Guest Submission by Jose R. Gonzalez
On the otherwise barren landscape known as the GOP presidential primary, two curious plants grow as nourished by crafty campaign managers. One a prickly, Southwestern cactus, the other a Midwestern pine cone with needles aplenty. Silly spectators fawn over the pair, blue ribbon in hand ready to award one of the two the winner before the actual jury can see the remaining competition to select a true victor.
So stands the current scenario of top-tier Tea Party candidates, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, in the race for the GOP nomination. An anxious press, a jaded public relations machine, self-important pundits and two grossly under-vetted candidates is what litters the pre-primary season. Members of the Tea Party may now want to pull out their magnifying glasses to better inspect the flora’s authenticity.
Things become suspect when candidates begin to fly the Tea Party banner when at a rally but tow the establishment Republican line when the crowds dissipate. It begins to look as if everyone outside and inside the establishment wants to identify with the values of the Tea Party only now when they’re fashionable in the GOP. As if the Tea Party came to be only when the self-appointed arbiters of political hip started paying any attention and giving their approval to the movement.
Flipping through the stations on the radio, there comes on a song that is representative of this sentiment. The classic “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” by Barbara Mandrell.
There must be someone out there who was Tea Party when Tea Party wasn’t cool, right?
The fact that neither of these celebrated politicians is substantively Tea Party should cause great pause within the movement. When Tea Party values are reduced to style only campaigning, supporters and members of the movement should ask themselves how seriously these same values are taken within Republican circles. If they are perhaps nothing more than a cause du jour perpetuated for the sole purpose of winning a few elections, instead of for the greater purpose of reforming our increasingly corrupt governmental institutions. Rather as the means of primping a few distinct names on the electoral ballot.
On September 3, 2011, in Indianola, Iowa, Governor Sarah Palin called out a “permanent political class” responsible for upending true and lasting reform. She also seemed to warn against the notion that a simple label or mere claim to a movement sufficed in winning the Republican nomination to oppose the incumbent president when she said:
“…it’s not enough to change the uniform… if we don’t change the team”
Governor Perry and Representative Bachmann may talk a good game but their home runs have been struck hitting balls on a tee-stand as opposed to playing real hardball. Their deeds in office run opposite or astray of the image they project while in campaign mode. Perry and Bachmann may proudly wear the Tea Party jersey but most their careers they’ve been playing on the team of the “permanent political class”.
Holding accountable office holders is one of the pursuits of the Tea Party. One may ask, where’s the accountability for either Perry or Bachmann? It’s time to hold accountable both Perry and Bachmann for their respective actions and inactions in office.
The first pretender contender basking in the mainstream’s anointing of a Tea Party candidate for the nomination is one who has become quite apt at growing a brand but little to nothing more. This candidate is such an effective brand builder she’s managed to suppress the fact that she lacks the broad experience needed in the pressing times the country faces. Her foray into Tea Party rock star status would be amusing if her actual record wouldn’t trivialize the movement as it does.
Bachmann’s presidential campaign ads tout her as a “constitutional conservative”. Her definition of such is deeply concerning when reviewing her actual record.
The Minnesota congresswoman rightly slams misuse of Medicaid funds. Yet the therapy clinic she takes credit with co-founding is revealed to have accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the government entitlement. Some of those very funds went for payment on the pseudo-scientific homosexual to heterosexual reparative therapy the clinic specializes in. As of now she has declined explaining how the United States Constitution permits for tax payer money to profit practitioners of a largely discredited and almost exclusively religion based treatment.
Many a member of the Tea Party movement may have cheered Bachmann on as she took to task the aggrandizement of government as it relates to the development of youth. Bachmann reasonably enough denounced some of the means and the overall meaning of AmeriCorps. She declared AmeriCorps a paying government entity and not the volunteer organization it purported to be. Bachmann also called into question whether its youth members would be susceptible to government indoctrination. Quite noble of her till it was revealed that the congresswoman’s own son joined Teach for America… an AmeriCorps outfit.
Bachmann has now taken to targeting titles for acquirement in the House. Originally Bachmann campaigned for chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. It was declined. Bachmann’s next foray into chairmanship hunting came with her simply creating a title to assume.
Tea Party Caucus Chair has proven to be nothing more than that, a title to assume. In the first year and a month since the caucus’s creation, Bachmann has managed to steer it to achieve absolutely nothing in the congress. The caucus has had a total of two policy meetings in 2011 and it played no role in the debt ceiling negotiations of August of that year. Matter of fact, the majority of the members actually voted in support of raising the debt ceiling despite its chairwoman calling for opposition to the measure. Bachmann, like most collecting a check in Congress, fails to understand that with a title come duties to fulfill.
In the near half decade Bachmann has served in Washington, the congresswoman has compiled a hefty record of empty achievements and zero accomplishments. Even in the six years she was a state senator in Minnesota she failed to win a single significant legislative triumph. She was, however, awarded a title as an assistant minority leader for GOP policy in the state senate; a title that would be revoked within seven months.
The other “permanent political class” candidate now donning Tea Party wear is one who has achieved and accomplished things in politics. The issue lies in the career politician manner by which he has achieved and accomplished these same things.
Perry’s Democrat Party membership and support even after Reagan, his proposal for a health mandate, his urgency for grand scale use of eminent domain, his weak authority as governor and his disinterest in term limits has been previously detailed here. Other issues about Perry’s governorship Tea Party members should consider are just now coming to full light.
