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Tea Party Legislators Not Fit to Lead

Political blog The Hill’s Cameron Joseph wrote an important piece today, highlighting the response of the internet darling Tea Party Patriots to senior Democratic leaders’ references to the “Tea Party Downgrade,” a recently popular characterization describing Friday night’s lowering of US credit by rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

Concluding that President Obama was to blame before his conservative allies in the House and Senate, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler shared what might be one of the funniest, if most unfair, comments of the debt ceiling / downgrade debacle: “When Washington, D.C., gets slammed from the right by communists, you know we have a problem with our leadership.”  (This author believes most communists would take offense to the notion that President Obama, who has done nothing but appease fiscal conservatives since passing the Affordable Health Care Act, is politically left of them, or that someone as ultra-right as Mark Meckler, who is quoted as saying that the debt-ceiling debate in Washington was a “model for what should happen in all countries,” is speaking on their behalf, but that is merely an aside…)  It is Meckler’s contention that President Obama is responsible for the downgrading of US credit, suggesting that S&P’s decision to lower the United States’ credit rating from AAA to AA+ resulted “from a lack of leadership that has failed to face our debt problems or corral overspending.”  (His grammatical fiasco, not mine.)

And why shouldn’t Mr. Meckler try to lead the discussion in this direction?  A CBS/New York Times poll cited in an earlier post (“This is What Democracy Looks Like?”) shows that the Tea Party suffers from a 40% disapproval rating, twice as high as its 20% approval rating.  These numbers come in large part from the role Tea Party legislators played, or are perceived to have played, in holding up any kind of bi-partisan, balanced compromise the vast majority of Americans (66% according to CBS) were seeking before the August 2nd Drop-Dead Date for a debt ceiling increase.

As the American people try to make sense of today’s 634-point nosedive in the market, they are going to look for someone to blame.  In the opinion of this writer, it is impossible to find fault landing more squarely on the shoulders of any one political constituency than on people like Mr. Meckler, who actively sought to place like-minded legislators into power in the US Congress, and on those legislators themselves, who believed either that deep, rampant, and immediate spending cuts with no hint of revenue increases of any kind (taxes, again, are anathema for Mr. Meckler’s friends) were the only cure for what ailed the American financial system, or that perhaps, just maybe, a massive reduction in domestic spending, and therefore a massive gap in the dollars going into our economy and the productivity coming out, was well-timed for a nation on verge of recovery, and just what our nation needed to “get back on track to fiscal sanity.”  It is clear that “fiscal sanity” turned out to be either ignorance, willful or otherwise, of how our economy actually functions, or indifference about the outcome of such a drastic reaction to last fall’s elections and the alleged mandate that Tea Party legislators inherited.

In all fairness to those who believe that our government spends too much money, I agree.  But, I believe there is a right way to go about changing the way we do business in America, and a wrong way.  Nothing about what the Tea Party orchestrated last week in Washington was right.  And now average Americans must suffer the consequences, potentially in the form of a tragic, double-dip recession.  It is clear that Tea Party legislators in the US Congress are not yet ready to lead America.  Their cavalier attitude towards the future of this country, and the “who cares if it breaks, it isn’t mine” treatment of something as fragile as a post-Great Recession economy, should leave the American voter no doubt that these amateurs may have in fact won elections in 2010, but they are far from professional politicians, and are not yet ready for prime time.  As for Mr. Meckler, he should probably save his ammunition for a fight he can win, or at least one he hasn’t already lost.

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