Bernie Sanders Is Ayn Rand’s Worst Nightmare: He’s Changing How We View Socialism — and Exposing Free Market Parasites

Conservatives have long wielded ‘socialism’ as a pejorative — but Sanders owns it and is transforming politics.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Conor Lynch

Emphasis Mine

Since Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., launched his campaign for president this spring, he has gone from being a fringe candidate of the left to a serious challenger of Hillary Clinton, who has long been considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. When Sanders started gaining traction at the beginning of the summer, most shrugged him off as the new Ralph Nader, or even the Ron Paul of the left, an insurgent who would attract a dedicated but slim following.

Today, these comparisons are looking less accurate, and Sanders is no longer a fringe candidate. Last week, the Sanders campaign released its fundraising results for the third quarter of 2015, and not only did it nearly match Clinton’s third quarter results in cash, but broke the fundraising record in small donations. Indeed, the Sanders campaign has reached one million individual donations faster than both of President Obama’s historic campaigns (in 2008, Obama didn’t reach one million until February).

As one would expect, as Sanders has surged, the American right (and center) have gone from ignoring him to attacking him, and the barbs have been predictable indeed. The most common sound something like this: “Socialism has already been tried and it failed,” “There is no free stuff,” “He wants to steal from the job-creators.” Of course, these are familiar attacks that have long wielded against the Democrats, but with a man who does not shun the “socialist” label, they have become even sharper.

First things first: The word “socialism” has become so freely used by the right that it has all but lost the meaning that it once possessed. Since even before the Cold War, the word socialism has been a pejorative in America. When people on the right say, “Socialism has already been tried,” they are by and large thinking of 20th-century communism in the East, i.e., a totalitarian state with a centrally planned economy. If this were the sole definition of socialism, then these anti-socialists would be entirely correct. When considering 20th century communism, it is clear that centrally planned economies without markets do not work in the long run (and black markets become an inevitable feature). At this point in history, markets are necessary for human innovation and wealth creation. But as the economist (and communist, according to Bill O’Reilly) Robert Reich points out his his new book “Saving Capitalism,” the free market vs. government debate is mostly pointless. In order to have a functioning market, there need to be rules, and for rules of the market there needs to be government; the real debate should be whether those rules are working for everyone or just the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

The point is, “socialism” does not necessarily mean centrally planned economies, as most on the right believe. The original definition of socialism was something like this: the collective ownership of the means of production and distribution. In this sense, worker-owned businesses (i.e. worker co-ops) are very “socialistic,” and Sanders has appropriately put forth a plan to increase worker ownership. The word socialism can also mean “Social Democracy” — this is what best describes Bernie Sanders’s philosophy — which involves a market economy with socialistic programs. The most common example of this sort of economic system can be found in the Scandinavian countries, which have hardly “failed.” Indeed, Scandinavian countries have all been previously ranked among the highest in the world when it comes to “ease of doing business,” “global innovation,” and “prosperity.”

The second-most common claim on the right came from the sagging Rand Paul last month, when he said that “Bernie Sanders is offering you free stuff…but guess what, there is no free lunch.” This kind of assumption is not new, and can be traced back to Ronald Reagan and those infamous “welfare queens,”sad dog-whistle that haunts us to this day. Of course, it’s not about “free stuff,” but fairness. Indeed, when some facts are introduced, this assumption is revealed as a myth that has long been used by the right wing to divide the middle class (particularly along racial lines). Rand Paul seems to be entirely ignorant (willfully, I’m sure) that it is not lazy unemployed people that strain Americas welfare system, but working class people who are not being paid livable wages by corporations. Indeed, this was exactly what was found in a recent study at the University of Berkley California. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“The study found that 56% of federal and state dollars spent between 2009 and 2011 on welfare programs — including Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Creditflowed to working families and individuals with jobs. In some industries, about half the workforce relies on welfare.”