For instance, Perry talks a heavy deal on state sovereignty. Perry pens a book, Fed Up, about the dangers of a big Federal government. As Texas governor, he starts up a petition for an end to government bailouts. Quite heroic measures, right?
In his book, Perry writes:
“We are fed up with bailout after bailout and stimulus plan after stimulus plan, each one of which tosses principle out the window along with taxpayer money.”
Hurrah! Wrangle ’em in, Rick!
Sadly, reality exposes he has actually helped make the Great State of Texas more dependent on federal funds. Perry accepted without hesitation more than $6 billion to keep the state’s so-called rainy day fund from being affected by a budget shortfall it faced.
So much for principled governance based on fiscal conservatism. The blatant hypocrisy of Perry calling for the curtailing of federal interventionism while simultaneously requesting federal funds for his fiscally insolvent government should be unforgivable to the Tea Party. Not to mention that though Perry is indeed a capitalist, it is of the crony persuasion. These should all each on their own be immediate disqualifiers for Perry to be the Tea Party’s choice for president.
The two plants in competition look more synthetic now, don’t they? They resemble the real thing but only at a distance and not in closer observation. They have lived the struggle of the Tea Party in only an embarrassingly superficial way.
The lyrics to “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” are testament to what one Governor Sarah Palin has endured for keeping to the core constitutional principles of her state and the union, even when this wasn’t in political vogue:
“I took a lot of kiddin’
‘Cause I never did fit in
Now look at everybody tryin’ to be what I was then”
Before the fanfare of Perry and Bachmann, Palin was busily working in the Last Frontier to hold government accountable to its constitutional requirements. It didn’t endear her to the bigwigs in the Alaska GOP. With great humility she has abstained from publicizing her achievements. She has modestly referred to these as simply the completion of her obligations to the state constituency.
Palin as Alaska governor consistently displayed a close commitment to core constitutional principles regardless of her own personal views on social issues. In early 2007, Palin vetoed a state legislature bill to overturn the state supreme court’s decision granting domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. The veto was an act enforcing the constitutional separation of powers and not a personal ideological position on behalf of the Governor.
Governor Palin’s respect and adherence to the state constitution, even when it countered her own social values, would be demonstrated anew in January 2009 in her appointment of Judge Morgan Christen to the state supreme court. The method of appointing justices to the Alaska Supreme Court is for an independent panel to forward nominees for the governor to appoint. The only options for the Governor were a couple of pro-choice judges, Christen and Judge Eric Smith. She chose Christen, less an activist judge than Smith. The pro-life position Palin has long-held was never an impediment for her to successfully execute her role as the state constitution decreed it.
In replacing legislation enacted by the ethically challenged Frank Murkowski administration, Palin would dramatically incentivize energy development in the state, as well as immediately monetarily benefit Alaska residents. Abiding by Alaskan constitutional requirements, the Palin administration in 2007 formulated, promoted and ultimately enacted the Alaska Clear and Equitable Share legislation. Palin understood the Alaska Constitution recognized as resource owners the state’s residents. Consequently, ACES created a successful shareholder relationship between state residents and the energy companies. It also helped open up to competition the state’s energy industry helping produce an increase in jobs and oil revenue.
Furthermore, Palin took the extraordinary proactive measures of reducing state spending in a surplus. Palin solidified herself as the only high-profile Republican executive in government in the past decade to exercise such prudent fiscal restraint. In every sense, Governor Palin is a tested and proven constitutionalist and conservative. Palin is the ideal Tea Party candidate; unmatched or equaled by any other GOP candidate.
A few so-called experts (incidentally enough the same entrenched group of people responsible for the current climate of failure in D.C.) are now very loudly calling for Palin to move aside. They’re beside themselves for Governor Palin actually being both likable and reputable. Among the reasons they argue against a Palin presidential run is that she is all too parochial, unsophisticated if you may, to actually campaign effectively.
Much is speculated over Palin’s strategy for victory by the pollsters, the pundits, the press corps, the pr peddling their candidates in the primary and career politicians. These same individuals fixate over her absence from straw polls (bought by candidates) and closed meeting negotiations with party officials (akin to smoke filled, back room dealings). That’s not Tea Party, that’s not Sarah Palin.
These silly spectators are constantly trying to bypass the jury. They simply do not trust the electorate’s decision making. Contested primaries are something the Tea Party understands and encourages. Establishment types (the press, pr workers, pundits, career politicos) fear legitimate conservative competition in a primary and thus they seek to discount Governor Palin as a viable candidate in the primary. In their desperation these same people fixate on Palin’s campaign operation instead of analyzing what truly matters: her proven record of effective governance and how it would shape and mold the issues she would run on.
The chicanery of the press, the pr machine and the pundits is almost tantamount to indirect voter suppression. These establishment types should take a collective breather and allow for the electorate to determine for themselves who they will support and who they will ultimately vote for.
And so the lyrics of “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” resonate once more:
“I’m just glad we’re in a country
Where we’re all free to choose”
In the GOP primary the voters can and will choose. The GOP electorate should have a distinct choice of voting either for Palin who is genuinely authentic in her Tea Party identity and those candidates who simply are not. For Palin possesses a real record of reform versus the mere rhetoric of others. The values she lives today are the same as the ones she espoused from before they were ever deemed cool by her colleagues or the “permanent political class” and its allies. Plainly put, Sarah Palin is an original trailblazer and not some opportunistic imitator.
Cross-posted at Awake Til Dawn.