When you’re dead, you don’t actually know you’re dead; it just affects those around you. Being a political extremist in America is a lot like being dead; you don’t know you’re an extremist, but it affects those around you just the same. One of two major differences between the two realities is that the dead cannot convince themselves that they are dead—as they are absent of consciousness—while those who make their intellectual homes with the margins of political fringe thinking can routinely convince themselves that they are “true patriots” or “real Americans.” The rest of us apparently are self-delusional, intellectual dullards who took the blue pill.
Now that Congress has successfully kicked the budget can down the road until early next year, it should become apparent that this is the reality of the state of politics within our government. Egged-on by the “real Americans” known as the Tea Party, favorite party son, Senator Ted Cruz of Florida led a doomed-from-the-start effort to tie creating a federal budget deal to continue to run the government’s day-to-day business with his (and the Tea Party’s) disdain for President Obama’s signature health care reform law, hoping to get the last defunded—or revoked entirely. Ostensibly, this effort on the part of Cruz to revoke funding for the health care law was to trim the budget and curtail federal spending by the government. If it were the true motive, it would indeed be laudable. However (and at the risk of painting all Tea Party-backed
Florida Republican Senator (and Tea Party favorite) Ted Cruz
Congressmen with a broad paintbrush), most of the grandstanding on the part of Cruz and his Congressional cohorts was mostly political, a transparent effort to garner favor with the “real Americans” back in their home districts (although I will concede the benefit of the doubt and grant that not every member of the Tea Party caucus in Congress are as self-interests-driven as Cruz and the other “patriots”). Needless to say, despite being cheered on by supporters, the effort failed miserably. In fact, this effort on Cruz and the Tea Party’s part to avoid compromising on any budget proposal in exchange revoking funding for Obama’s (bad attempt to reform) health care failed to not only trim government spending, but the resulting government shutdown cost the country some $24 billion in lost economic output according to the Standard and Poor’s ratings agency (see: “How Much Did the Shutdown Cost The Economy?”). Even anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist called
Cruz and his allies as “defund terrorists.” Norquist previously slammed those who tried to use the government shutdown to roll back the Affordable Care Act by saying, “They hurt the conservative movement, they hurt people’s health care, they hurt the country’s economic situation and they hurt the Republican Party” (“Grover Norquist Slams Ted Cruz”).
Already, Cruz and many within the Tea party have attributed the failure of the effort to defund Obamacare and the lack of any tangible results—at least by their standards—to “turncoat” mainstream Republicans who dared to strike a compromise rather than support the Tea party’s failed effort. Of course it would never cross their minds of Cruz and the Tea Party that they represent an extreme point of view, that they lack general support because of this, or that they are on the fringes of political ideology…it’s the rest of us. It's what they "see," not how they see it that's at fault. Of course!
Part of their philosophy (and political strategy) is to "prove" how “overstated” forced spending cuts like those from the sequester from earlier this year, the shutdown from 2 weeks ago, and failure to raise the deficit ceiling is, and that such sudden spending halts would be more beneficial to the nation’s fiscal solvency than the harm that almost every reputable economist has projected. But to Tea Partiers, the more level-headed among the rest of us are either “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only), “liberals,” “brainwashed by the media,” or “socialists.” Their mantra is simply to “stop government spending,” with no hint or reasonable suggestion as to how.
A proposed Balanced Budget Amendment wouldn’t work simply because inflexible requirements to spend within a budgetary limit every year are not realistic—they do not account for cycles of economic boom and bust and the need to readjust spending to compensate. And inserting provisions to allow for exceeding budget spending limits based on exigent circumstances wouldn’t work because—as we have seen—the two major parties can’t even agree on what day of the week it is, yet along be expected to compromise on major spending issues such as what defines extenuating circumstances that calls for more (or less) spending.
All-out cutting much needed programs would harm those who need them (although I will admit that some programs are surely riddled with costly lack of oversight and (as a result) abuse. And besides that, austerity spending measures worked so "well" in Europe... (sarcasm alert).
Reforming entitlements is a good start, but let’s face it…neither party wants to give up any sacred cows that might cost their membership(or their party) an election or legislative control. What will work? Unfortunately I don’t have all the answers, but holding policymaking hostage to ideological demands, and basing policy on ideology rather than the reality of need and pragmatism is definitely not the way. However, the most logical start to balancing the budget would be a combination of taxes and hard-choice spending cuts (which includes accounting for every paperclip or errant piece of paper if necessary).
The Tea Party has proven itself capable of exerting political pressure, getting their favorite elected officials to office, and organizing itself into a formidable political force. But its extremist views and rigid adherence to ideology (rather than reality) does not benefit all Americans (deny if you will, but it’s the truth). This organized group counts among its membership (and supports) the most intolerant and xenophobic of Americans. Those who have kept up with their various marches, rallies, and public protests have seen the pictures and heard the quotes—they are present at almost every numerically significant Tea Party rally (I provided a few in the event that denies attempt to portray these appearances as aberrations with the organization).
Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch (a conservative political advocacy group) and Tea Party ally during the government shutdown. According to Klayman, American is "ruled by a president who bows down to Allah," and "is not a president of 'we the people.'" "I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out" (see: “Larry Klayman Defends Obama-Islam Link”).
Its funny how being dead and being a political extremist in America seem to have some things in common. The other major difference between the two is that it seems to be easier to convince of a dead person of their station in life than to convince one of these so-called “real Americans” that they are not purveyors of true American ideas, but are obstructionists who could refocus their goals and energy on something that could benefit all Americans, and not just those who they deem as “real Americans”—their rhetoric about “personal rights” notwithstanding.
Tea Party supporter and protester Michael Ashmore stands in front of the White House recently during the Congressional breakdown in budget talks and the attempt to defund Obamacare by Senator Ted Cruz the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives.