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“I have a message, a message from the Tea Party,” said Rand Paul, a political candidate who made headlines across the United States this week. “We have come to take our government back.”
The Tea Party isn’t really a “party,” in the conventional sense. They describe themselves as a loose movement of activists who draw their inspiration from the Boston Tea Party — an 18th-century anti-taxation uprising that helped spark the American War of Independence.
Today’s Tea Party wants lower taxes and less government spending, policies it says the Republican Party has promised but not delivered. So now the Tea Party is supporting candidates who are officially running for office as Republicans, in hope they can change the party from the inside. This week Paul became the most prominent yet to win a Republican nomination, running for the U.S. Senate and sharing credit for his win with the Tea Party.
Paul wasn’t the only anti-establishment candidate to do well this week. Americans nationwide are angry at their elected leaders and several states had a chance to choose both Republican and Democratic nominees for elected office. There were setbacks for well-known candidates in both parties.
“It was an anti-incumbency vote across the nation,” said Bill Richardson, a Democratic Party governor. “If you ran against Washington, you did well.”
With President Obama in the White House and his supporters in control of Congress, the Democrats are currently America’s governing party. The Tea Party is unhappy with the government so the conflict with the Democrats is clear.
But Republicans aren’t entirely sure where they stand. Some have embraced the newcomers, while others have politely pushed them away. The party’s leaders refused to support Paul, at least in part because he doesn’t really support them.
Can the Tea Party take hold among Republicans? Will their chosen candidates win against Republicans and Democrats? Will the winners come from among candidates who run against Washington with or without support from the Tea Party? Are the extremes making most of the noise but the moderates will make the most difference?
Thanks to the 2006 and 2008 elections, conservatives no longer control the American government. They do, however, continue to essentially control the American media. As a case in point, you’ve probably heard that part of the Obama administration’s plan to pass health reform is to use the budget reconciliation process. The reason you’ve probably heard is that the press has been obsessed with the topic, repeatedly labeling it a “controversial” move that would “ram” legislation via an end-run around the normal legislative process.”
In fact, though most bills do not go through the reconciliation process—typically because their subject matter makes them ineligible—the process has been invoked frequently since 1980. And the reason it’s remained obscure until 2010 is that until the health-care debate, the press never saw fit to go into conniptions over congressional procedure.
Some of the mainstream media coverage of the reconciliation issue has been bad. Some of it, like this excellent NPR story, has been good.
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It’s been open season on the right for primary challengers, with bids to unseat incumbents like John McCain and establishment favorites for open seats like Charlie Crist. But despite heightened tensions on the left between progressive and conservative Democrats, there has been little to no corresponding electoral pressure from the base to keep members in line—until now.
A major primary battle is developing in Arkansas between one of the Senate’s most prominent conservative Democrats, Blanche Lincoln, and progressive-backed Bill Halter, the state’s lieutenant governor.
continue reading here.