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Third Party 2.0 – Will Fiscal Conservatives Dump The Tea and the GOP?


UPDATED – Fiscal Conservatives. They’re the lost tribe of American politics, wandering the political desert for the GOP’s 40 year descent into extremist Tea Party Libertarianism.  A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows a third party as a second choice behind Democrats in general election polling gaining popularity.  The assumptions by the punditocracy’s chattering heads look for precedent: Teahadis splitting off, or a Ross-Perot-like indy party.  Both are wrong. Here’s what you won’t hear at MSNBC and Fox:

“30 percent of voters would pick an independent or third-party candidate in a three-way field also featuring a Democrat and Republican — up five points from when this question was last asked in 2010. What’s more, that 30 percent for the third-party is greater than what the generic Republican candidate gets in the poll (28 percent)” says the latest NBC News/Wall-Street Journal poll.

According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal polling data, while only 7% of Democrats view their own party unfavorably, 26% of Republicans don’t find their Grand Old Party so grand. Add to that the record 45% of Americans who now self-identify as indepdendent voters, largely fiscal conservatives who don’t agree with the Tea Party’s extremist views on social issues, and you have a 51% of American voters ready for a new party. 

28% of Republicans would like to see an independent candidate in their congressional race. “So you might assume that the number here is coming from disillusioned Tea Party members,” noted MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.  “It’s not. It’s the rest of the party that’s slipping away from the GOP. So folks, this issue inside the Republican Party  is not about keeping the Tea Party from bolting. It’s keeping moderates from bolting.” [2]

No Historic Precedents

It’s safe for the punditry to talk Perot and Tea Party splits because they try to draw the grounding for their take out of past history.  Except we have repeatedly thrown past history out of the window in recent years, months and days.

The tilt and decline into Libertarian extremism has been the result of 40+ years of grooming and conditioning. Think tanks and grass roots groups. College campus recruiting and the extensive grooming process. The co-opting of the neocon’s religious zealot base into the Libertarian’s purist dogmaville.

The “end product” is a Teahadi like a Ted Cruz or an Allen West, whose funding comes predominantly from less than two hundred of the wealthiest people in the world.  Whose zealotry and dogma trumps all. Where compromise, the lubricant necessary for a successful democracy, has been substituted for sand and glass in the gears of the nation.

The Kochs and Coors and DeVos and Mellon-Scaife and Friess families have fused the most vehement of the extremes into a powerful anti-government toxin.


The problem is that most wagging tongues are still thinking classic politician. Teahadis are not.  These are white, social extremist Christian foot soldiers. Their brand of myopic fascism is no different than other jihadists. They gin up audiences inclined to listen with hyperbolic rhetoric that feeds their fears of the minority onslaught, the “other,”  and bolsters their self-righteous, singular moral “purity” whether what is being preached at them is true or not.

When one Teahadi drops, another picks up the flag. Political Kamikazes.  So pundits should not equate the Tea Party with hide-saving Neocons or Democrats, who put ambition above principle, or who can find common ground with those of different political philosophies.

Strategic Victories Win Wars

In this election cycle, the Libertarian funders are taking aim at Senate Republicans who are hardly “moderate” but aren’t extreme enough.  Why?

Republican senators Mitch McConnell (KY),  Thad Cochran (MS),  Johnny Isaacson (GA), Lamar Alexander (TN), Lindsay Graham (SC), and Richard Burr (NC) are all senators from bright Red states.  The funders will push Tea Party candidates with millions in attack ads because the majority of citizens aren’t Republican registered, and in a mid-term they won’t vote in those primaries.

Softening is not an option. Marco Rubio lost out to Teahadi Ted Cruz because he tried to find common ground with Democrats on Immigration Reform.  Arizona’s extremist senator, Jeff Flake, has a bullseye on his political back for not being extreme enough because both he and their fire-breathing Tea Party Governor, Jan Brewer, have taken more moderate stances on Obamacare and Immigration.

Tea Party funders are spending money on Senate races in “safe” states because the gridlock and shut down tirade in the House will cause a backlash. The Tea Party will lose some, perhaps most, of their seats, and quite possibly put  a Democratic majority in place in that body.

The Senate has badly corrupted rules of operation. Breathe “filibuster” and all bills and appointments die like a rose extinguished by the breath of the Ice Queen.  Control of Senate seats can buy the GOP continued relevance even if a third party, which is likely a serious consideration given the polling numbers, arises.

There is no historic precedent to the political tone deafness of the Tea Party. Over the history of this country, the corporatocracy that arose from the industrialists and plantation owners,  and the unions and civil rights groups that sprang up to oppose them, have tugged at the fabric of the nation, but no one has taken a match to it.

Rich Libertarians are the villains in the movie with the flame thrower.

Historic Norms Have Evaporated

We have pushed past common sense and reason. FreedomWorks, a Koch and C. Boyden Gray-affiliated Teahadi funder, endorsed Chris McDaniel for U.S. Senate in Mississippi to take out the 35 year incumbent Thad Cochran whose worst margin of victory in an election was 29%!  National news broke that McDaniel is an avowed white Southern secessionist who makes no bones about the South exiting the union (again). FreedomWorks has not withdrawn that endorsement.

Cochran was targeted because he is not “pure” enough for the Club for Growth, the multi-millionaires junior league of the Dead Billionaire’s Club that engages in RINO (Republican In Name Only) hunting. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a Jim DeMint Teahadi fund, spent $16M on the election, mostly hunting down RINOs in 2012 primaries. It already has spent $6.4M for 2014, much on ad buys to soften up Mitch McConnell. [1]

As noted in the GOP UnCivil War, primaries are now the battle ground for control of the government, not general elections, and the front has shifted from the House to the more malleable Senate.

