Thu, Oct 02, 2014 ●
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The Universal Notebook: Mainers immune to hardcore tea party hysteria

Opinion

The Universal Notebook: Mainers immune to hardcore tea party hysteria

Let’s recap, shall we?

Eight years of Neo-Con Republican leadership in Washington created a huge national deficit, embroiled the U.S. in two endless wars, and enabled credit and investment excesses that nearly destroyed the world economy. In 2008, therefore, Americans elected the progressive Barack Obama in hopes of turning the country around.

By 2010, Obama had managed to do exactly what he was elected to do — save the United States from economic collapse, in the process creating a million new jobs, reducing taxes for 95 percent of Americans, reforming financial markets to avert the excessive greed of the past, and passing sweeping health care reform that protects the average American family from the predatory practices of the insurance industry. All of this without any help from the GOP Party of No, which was then and is now devoted entirely to making sure that Obama is defeated in 2012. Nothing else matters to them, certainly not the welfare of the American people.

Despite (and in part because of) Obama’s successes, Corporate America, aided and abetted by conservative activist justices on the Supreme Court, began spending vast sums of money to convince frightened and weak-minded Americans that President Obama was some sort of radical socialist Muslim monster. A lot of misguided people came to believe this nonsense and the tea party arose as the tool of the rich in the guise of a populist uprising.

“A loose definition of the Tea Party,” wrote Matt Taibbi in the October 5 issue of Rolling Stone, “might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.”

Obama’s bad fortunes seemed to turn on health care reform. He lost the enthusiasm of many who helped elect him by not fighting for a public option and he infuriated conservatives with an ill-advised provision to penalize (tax) people who did not purchase health insurance. Other than that, Obamacare is pretty much what Republicans are now proposing.

So on November 2 we witnessed the predictable reactionary tidal wave of an off-year election as people voted with their emotions rather than their heads. Tea party Republicans swept a lot of deficit hawks into office, though the most obvious tea party nut cases lost big in New York, Nevada, and Delaware. For the time being, however, we have turned Congress back over to people who primarily represent the interests of corporations.

In commonsensical Maine, we also saw control of state government turned over to the GOP, yet we were relatively immune to the hardcore hysteria of the far right. Our incumbent Democratic congressional representatives, one a very progressive liberal, the other a Blue Dog moderate, were re-elected by wide margins over a couple of conservative challengers who had little to offer other than their anger.

We also narrowly elected a conservative Republican governor, one who likely could not survive a run-off election against the second-place Independent. Since the vast majority of voters supported someone other than the winner, the idea that the governor-elect has any kind of popular mandate is bogus.

Still, a win is a win, so if the new Republican governor and his newly empowered conservative confreres in the Legislature can deliver on their promise to reduce government spending without sacrificing essential services, more power to them. Since he has never offered any specifics about how he might accomplish this, it’s doubtful he can.

In his Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbi observed that, “The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them.”

If you want to see a real populist uprising, wait until LePage Surplus & Salvage tries to cut funding for educational, cultural and social programs, gut environmental regulations, and turn Maine over to private business interests. All those tea partiers receiving public pensions, VA benefits, unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and MaineCare will be marching on Augusta right along with the majority of Mainers who care more about the common good than about personal gain.