The elections have happened. The political landscape has changed not only in Washington but also across the country. The Republicans have made a bold move but largely on the back of the TEA Party. And the 2 are not one and the same. How this dynamic works out will be fascinating.
Rand Paul has indicated that he will seek to create a bicameral TEA Party caucus. If he is able to create a new, legitimate political node within what has been a bi-polar political game for as long as anyone can remember, new alliances might become a possibility.
The TEA Party is basically a 3rd party movement working within the 2 party system.
I once spoke with Ron Paul before he ran for president as a Republican and after listening to me make the case for a 3rd party insurgency he rightly pointed out that the 2 parties have insulated themselves from any competition. The GOP and Dems have a stranglehold on the process of getting on the ballot. The Libertarians for instance expend huge amounts of energy just to be on the ballot across the country, after which vital resources are depleted for the broader contest.
Ron Paul made the point to me that there was much more opportunity if people who were inclined toward changing the system worked within the establishment and then turned the tools of the parties against the parties.
In many ways this is what the TEA Party has done. They battled in the primaries to get the right people on the ballot. In some cases it worked. In other cases it did not. The establishment GOP is quick to point out that Reid would likely have lost had he been opposed by a more “mainstream” candidate than Sharon Angle. Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Regardless the emergence of the TEA Party may change (its too early to tell) the game in Washington.
Many of my friends on the left cringe at the emergence of the TEA Party. They should not.
Though the TEA Party is fundamentally opposed to many things the modern left is for, basically the entire New Deal regime instituted under FDR, there is real potential for progress on important issues that are important to at least some on the left. New alliances can be created with the new blood (TEA Party blood) coming in.
Simply put, when things are quiet the powers that be rule the day. Opportunity for new thinking is rare. Anyone who challenges the established order will be crushed. The power of the bureaucracy (on the right and left) will see to that.
It is however during times of upheaval when real change happens, new alliances are created, new coalitions forged, and new issues brought to the fore.
For instance there are many on the left who deeply oppose the government/corporate alliance in agriculture. Huge subsidies are channeled to these companies which many people believe are hell bent on crushing the family farm (which they basically have) and producing food that is genetically altered for maximum profit.
Surely there is nothing wrong with persuing profit. I am all for it. I am also for innovation in agriculture and the use of economies of scale. However, when the largess of the state is used to create near monopolies in the food business, this is anti-market and so wrong. Many within the TEA Party would agree.
Rural Democrats often supported the subsidy of large agribusiness in their effort to remain in power. It was their trump card. They might be a Dem, but at least they brought home the bacon.
Interestingly in the last election many of these Democrats, including Members in senior committee leadership got killed on election night, whereas Republicans in districts with lots of agri-pork who opposed such pork survived, indeed did even better than in the past.
What does this mean?
Simply, a window has opened for a coalition between people who are interested in agriculture from a traditionally “left” perspective, read whole foods, back to the land stuff, and the TEA Party members and GOP conservatives. All three groups want to end the subsidy of massive agribusiness. But this opportunity will not last forever, and will slip away if no one stands up and reaches out to the other side.
And this is just one example of where new opportunities lay.
Another area that in my opinion is even more vital for the future of our Republic, where there is real opportunity is in of all areas, energy.
For quite a while the debate surrounding energy has been couched in terms of lefty, wishy-washy “green” energy , and right wing “drill baby drill” silliness.
Conservatives often act as if oil is the “free market” energy alternative, whereas “green” energy, wind, solar, tidal, etc is just a boondoggle. The truth is oil is an even bigger boondoggle than “green” energy. It is highly subsidized, to the tune of ½ TRILLION dollars worldwide.
In an effort to keep our oil based economy humming we must now venture into increasingly nasty areas of the world . This means war. This means dead service people. This means increased terrorism. This means increased insecurity at home.
I don’t know one conservative worth his salt who would make the case that unending war is a “conservative” idea. When I was coming up I was always told that the “conservative” approach to war was, get in with a clear objective, hammer the enemy, then get out. The truth is I believe most conservatives still (and increasingly) believe this, even the after the attacks on September 11th. But admittedly you would never know this by watching Fox or reading the Weekly Standard.
The point is, though many on the left may not see it, there is opportunity to work with the antiestablishment TEA Party on energy if the case can be made that oil and coal are in fact not free market sources of energy and that these industries should not be subsidized.
But the Nancy Pelosi establishment left, wedded to the welfare state will get nowhere with the new leaders emerging in the “new” right. The TEA Party hates the establishment GOP truth be told. But they despise the establishment left. There is almost no room for discussion with people who have run the show on the left over the past decades. If however new, honest voices were to emerge from the environmental community, I believe many within the TEA Party would listen (and ultimately act) so long as the same old “big state” solutions were tossed aside in favor of innovative new thinking that increased efficiency and reduced the burden to taxpayers.
This is key. If the burden of taxes could be reduced in any new environmental policy, people on the new right will at least listen. Seeds could be planted. Coalitions might even emerge among groups that never would have thought they could work together.
As I see it many ideas that the environmental left champions could be moved forward if the left could get out of the mindset of constantly expanding the state. I think if this can be done, many of the issues that the establishment GOP has traditionally tossed aside because they long ago sold their soul to subsidized big energy, would find an audience with the TEA Party.
Many on the left may balk at the idea of working with the “new” right. This would be a colossal mistake and a fundamental misreading of the biggest opportunity for new ideas (right, left, and otherwise) in American politics in over a century.
Let’s act. Let’s get the people who are more interested in ideas than scoring partisan points talking, despite what we have perceived as our political differences. The time is now.
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