One of the most notorious of these corporations that doesn’t have to pay its workers living wages and is more or less receiving corporate welfare is McDonald’s. Indeed, if we are keeping with these right wing terms, McDonald’s is one enormous welfare queen. It has previously been estimated that fast-food workers, who are on average 29 years old, receive around $7 billion in public assistance, and McDonald’s even has a resource line (McResource) that assists workers in signing up for assistance programs (so it doesn’t have to pay livable wages). This is also true for other massive corporations like Walmart, which is notoriously low-paying and last year made nearly $16 billion in profit. It is always easier to go after the working class poor than massive corporations who make billions in profit and spend millions on lobbying.

Socialism is not about “free stuff,” but cracking down on these corporations that exploit their workers and then rely on the government to make sure they don’t starve. It is not about being lazy and slacking off, but about demanding a fair share and getting paid decently for one’s labor — it is yet another right wing fallacy that people get paid what they’re worth, and that only lazy people are poor. Socialism is about working people, not slackers. It is about fighting capitalist realities like the fact that the top 25 hedge fund managers in America make more money than all of the 157,800 kindergarten teachers combined. Are investors who produce no value really worth that much more than teachers?

Needless to say, the myths and attacks on Sanders and “socialism” will only grow more intense in the months to come. Republican politicians tend to agree with Ayn Rand when it comes to working people, i.e. that they are parasites (although they’d never say such a thing out loud). The Sanders campaign is changing how American people view “socialism,” and hopefully, he is also exposing the GOP as the anti-working class party that it truly is.

Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, The Hill, AlterNet, and openDemocracy. Follow him onTwitter.

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/bernie-sanders-ayn-rands-worst-nightmare-hes-changing-how-we-view-socialism-and?akid=13560.123424.muLE0V&rd=1&src=newsletter1043763&t=8

Rand Paul: Another anti-gay, anti-woman, GOP theocrat

Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

Contrary to the hype, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul is just another standard issue Republican: anti-gay, anti-woman, and subservient to the Christian patriarchy.

Today Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul formally announced his 2016 presidential campaign for the Republican nomination for president, declaring “we have come to take our country back.”

Presumably the “we” Paul speaks of is white, heterosexual, conservative Christian males.

Speaking at his “Stand for Rand” rally in Louisville today, the 52-year-old Paul said:

Today I am announcing, with God’s help and with liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States.

While it may be disingenuous to conflate liberty with subservience to Christianity, it is a political strategy Paul will deploy in his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination. Yet Paul is quite selective about who is entitled to liberty.

Paul opposes gay rights in general, and gay marriage in particular. In addition, Paul would also deny women the right to reproductive freedom, all in the name of conservative Christian values.

Last month, Paul told a group of pastors and religious leaders at a private prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. that the debate about legalizing same-sex marriage is the result of a “moral crisis” in the country, and called for a Christian revival, proclaiming:

We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, ‘reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform.’

Indeed, for many months now Paul has been quietly running a stealth campaign, meeting with scores of leaders from the Christian right to gain their support for his presidential run.

Previously Paul has worried that same-sex marriage will lead to besitiality, relying upon the same ridiculous slippery-slope arguments used by many simple-minded religious conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage

As for women’s reproductive health, Paul is anything but a libertarian. Paul would deny women basic autonomy over their own bodies. Paul argues that life begins at conception, and when it comes to his anti-choice, anti-woman, conservative Christian “family values” Paul is an extremist. Paul supports fetal personhood legislation that would outlaw all abortion and prohibit contraception, stem-cell research, and in-vitro fertilization.

Perhaps even more disturbing, Paul has publicly stated that parents “own” their children, while making the absurd claim that vaccines cause “profound mental disorders.” While the idea that parents own their children is abhorrent to reasonable individuals, it is a common sentiment among conservative Christians. Paul wants to present himself as something different, but in the end he is just another Republican exploiting the fears and prejudices of conservative Christians for his own political advantage.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/04/rand-paul-another-anti-gay-anti-woman-gop-theocrat/#ixzz3WuuDkhgX

 

 

Why the Hate-Filled, Retrograde Politics of the Tea Party Are Here to Stay

The Tea Party is not a movement, it’s a geographical region: the Old South.

