16 November 2011

Fed Up with the Cocktail Party in DC

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently predicted the rise of a third party which reflects discontent with the Federal government from beyond the beltways.  Such independent ideas are not unusual for the maverick senator when he is not running for office posing as a conservative but voting  as big government representative who abhors earmarks.  When asked whether this third party would be right, left or center oriented, McCain quipped that it would be a “Fed Up” party.

McCain believes that Washington is not responding to the plight of the people, especially concerning the sluggish economy where most people are struggling to make ends meet yet corporate executives take home massive salaries. McCain thinks massive tax reform which redresses the inequity of large corporations not paying taxes would be the foundation of this third way.

Even though the Tea Party has been a phenomenon in the American body politic since 2009, McCain dismissed them as a movement not an organization that is receding.    Of course, this opinion is coming from a Senator who referred to the Tea Party as hobbits during a floor speech on the debt ceiling in July.  That being said, the 75 year old maverick senator would not bolt the Republican Party.  So the Senate GOP caucus can still count on the organizing votes from McCain and his understudy Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

While McCain does recognize the discontent from beyond the beltways but he prescriptions for change are mired due to his maverick myopia of the body politic. Actually, the rallying against corporatism and centrist orientation sounds more like the ersatz Coffee Party efforts that were  ginned up on Facebook in early 2010 than the real reformist movement in the Tea Party. The Coffee Party tried to sell a “Wake Up and Stand Up” message that only drew 350 participants to a National Convention in Louisville.  This so called Coffee Party message went over about as well as Starbucks Via instant coffee.

McCain has a remarkable record of opposing Pork Barrel earmark spending in Congress, but McCain’s leadership with the Gang of 14 shows a go along to get along deference to Senatorial courtesy.  The landmark McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law restricted the First Amendment to effectively help re-elect incumbents and Lamestream Media favored candidates.  And the Lieberman-McCain Environmental Stewardship bill supported Caps on CO2 emissions by American businesses to combat the falsified “facts” about anthropogenic Climate Change.  McCain may sanctimoniously spout jeremiads of third party change, but his record belies the fact that his policy position concentrates more power to Washington insiders.

It is true that the Tea Party has intentionally eschewed organization into a third party as it would be a loser that re-elects the statists who are already in power. But McCain is mistaken about what voters are “Fed Up” about.  The Tea Party stands for “Taxed Enough Already”.  Tea Partiers stand for adherence to the Constitution, lower taxes and is skeptical of the Cocktail Party tendency of incumbents. That message is a far cry from the politics veiled class warfare which McCaincites as being the basis of a “Fed Up” party.

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) tried to launch his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination on a theme of being a Washington outsider who can get things done and is “Fed Up”.  But during the Michigan Presidential debate, Perry had a painful 53 second brain freeze in trying to think of a third agency that he would abolish.

 Now Perry is floating a theme to “Uproot and Overhaul” Washington. Perry proposes ending lifetime appointment of federal judges, establishing 18 year term limits for Supreme Court members, cutting Congressional salaries in half and slashing their staffs. Perhaps this populism might resurrect Perry’s  almost moribund standing in the polls. But since most of these ideas must be implemented by the Constitutional Amendment process, it is dubious if Tea Party types will drink this rhetorical Kool-Aid.

Perry’s prescriptions may be flawed, but he does touch on many of the sick symptoms of Potomac Fever.  The Cocktail Party is establishment politicians who value both incumbency and favorable standing in high flying social circles.  Republican politicians campaign with a fervor of conservatism and good governance while out on the hustings. However, once Cocktail Party members are elected, they resort to back room deals which grow the government and contradict their campaign promises.

It is less likely that neither McCain’s vision of a “Fed Up” Party nor Gov. Perry’s raging against the machine will change Washington.  What may precipitate this monumental change may come from a “compromise” from Republicans on the Super-Committee to raise  “revenue” by $300 Billion (to start) or face draconian automatic cuts of $1.2 Trillion split military and domestic spending. If the GOP caves on their 2010 Pledge to America to stop job killing tax hikes, they will be in hot water with the Tea Party.

If the GOP establishment endorses higher taxes to placate perceptions about a Do-Nothing Congress, expect participating incumbents to be targeted in primary challenges. As the Tea Party has avoided organization, it is unlikely that they would gravitate towards a third party.  That might curtail many cocktail parties amongst conservatives in the near future.

h/t: William Warren

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