Thursday, January 23, 2014


I'm not sure what to make of this:
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats' political guru, has a plan to poison the Tea Party by driving a wedge between its rich funders and its blue-collar rank and file.

Schumer ... will argue in a major speech on Thursday that super-wealthy Tea Party donors have hijacked the grassroots movement that grew out of the economic anxiety of the 2008 financial collapse to suit their pro-big-business agenda....

"There is a glaring weakness, one very weak link in the Tea Party's armor, which is an inherent contradiction within the Tea Party that, I believe can be exposed to greatly weaken their hold on the policy debate," Schumer will say, according to excerpts of his remarks.

"The fundamental weakness in the Tea Party machine is the stark difference between what the leaders of the Tea Party elite, plutocrats like the Koch Brothers want and what the average grassroots Tea Party follower wants," he will say.

Schumer will argue Democrats must defend popular government programs, such as extended unemployment benefits and student loan subsidies, to persuade Tea Party voters they could benefit from federal programs....

"Wealthy Tea Party leaders have convinced Tea Party rank and file and many other Americans that anti-government ideology is the answer to their problems -- but many Tea Partiers and sympathizers support government programs -- Democrats must exploit the difference," Schumer's office said in a statement announcing the speech....
If Schumer is saying that Democrats should stick up for popular programs, that makes sense -- at least as outreach to people in the middle. If, however, the plan is to say, "Hey, you in the tricorner hat! The Koch brothers are not your friends!," that's not going to work.

I've never encountered a discussion of tea party funding in which any tea party member or supporter said, "Yes, we receive support from rich conservatives -- what of it?" The teabaggers always deny that their movement is heavily subsidized; they're in total denial on this subject. Nevertheless, they love the citizens United ruling, hated attempts to restrict campaign spending even before there was a tea party, and love rich people in general, especially rich conservatives. Among the right-wing rank-and-file, you'll never hear a discouraging word about the Kochs or other billionaire funders of conservatism.

The reason is tribal: the Kochs and other right-wing billionaires have the same enemies as the right-wing rank-and-file. So even the teabaggers who think they're fighting for the people and against the powerful are going to close ranks with the Kochs if Schumer and others attack the Kochs by name. They simply won't hear a discouraging word about them.

And to most of the people in the middle, unfortunately, the Kochs and the rest of the billionaires on the right are all but invisible. People in the middle don't pay attention to them the way politically focused righties and lefties do.


Economic populism? Go for it. It really might connect with middle-of-the-road voters, who think the economic system is rigged.

But attack the activist fat cats? It's probably a waste of time.


Victor said...

I'm not sure having a Jewish Senator from the Communist state of NY deliver this message, is going to help this cause any.

And yeah, Steve, you're right - it's purely tribal.
But then, so are we Liberals.

The difference is, we're not a tribe of murdering sociopathic cannibals, who want to dine on the raw meat of their enemies.

Peter Janovsky said...

The teabaggers have a one word answer to the Kochs: Soros!!

sdhays said...

My first reaction was similar to Victor's, although from a slightly different angle: Wall Street's poodle is not exactly the best person to deliver this message. And my second reaction was the same as Steve's: the Tea Party has no coherent populist wing. It's a party of rage, rage at anything that sticks. They will rail against Wall Street and then accuse anyone of trying to do anything to reign Wall Street in as traitors and communists. The idea that a rational argument can convince these people that liberal policies would be in their best interests is fairy tale; there is no magic policy/messaging formula to split them from their masters. As Steve says, they are a tribe; they've implicitly accepted that their own self-interest is second to that of the tribe (though this is usually achieved by deluding themselves into believing that policies to help billionaires will help part-time McDonald's employees as well).

On the other hand (as Obama likes to say), directing this at the Tea Party may be something of a head-fake. The true idea is probably just to further discredit the Tea Party in the eyes of everyone else. Weaving the theme of the Tea Party rank-and-file as foolish dupes into the message regarding inequality could be pretty effective if done well. People in the middle who really don't know what to think (and don't bother thinking about it too much) can still pick up on the idea that "Tea Party" = "kind of stupid". Booman has meditated on this idea regarding how being Republican used to be a status symbol in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, but now it's kind of embarrassing.

Bruce Webb said...

Not just Soros.

The Right has Koch, Scaife, Mellon, DeVos, Welch, etc etc for decades while the reichnuts always KNOW where the REAL enemies are:

Rothschilds. And Soros'. And if it comes to that Rubin. And Lehman.

Morgan Good. Rothschild Bad. Though you couldn't slip a playing card between their strategy and tactics over the last 150 years.

The Right recognizes Good Bankers and demonizes Bad Bankers. Who almost without exception fall into the category of 'Rootless Cosmopolitans'.

Dog Whistles don't just get heard by anti-black racists. There is a whole 2000 year history of such whistles heard by folks that in past centuries had never heard of Africa. The whole thing has been obscured by the Right's wholesale embrace of AIPAC and Likud but it comes right to the fore with every cry of 'Soros'.

Same as it every was.

Ten Bears said...

To the Rothchilds the Koch Brothers are amateurs.