Source:Alternet

Author: CJ Wehleman

N.B.: To triumph over the Tea Party, we must win the message war!

“After last Tuesday’s creaming in the Virginia governor’s race, and with Tea Party negatives creeping toward 75 percent, the political punditry class has divided itself into one of two camps: those celebrating the demise of the Tea Party versus those forecasting its inevitable end. Who’s right? They’re both wrong, because it’s not a movement. It’s a geographical region, and if history has taught us anything, southern folk are a pugnacious bunch.

Despite political feel-good rhetoric, there are two Americas. Not just ideologically, but geographically. That’s what still makes this country unique among other Western democracies. America is two distinct nations with a distinguishable border that runs the breadth of the country from the Mason-Dixon line across the southern border of Pennsylvania, finishing in some Baptist church somewhere in rural Texas.

The Tea Party is overwhelmingly Southern. Michael Lind, author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, writes, “The facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label.” If you include Texas as a member of the Old South (banning tampons from the state house earns the Lone Star state that honor), nearly 80 percent of the Tea Party’s support comes from the former Confederate states. So, stop calling it a movement.

The Republican Party is not only the party of plutocrats and oligarchs; it’s also the party of the South. The party’s leaders are predominantly southern. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. House Speaker John Boehner is from Cincinnati, Ohio, but Cincinnati is as close to the South as a northern city can be, given the city’s airport is actually in Kentucky. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is from Virginia. ‘

And then there are the likely 2016 presidential hopefuls. With the exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the pathologically homophobic Rick Santorum, the rest of them are as southern as Colonel Sanders. Rand Paul is from Kentucky. Bobby Jindal is from Louisiana. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are from Florida.

While movements and ideas may die, a land mass does not, and while that southern land mass is occupied by a people who are willing to destroy the country in order to get their way, and while the GOP remains dependent on its “Southern strategy,” the South’s fixation on everything related to controlling race, sex, religious practice, abortion laws, and dismantling the federal government will remain the revolutionary fervor of not only the Tea Party but also the GOP.

The trend lines in America are moving against the South thanks to increasing urbanization, the “browning of America,” and the declining place for religion in American life. These are great challenges to the South’s way of life, and southerners don’t like it. So don’t expect one governor’s race in an off-year election to read as an obituary for the Tea Party. As much as the media and the GOP establishment would like you to believe Chris Christie, a moderate only by Tea Party standards, to be the presumptive nominee, the neo-Confederates are more likely to pick a gay atheist from San Francisco.

The GOP’s most agitated and mobilized voting bloc is its predominantly southern evangelical base. In their minds, they’ve experimented with non-Southern “moderates” in the form of John McCain and Mitt Romney, and they got trounced. The base gets its cues from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, all of whom are juicing the base for a “severely conservative” 2016 candidate. Thus a northern governor who supports climate change, evolution, immigration and gun control will likely be sacrificed on the altar of southern radicalism—a fate realized by one former northern mayor in 2008, Rudy Giuliani.

The South, and by association the GOP, sees America increasingly through the prism of race. It’s central to their worldview. In 2012, 92% of the Republican vote came from white people who, within the next three decades, will no longer be in the majority. Despite losing the gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli received more than 70% of the white vote. White southern voters view entitlements and immigration reform as liberal programs to buy votes. They believe food stamps and healthcare are an effort to take money from hard-working white people, and in turn, redistribute it to lazy black people. When Reagan spoke about a “welfare queen,” he didn’t need to mention her race. White southern voters had already painted a picture in their own minds.

