Thursday, December 10, 2009

If 'Tea Party' candidates really are the preferred choice on the Right, then we're in serious trouble

-- by Dave

The latest Rasmussen Poll has disastrous news for Republicans -- and disquieting news for for the rest of us too:

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.

The look on Eric Bolling's face, filling in for Neil Cavuto yesterday on Fox News, contemplating this news said it all: He thought the Tea Party and Republicans were one and the same thing! In fact, he spills as much:

Bolling: Isn't the tea party just another wing of the Republican Party? ... Aren't we just splitting the party?

Well, not exactly. Like Republicans, the Tea Party folks are fervently anti-Obama. But as Republicans like Lindsey Graham are discovering, the Tea Partiers are so arch-conservative they hate BOTH parties, and consider Republicans to be sellouts of their true-blue conservative ideals.

Now, this may appear to be good news for Democrats, since it means the Right is splitting its vote. And over the short term, as we saw in the NY-23 race, it may well be. But there is an ominous quality to this that should be disturbing to everyone.

The GOP thought it could unleash this tide of right-wing populism and prosper -- but are discovering that it's not such an easy thing to control.

And what they're unleashing is a flood of right-wing extremism in the process. Because as the "Tea Party" gathering we saw this past weekend in Spokane made crystal-clear, the "Tea Parties" are one of the most massive conduits for mainstreaming extremist beliefs in our history:

More than 1,000 people, including local sheriffs, state representatives, lawyers, families and blue-collar workers, gathered in Post Falls last month to hear a former Arizona sheriff blast the federal government. About 500 met last week in another event organized by the Campaign for Liberty – a coalition of about 10 Inland Northwest groups hoping to create a forum to share ideas and create a louder voice in politics.

Some aren’t afraid to use the word militia.

“We need to rob that word back from the people who villainize it,” said Schaeffer Cox, a 25-year-old from Fairbanks, Alaska, eliciting a roar of approval from the crowd in Post Falls Wednesday night.

It was the second Freedom Festival held at the Post Falls Greyhound Park – evidence, some say, of a new rise of the militia movement in America, but one that blurs the line between extremism and mainstream.

... Wednesday’s meeting was the first event locally since the large gathering on Veterans Day for a speech by Richard Mack, a man described by Potok’s organization as “an iconic hero of the militia movement.”

Mack wrote a book with Randy Weaver in the 1990s about the federal siege at Ruby Ridge and was part of a successful lawsuit against the Clinton administration challenging sweeping gun control legislation.

Mack was joined at the Post Falls event by Washington state Rep. Matt Shea and Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart. County sheriffs were invited to dine with Mack before his speech. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich missed most of the dinner but said he enjoyed Mack’s speech.

“I didn’t hear hate. I heard the exact opposite,” Knezovich said. “I heard respect. Respect for states, respect for individual rights, for the job of the sheriff.”

Knezovich said he received more invitations to Mack’s speech than any other event since he was elected sheriff in fall 2006. Everywhere he went, it seemed, people asked if he planned to go.

“I thought to myself, ‘If that many people would like me to attend this event, I’ll do that,’ ” Knezovich said.

Mack has long been a speaker on the constitutionalist circuit, gaining fame in the militia movement in the 1990s. “There’s really a remarkable amount of anger out there that this movement reflects,” Potok said.

Still, Potok added, “it’s a little shocking that Richard Mack, given his ideas, could draw such a large crowd, including so many public officials.”

When you have law-enforcement officials and state legislators showing up to support citizen militias and "oath keepers" who believe the federal government is about to swoop down in black helicopters and round up citizens to imprison them in concentration camps ... Well, that's a problem for everyone.

It's like the 1990s on steroids. Back then, it produced a notable spate of domestic terrorism. This time around, with so many more people being successfully recruited, one can only imagine the violence that awaits us all.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

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