Wrong Purpose

Pundits still operate with the wrong fundamental premise of the purpose of the Tea Party.  Members are there solely to break government and the social safety net.

Teahadis’ leash holders are not stupid people.  There is a clear pattern and practice to the funders’ decades-long remolding of government.  Democrats can barely think past the end of this week’s fundraising cycle.  The Kochs and their pals have enough green and a half-century-built network of groups to create long-range action plans that go out to the middle of the century.

During Republican administrations they have gutted the government like a fish, installing rules and regs into the bureaucracy over those GOP presidencies that are advantageous to creating wealth and blasting holes in the hated social safety net.  Regs that can take a decade or more to untangle, if the government moves enough to the Center or Left.

So the trick is, therefore, during Democratic administrations, to create enough gridlock and chaos to preserve the prior rounds of destruction, and keep the progressives off balance.  They tied up the Clintons with Whitewater and Lewinsky. They stonewall even the most modest political appointments. It is why they  have no fear of shutting down the government or dealing with the “sequester.”  They want smaller government at all costs. They are isolationists, so they have no problem ripping into the flesh of the neocon’s sacred cow, the Pentagon budget.

No Tea Party Third Party

The handful of redux Robber Barons that includes the infamous Kochs has spent billions over the decades to take over the Republican Party. Why would they voluntarily marginalize themselves?

David Koch ran for Vice President on a Libertarian ticket and lost badly.  By way of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, the Libertarians have been very good at putting the classic Conservative sheep’s clothing over their more rabidly anti-government agenda. The Republican brand still elicits loyalty from people who can’t believe that the Neocons have lost and the radicals are in charge.

As we saw from the government shut down at the beginning of the month though, the Libertarians clearly hold the upper hand.

Opportunity in the Voiceless 41%

There is an overwhelming demand in the body politic for real representation by the independents who are fiscal, not social conservatives. They include a vast swath of the middle class that is eroding faster than the polar ice caps from all of the steam that the Tea Party has been generating.  Equally unprecedented, the size of the pool of disenfranchised voters is the largest it has been in U.S. history.

The rise of a third party will not be to the fringe. It will be in the center.  There are politicians like New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer who can smell that opportunity.

Christie has positioned himself well to hover over the GOP implosion. He has shown moderates during the hurricane crisis that he can work with President Obama and Democrats. He can be “reasonable.” He has managed to take positions that allow him to walk enough of a line to avoid a hard-right attack on his re-election bid, AND look more appealing to socially moderate conservatives in that massive independent electorate.

The governor has the cachet to bolt the GOP and take a lot of moderates in state houses and the ones remaining in Congress, with him.  None of them enjoy the pressure of having to pander to the far Right to stay in office. Politicians and rats have similar survival instincts. A new raft beats a sinking ship any day of the week.

The Democrat and Districting Factors

There are those pundits who buy into Nancy Pelosi’s fire-breathing radical hype, or some huge Dem opposition to a third party. Even the most pie-eyed and zealous amongst the Body Democratic, though, know that the current gridlock and failure to legislate anything drags them down with the Republicans. Polls, which they heed, serve as ample reminders.

The brutal gerrymandering of the 2010 redistricting also leaves them politically disabled in large swaths of the country for another seven very long years.

Pelosi knows that she needs political partners across the aisle to get business done. Democrats know that being the broad-spectral party that they’ve become is equally bad for governance, as they can’t often get consensus out of their wide-ranging caucus.

A new centrist party is a win-win for them.  It lessens the blow of GOP redistricting as the new Centrist party and the Republicans slug it out.

The changes in massive California’s voting system with a top three race would allow an indy third party a test market and a  beachhead in the mid-term election, setting up a viable third-party Christie run in 2016.  We’re not endorsing the man. Far from it. Christie has lots of negatives, including many that kept him off Romney’s ticket in 2012. Still a Christie who aims for that vast middle with fact or fiction, where belief in anything is never much of a GOP loyalist shortcoming, has a great shot at a viable third party if the Tea Party’s strangle-hold of the party apparatus in the GOP, and the RINO hunting of groups like Club for Growth continues.

A third party won’t be strong enough in that election to be a real threat to Democrats in their power bases, but it would have the net effect of sinking the GOP in theirs, and force the Koch Brothers and their minions back into the shadow-world of  marginalized also-ran parties.

In effect, a “third” party would become the second party, with the Grand Old Party becoming the outlier.

For this there is historical precedent. Other than during the Great Depression, which a World War and the New Deal stablized, during the two prior U.S. financial collapses, tectonic shift  and realignment of the party with more wealthy patrons who manipulate the government to their financial favor has followed. That is why we have the Republican Party, which was originally a reformist response to past political abuses.

Of course that’s way too wonky for all but a handful of the pundit class.  It’s much easier to dismiss it.  Most are so engaged in Beltway Blindness they won’t see it until the underpaid researchers of the lead lemmings prowl enough of the 5th estate to start “getting it.”  The numbers are there. The momentum is there. The polling is there, and the conditions have never been more ideal.  It will not come from some idealistic corner like the Occupy outliers, but it will rise from the Center where the non Libertarian corporatocracy’s self-interest will fund it.

Of course, three months ago I was the lone voice in the wilderness talking about the GOP Civil War. Today it’s the fashionable pop-Op-ed.

Pundits, recall where you did your research this time. You got the grounded “why” here first.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

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