In his seminal Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes:

The unified southern resistance to every initiative from any “liberal” administration has deep historic roots. The persistent defiance of every Democratic attempt to deal intelligently with national problems—be they recession, debt, or childhood obesity—has nothing to with political ideology, taxes, healthcare, or acceptable degrees of federal authority. It has everything to do with nullification, disruption, zealotry, and division. It’s part of a time-sharpened effort to debilitate nearly every northern-led government by injecting it with the Seven Deadly Sins of Southern Politics: demagogic dishonesty, religious fanaticism, willful obstructionism, disregard for own self-interest, corporate supplication, disproportionate influence, and military adventurism.

The next Republican Party presidential nominee will need to speak to these white southern fears and attitudes. Given that Civil War hostilities ended more than 150 years ago, and given the GOP is now backed by unprecedented levels of campaign finance thanks to Citizens United, don’t fool yourself into thinking the Tea Party strain of Republicanism is going away anytime soon. It’s more likely they’ve only just arrived.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America and God Hates You, Hate Him BackFollow him on Twitter @cjwerleman.

Emphasis Mine:

See: http://admin.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/why-hateful-politics-tea-party-isnt-going-anywhere-hint-its-region-us?akid=11133.123424.w5CfWK&rd=1&src=newsletter922618&t=5

 

6 Most Brazen Right-Wing Lies About Obamacare

The campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch.

Source: AlterNet

(N.B.: The greatest fear that the detractors of the ACA have is that it will succeed!)

Author: Mark Howard

“Halloween is approaching and the hobgoblins of conservative media are already spinning nightmarish tales of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Actually, they have been doing it for quite some time, dating back to at least March 2010 when Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller published an article headlined “IRS looking to hire thousands of armed tax agents to enforce healthcare laws.” Fox News reposted the article on its community web site and Fib Factory, Fox Nation despite the fact that it was a complete fabrication and was debunked by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org

This year the campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch. The Republican Party and conservative media has pulled out all the stops in a strategy aimed at scaring people from signing up with the hope that low enrollment will collapse the system. President Obama had the same concerns last month when he said…

“What you’ve had is an unprecedented effort that you’ve seen ramp up in the past month or so that those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place — and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts — trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.”

These are not the hackneyed GOP talking points about death panels, job killers and government bureaucrats coming between patients and doctors. These are far more fanciful efforts that stretch the limits of credulity and appear to have more in common with satire than actual news reporting. But this is what it has come to as Obamacare has finally reached the consumer stage and conservatives are desperate to keep people from discovering its benefits.

1Fox News Warns That If You Sign Up For ObamaCare Hackers Will Steal Your Life Savings
On an episode of “The Real Story” on Fox News, host Gretchen Carlson introduced an ominous new strain of fear-mongering to demonize Obamacare. She interviewed John McAfee, the anti-virus software developer who is presently a fugitive from a murder investigation in Belize. He made a wild accusation that visitors to Healthcare.gov are going to be victimized by hackers who will steal their identities and/or drain their bank accounts.

Neither Carlson nor McAfee actually provided any evidence of such a threat. In fact, when directly asked about it, McAfee diverts from the question and lays out a completely different threat that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Obamacare website. He alleges that nefarious individuals could set up their own unaffiliated websites in the hopes of luring naive people to take advantage of. Of course, that is a threat that exists for every website, and has since the Internet began. Visiting Healthcare.gov does not expose anyone to these phony sites as implied by the fear-mongers at Fox.

2) WorldNetDaily Reports “Obama ‘Crashing Health-Care Site On Purpose’”
This article asserts that the President is so afraid that insurance shoppers will learn that Obamacare is really more expensive than the old system that he deliberately caused the website to crash to keep people from seeing the rates. No one is defending the botched launch of the insurance exchanges. However, the notion that the technical glitches were intentionally caused by Obama is delusional.

WND’s argument (supported by links to Rush Limbaugh) that rates will increase leaves out the subsidies and tax credits that are available for many applicants. With these adjustments, premiums for most people will be substantially lower. The administration would, therefore, be anxious for consumers to have access to that information and would not be putting obstacles in their path.

