Progressives ponder why tea party is kicking their butts

By the time I finished reading this lengthy, plaintive missive by Richard Esko at the Huffington Post, I will confess that I’d actually begun feeling sorry for him. Observing the conclusion of the recent budget battles and viewing them as a disastrous loss for the progressive movement, Mr. Esko casts about for an answer to what seems to be the question of the day: How does the evil Tea Party keep kicking our butts when our ideas are so wildly popular and clearly superior? And he thinks he’s found some answers.

Once again the unpopular views of a minority have been imposed on the majority. Others will rant and rave about the Democratic leadership, and in fact that process has already begun. But progressives in this country should be asking themselves a serious question: Why does the Tea Party seem to be so much more effective than the left as a movement?

It’s a complicated question that deserves in-depth discussion, but some of the things that may be impeding progressives include excessive party loyalty, the desire for a charismatic leader (the “XFK phenomenon”), and the urge to prematurely celebrate accomplishments that are flawed and incomplete.

My head was beginning to spin just reading that last portion, but trust me… you’ll want to push on and read the rest. The first conclusion Richard reaches is one of the usual suspects. It’s all about the Benjamins.

Why did Tea Partiers win such a major victory? Money, for starters. The Tea Party’s generously funded by billionaires like the Koch Brothers, and ultra-conservative policies are given “nonpartisan” ideological cover by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson and his network of allies and paid savants. Corporate campaign financing, now made limitless by the GOP’s ideological packing of the Supreme Court, allows the mega-corporations of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to impose policies that crush the middle class and smaller businesses.

Ignoring completely the immediately obvious – and in some cases vastly better funded – parallels on the Left, the author quickly concludes that the only way to beat the nasty fiscal conservatives is to implement even more aggressive “campaign finance reform” efforts than those attempted in the past. He also seems oblivious to the fact this his fellow progressives managed to fund the most expensive presidential election in history when putting Barack Obama in office and that they are already crowing over the likely target of spending more than a billion next year.

But Esko isn’t done spreading around the blame. He goes on to blame Obama for not delivering the bill of goods his supporters were sold and Democrats in general for being just too darned optimistic and settling for any victory they can get when they should demand so much more. But he does latch on to one idea where progressives might actually have something to learn from the Tea Party.

I didn’t vote for Ralph Nader in 2000 or 2008. I’ve always believed that political change is best effected in this country through the two-party system. But that idea can be taken too far. The Democratic Party is a tool, a means to an end and not an end in itself.

And there’s a world of difference between supporting the Democratic Party and supporting incumbents in the Democratic Party. The Tea Party did a very smart thing last year: They kicked out a few independents who didn’t support them politically. Too many progressives followed the President’s lead and pledged their fealty to Democratic incumbents who had devoted themselves to undermining causes supported both by progressives and the majority of Americans across the political spectrum.

Actually I’d thought that the Democrats had done a fairly thorough job of chasing out the Blue Dogs, but I suppose it’s true that they were never as aggressive in challenging incumbents during the primaries as Republicans have been of late. The case can be made that the results of those challenges were rather hit and miss, but it certainly stirred up the pool of candidates.

There’s plenty more, so if you’d like a look into the rather morbid thoughts of a pro-spending progressive on the sad decline of his movement, check out the entire article. And try not to smirk. Grace in victory is an honorable trait.

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