Additionally, on June 28, 2012, 255 members of the U.S. House of Representatives held Mr. Holder in Contempt of Congress. It is the Attorney General’s job to uphold the Constitution and the law - not ignore it, nor rewrite it, nor encourage other attorneys general to thwart it.

“This has gone on far too long. The lawlessness at the Department of Justice - of this Administration - must end now. That is why I am announcing today my co-sponsorship of H.Res. 411, which introduces five articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.”
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