3) Rand Paul: Take Obamacare Or Go To Jail
Tea Party darling Rand Paul has made innumerable false statements about virtually every policy that has emanated from the White House. But none are more surreal than his comment, “They say take [Obamacare] or we will put people in jail. People say we aren’t going to put anybody in jail. The heck they won’t. You will get fined first. If you don’t pay your fines, you will go to jail.”

That’s interesting coming from someone who has frequently complained that no one in Congress has read the Affordable Care Act. If he had read it himself he would have known that the law explicitly prohibits criminal consequences for non-payment of fines. It states “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.” It rarely gets more clear than that, but the mission to frighten the public exceeds the motivation for truth on the part of GOP scare-meisters.

4) Right-Wing Think Tank Mortified That Obamacare Website Links To Voter Registration Form
This is a particularly curious horror story as it seeks to raise an alarm over something that ought to be regarded as a civic duty. Nevertheless, the conservative MacIver Institute (a Koch brothers-funded operation) published an article that implied there was some sort of heinous objective on the part of the Obama administration for having included a link to a voter registration form on the Obamacare website. This startling revelation is met with foreboding by MacIver and a flurry of right-wing media outlets that disseminated MacIver’s story, including National Review, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and Fox News. All of their reports agreed that this was a clandestine attempt to register only Democratic voters despite the absence of any partisan framing. MacIver even asks specifically “[W]hat does registering to vote have to do with signing up for Obamacare?”

The core of the right’s trepidation is rooted in a more fundamental aversion to the act of voting itself. It is why they are continually erecting new barriers to voting. Democrats, on the other hand, have sought to expand voter turnout with bills like the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (aka Motor Voter) that mandates certain government agencies provide people with access to voter registration. In fact, that 20-year-old law requires that Obamacare administrators make voter registration available. MacIver, and similarly mortified conservative comrades, are either unaware of this, or are deliberately feigning ignorance in order to rile up their conspiracy-prone base.

5) Weekly Standard Finds Imaginary Threat On Obamacare Website
The ultra-conservative Weekly Standard dispatched its crack reporters to ferret out what it portrayed as an ominous security threat on the Healthcare.gov website. What it found were comments in the site’s source code that said that “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.” The Standard notes that these comments were not visible to users and were not part of the site’s terms and conditions. But that didn’t stop them from implying that users would be still be bound by it because “the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code.” Not really. It’s only a part of some inoperative text that carries no more obligation than some discarded notes.

This is another situation where you have to wonder whether these people are embarrassingly stupid or brazenly dishonest. There is a reason this language was not visible. It was deliberately removed with the use of HTML comment tags by the site’s programmers. It was undoubtedly edited out because it was not an accurate expression of the site’s privacy policy. It does not mean that users are agreeing to a secret clause permitting the government to spy on them as the Standard implied. If any of these “reporters” had a 14-year-old at home they could have learned what this is about. But that would have interfered with their goal, which is to leave Americans with the false impression that some hidden danger lurks beneath the surface of Obamacare.

6) Fox News Fears ACORN Is Back To Push ObamaCare
The Curvy Couch Potatoes over at Fox & Friends had a jolly old time resurrecting their fear of a community organizing enterprise that no longer exists. ACORN was wrongly hounded out of business by right-wing opponents after pseudo-journalist and convicted criminal James O’Keefe distributed some deceitfully edited and libelous videos. But that hasn’t stopped conservative media from exhuming the corpse whenever they are in need of a sensationalist story, as demonstrated by Fox co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who announced that “We’re getting information that ACORN operatives are trying to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act.”

While ACORN was never found to have engaged in any unlawful activity, there was a bill passed that prohibited them from receiving federal funds. However, there is nothing in the law that prevents organizations with former ACORN staff from getting federal grants. In fact, there isn’t even any current law that prevents ACORN from getting grants as the previous ban was not included in the latest Continuing Resolution. Fox is brazenly misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to reignite fears of the old ACORN bogeyman. They upped the terror ante by further alleging that ACORN would use your personal medical and financial information against you politically. They never revealed how that would occur, or to what end, but that isn’t the point. Their only interest is spreading fear, no matter how irrational and unsupported.

Conclusion

The zealousness with which these right-wing propagandists pursue their disinformation campaign is evidence of their own fear that Americans will come to appreciate having access to affordable healthcare. Therefore, they see their mission as derailing the program before that eventuality unfolds. Their tactics get more extreme and absurd the closer the program gets to gaining acceptance. A particular target of their attack is young people whose participation is important for the program to succeed. Consequently, opponents have launched a well-funded campaign (thanks to the Koch brothers) to scare off young consumers. Generation Opportunity has already released the now notorious “Creepy Uncle Sam” videos that make false implications of government intrusion into medical care. Next they are embarking on a 20-city college tour to mislead students.”

PolitiFact has reviewed 16 claims made by Obamacare detractors and found all of them false. Twelve of those were designated “Pants On Fire” lies. If there is one question that begs to be asked, it is this: If Obamacare is so terrible, why do opponents have to tell so many lies about it?

Mark Howard is an artist and the founder of the media analysis website News Corpse. He is the author of Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth.”

Emphasis Mine

See:http://www.alternet.org/media/6-most-brazen-right-wing-lies-about-obamacare?akid=11074.123424.m5-LEx&rd=1&src=newsletter914168&t=5

Is the Tea Party Over?

The answer all depends on what you mean when you say the words ‘Tea Party.’

From:AlterNet

In a word, “No!”  In many words:

By:Adele Stan

“There’s a new parlor game in your nation’s capital, played by reporters and pundits who begin with a single question: Is the Tea Party dead? Endlessly entertaining to ponder, it’s a question whose answer depends on your definition of the Tea Party movement.

Are you talking about the 900 grass-roots Tea Party groups in 2010 whose numbers have now dwindled to 600? Or the popularity of the movement among most Americans?

Or do you measure the “Tea Party” as a marketing plan by the right wing in its 50-year quest to bend the Republican Party to its will and bring the nation to its knees?

Miss Uncongeniality

The new year kicked off with a poll that brought a smile to progressive faces: Rasmussen Reports, the Republican-tilting polling firm, found membership in the Tea Party movement among likely voters to have plummeted [3] to a mere 8 percent. That’s a steep drop from 2010 when, just after the passage of the health-care reform law, Rasmussen reported 24 percent of respondents calling themselves Tea Party members.

Even worse for those who don the tricorn hat is Rasmussen’s finding [3] that half of the likely electorate now views the Tea Party unfavorably, while only 30 percent express a favorable opinion of the movement. So, game over, right?

Not quite. The day after Rasmussen released its numbers, Roll Call, a sort of trade publication for political types, ran a story [4] with the title, “Tea Party Re-Flexes Its Muscle,” about the coming battles in Washington over the debt ceiling and spending, and fearsome threats by Tea Party groups to Republicans who dare to compromise with the president.

Muscle-Flexing or Rigor Mortis?

The difficulty in assessing the viability of the Tea Party movement lies in a range of available metrics that are in conflict with each other.

In the 2012 Senate races, the Tea Party failed pretty miserably, throwing its weight behind such self-immolating figures as Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and Richard “gift from God” Mourdock.

Yet, in the House, most of the Tea Party members elected to Congress in 2010 held onto their seats. One need only look at the fate of legislation floated by House Speaker John Boehner — a measure dubbed “Plan B” that would have extended the Bush-era tax cuts on all but those with an annual income of more than $1 million — to see the power of the Tea Party crowd under the Capitol dome.

How can it be that a movement rejected by 70 percent of the electorate continues to hold such power? The answer is two-fold: gerrymandering and the threat of the primary challenge.

Primary Punishment

There’s little doubt that the Tea Party movement is a bit of a mess these days, with grassroots activists sometimes shunning the label [4], while the astroturf groups that organized them grapple with internal tension.

FreedomWorks, until recently chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is riven by internecine warfare between Armey and two staffers who functionally run the organization: President Matt Kibbe and Vice President Adam Brandon. (Mother Jones has the goods, here [5].) FreedomWorks was instrumental in organizing protests against the health-care reform bill, and in delivering a “power center,” in Brandon’s own words, of Tea Party-allied lawmakers to the Senate in 2010, through the power of the primary challenge. When FreedomWorks chose Rand Paul to challenge Trey Grayson in the Kentucky Republican primary for U.S. Senate, its candidate defeated the pick of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, in his own state.

Americans For Prosperity, the other major player on the Tea Party landscape and the pride of right-wing sugar daddies Charles and David Koch, is said to be in reassessment mode after the failures of the 2012 elections. Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Glueck report [6] that:

…sources say AFP’s 2012 efforts, in which it spent $140 million on a combination of ads and on-the-ground organizing, are being reviewed as part of a broader Koch-network-wide audit that could result in funding changes in the billionaire brothers’ political operation [7].

Yet in the same article, Vogel and Glueck note that although AFP has reportedly let go of much of its field staff, Tim Phillips, the group’s president, says he is considering involving the group more explicitly in primary races.

While FreedomWorks, Americans For Prosperity and Tea Party Express are the national groups that come to mind when discussing the Tea Party, there’s another player less wed to the brand that is at least as responsible for the primary-challenge strategy that has given the movement its primary punch: the Club for Growth.

On the day after the 2012 election, four glum-looking right-wing leaders gathered before a podium at the National Press Club at the behest of Richard Viguerie, an old hand at fundraising for right-wing movements.

In his opening remarks, Viguerie repeatedly used language that wed the Tea Party to the broader conservative movement, and disparaged what he called “the Republican establishment” for lining up behind Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee.

“Far from signalling a rejection of the Tea Party or grassroots conservatives, the disaster of 2012 signals the beginning of the battle to take over the Republican Party and the opportunity to establish the GOP as the party of small government and constitutional conservatism,” Viguerie said.

As evidence of his movement’s strength, Viguerie listed a number of Tea Party-allied Republican politicians, including the newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Rep. Trey Radel of Florida. Of the 14 pols cited by Viguerie as proof of Tea Party/conservative muscle, only one, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, was elected without backing from the Club for Growth.

A recent article [8] by Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen reveals the Club’s role in electing what the cohort dubbed “the hell no caucus” by the reporters, by directing its largess to contested Republican primaries, and betting on the most conservative contender. From Politico [8]:

Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, a veteran of two wars and with a pair of Harvard degrees, got a pleasant surprise last year that helped him win a very competitive Republican primary — and then a very easy general election. It was a FedEx envelope full of checks that he didn’t ask for, from a group he hardly knew — the Club for Growth.

Tucked inside that envelope and several to come were $300,000 in checks from Club members, enough to help lift the 35-year-old former Army captain from obscurity — and 47 percentage points down in his first internal poll — to the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building.

Among the right-wing leaders who spoke at the Viguerie press conference was L. Brent Bozell III, who was careful to note that he appeared not in his guise as president of the Media Research Center (the post for which he is best known), but as the chairman of ForAmerica, his political advocacy organization. At the National Press Club event, Bozell articulated an agenda, characterized as mandatory for any Republican, crafted in language that appeared to come directly from Club for Growth literature — especially the austerity plan described as “cut, cap and balance” (meaning, cut and cap spending, and balance the federal budget).

In case Mitch McConnell missed the horse’s head at the foot of his bed when his hand-picked Senate candidate was vanquished by Rand Paul in the 2010 primary, Bozell’s group is now running ads [9] accusing the Senate’s top Republican of “selling out,” according to a report [9] by Amanda Terkel in the Huffington Post, for signing on to the deal that allows the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on the incomes of wealthy taxpayers.

The Redistricting Ruse

The gerrymandering of congressional districts is nothing new, and both parties do it. But with record numbers of governors’ mansions and state legislatures in G.O.P. hands — the result of decades of work by the organized forces of the right — and the ruthlessness with which Republicans have shown themselves willing to manipulate the vote, the ritualredrawing of districts [10] that follows the national census resulted in landscape so skewed that Republicans held onto a majority of seats in the House of Representatives even though Democrats won the majority of votes by a margin of 1.1 million [11].

In North Carolina, for example, it would have taken three times as many votes for a Democrat to win a House seat as it did for a Republican, according to this chart [12] by Mother Jones’ Jaeah Lee.

With congressional districts drawn in such hyper-partisan ways, each uber-Republican congressional district becomes such a festering little petri dish of intramural competition at primary time that the launching of a primary challenge is not such a heavy lift, especially if the Club for Growth sends you a FedEx mailer full of checks. The primary becomes the real contest, since the districts are drawn to comprise mostly people who would never vote for a Democrat, meaning that these districts are made up of the most rightward-leaning voters — low-hanging fruit for a right-wing primary challenger.

In this way, I’ve argued before, the right wing of the G.O.P. acts as a virus on the body politic, injecting its DNA into the host body of the Republican Party which, thanks to the combination of extremely partisan redistricting and the willingness of a right-wing minority within to attack party leaders, then spreads the malicious effects of the virus on the rest of the nation.

A Brew By Any Other Name...

When the Tea Party first emerged on the scene, celebrated as a bright, shiny new object by the corporate media, we at AlterNet were not taken in. This was nothing more, we said, than a new brand stamped on the same movement once known as the New Right, a force that first made its presence felt in the failed 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, and reached a crescendo in the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Take Viguerie, for example. In 1961, he served as the first executive secretary of William F. Buckley’s Young Americans for Freedom, and by 1965 had launched his first strategic marketing firm for the right. He went on to help found the religious right in the late 1970s, after failing to win the presidential nomination of George Wallace’s American Independence Party.

Instrumental in helping Reagan win the presidency through his prowess as a direct-mail marketer, Viguerie became known as Reagan’s “postmaster general.” Also instrumental in Reagan’s victory was the organizing of white, right-wing Christian evangelicals through the Moral Majority, a group Viguerie helped to found.

On September 11, 2009, the day before the Tea Party movement first took to the streets of Washington in a show of force, Viguerie was already on the scene, in a Washington, D.C., hotel meeting room, conducting a free workshop in political organizing for Tea Partiers who had come to town for the march. Attendees were given a bright yellow nylon drawstring sack emblazoned with the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake of the Gadsden flag, and a free copy of Viguerie’s book, America’s Right Turn.

He’s just one of many right-wing leaders who saw the potential of the early Tea Party protests as a rebranding vehicle for the right. Dick Armey, sitting at the helm of FreedomWorks, surely did, as did Americans for Prosperity’s Tim Phillips, the former business partner of Ralph Reed, who served as executive director of the Christian Coalition during that group’s heyday. And a PAC once known as America Deserves Better renamed itself the Tea Party Express.

So, is the Tea Party dead? The brand itself may be on the wane, but the forces that made it strong have not gone away. After all, there’s money to be made in consulting fees and big-ticket salaries at the top of the right’s non-profits. (Sen. Jim DeMint recently left the U.S. Senate to take the top post at the Heritage Foundation, where he will reportedly earn $1 million per year.)

And there’s still work to be done in purging the Republican Party of any politician who might wish to strike a deal on anything that might be beneficial to the broadest base of the American electorate — work that Viguerie and his allies have been doing for the last half-century.

“The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today, and the failed Republican leadership should resign,” Viguerie said at his press conference the day after the American people re-elected President Barack Obama. “But of last night’s disaster comes some good news, however; conservatives are saying never again are we going to nominate a big-government, establishment Republican for president. And what’s more, we won’t have to.”

Call it the Tea Party, or call it something else, the right has gotten its hooks into the body politic, and it’s not letting go anytime soon.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/tea-party-over?akid=9921.123424.4wXQ84&rd=1&src=newsletter776253&t=4