Chart of the day

Seth Masket turned me onto this excellent piece about the Southern origins of the Tea Party in Salon.  The Money Chart:

And the story behind it:

Contradicting the mainstream media narrative that the Tea Party is a new populist movement that formed spontaneously in reaction to government bailouts or the Obama administration, the facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label. The threat of Southern Tea Party representatives and their sidekicks from the Midwest and elsewhere to destroy America’s credit rating unless the federal government agrees to enact Dixie’s economic agenda of preserving defense spending while slashing entitlements is simply the latest act of aggression by the Solid South…

In light of this recent history, it is clear that the origins of the debt ceiling crisis are to be sought, not in generic American conservatism, but in idiosyncratic Southern conservatism. The goal, the methods and the passion of the Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical Southern right.

From the earliest years of the American republic, white Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and found themselves in the political minority have sought to extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or threatening to destroy the United States.

Good stuff!  And the depressing conclusion:

The debt ceiling crisis is the latest case in which the radical right in the South has held America hostage until its demands are met. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln refused to appease the Southern fanatics. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress chose not to follow their example and instead gave in. In doing so, they have encouraged the neo-Confederate minority in Congress to find yet another opportunity in the near future to extort concessions from America’s majority by sabotaging America’s government.

A Third Party History Lesson

Other than right now, the period I know most about US Political history is the 1850’s.  Back in college, I wrote a seminar paper on how Abraham Lincoln chose to ultimately leave the Whig party and become a Republican (the man was quite an opportunist).  In my first year in grad school, I wrote a paper on the development of the Republican party in the 1850’s (many people forget that the nativist Know-Nothings were actually the pre-eminent party in the North following the fall of the Whigs).

So, there’s that.  Plus, I get so tired of people clamoring for a third party who really seem to have no idea what they’re talking about.  Right, we just need a new party to advocate “common sense solutions.”  Amazingly, once they start getting specific, they start alienating people.  And, of course, the Democrats are admittedly too beholden to certain ideas and constituencies, but they’re really not too far from centrist common-sense solutions these days.  They are just being prevented from implementing them.

So, it is an understatement to say that Yglesias’ post on the futility of third parties based on how the rise of the GOP is the exception that proves the rule, really hit my sweet spot.  And deserves an extensive excerpt:

The crux of the matter is that the GOP, when founded, was a movement of party-switchers from among the ranks of established politicians. Galusha Aaron Grow, the first Republican Speaker of the House, is a case in point. As a young Pennsylvania lawyer, he ran for congress as a Democrat in 1850 and won. He ran for re-election in 1852 and won. He ran for re-election again in 1854 and won again. Then he switched parties in response to Franklin Pierce’s signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, became a Republican, ran again in 1856 and won again. Then he ran again in 1858 and won yet again. Then he ran and won in 1860 and became Speaker. Charles Sumner was appointed to the Senate by the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1850 and he sat as a Democrat, espousing anti-slavery views until nearly beaten to death by (fellow Democrat!) Preston Brooks. While convalescing back home, he was re-appointed by the legislature in 1856 this time as a Republican. Abraham Lincoln served in congress as a Whig, was an Illinois Whig activist and 1854 Whig Party Senate candidate, then ran again two years later as a Republican.

Which is all just to say that what happened in 1860 was not at all the case of an outsider third party presidential campaign sweeping the nation and changing things up. Instead, starting in 1854 and with continuing force in 1856 and 1858 a large number of established northern politicians left existing parties and came together at the Republican Party. Then, with caucuses already in place in the House and the Senate and strong bases of support in every northern state legislature, they won a presidential campaign against a splintered Democratic Party. So, yes, a third party that manages to persuade large numbers of incumbent officeholders from both parties to jump ship and join it could have a huge practical impact on American politics. But this simply underscores the fact that a lone wolf presidential bid, even if somehow successful, would change little. You walk before you run. You win seats in congress and identify a regional base of support before you sweep the nation. Presidential elections are fun. Party building is tedious.

Alright, it’s not perfect– he doesn’t mention the Know Nothings– but this is a really important point.  No matter how upset people are with the major parties, they’re not going anywhere so long as incumbent politicians are convinced that’s where their best path to success lies.

An economic time-line

The most recent portion of Steve Benen’s timeline (click the link to go back to 1980):

2009: Barack Obama inherits $1.3 trillion deficit from Bush; Republicans immediately condemn Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility.

2009: Congressional Democrats unveil several domestic policy initiatives — including health care reform, cap and trade, DREAM Act — which would lower the deficit. GOP opposes all of them, while continuing to push for deficit reduction.

September 2010: In Obama’s first fiscal year, the deficit shrinks by $122 billion. Republicans again condemn Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility.

October 2010: S&P endorses the nation’s AAA rating with a stable outlook, saying the United States looks to be in solid fiscal shape for the foreseeable future.

November 2010: Republicans win a U.S. House majority, citing the need for fiscal responsibility.

December 2010: Congressional Republicans demand extension of Bush tax cuts, relying entirely on deficit financing. GOP continues to accuse Obama of fiscal irresponsibility.

March 2011: Congressional Republicans declare intention to hold full faith and credit of the United States hostage — a move without precedent in American history — until massive debt-reduction plan is approved.

July 2011: Obama offers Republicans a $4 trillion debt-reduction deal. GOP refuses, pushes debt-ceiling standoff until the last possible day, rattling international markets.

August 2011: S&P downgrades U.S. debt, citing GOP refusal to consider new revenues. Republicans rejoice and blame Obama for fiscal irresponsibility.

I’ve tried to avoid too much reading of the comments from Republicans on this matter.  Yeah, I’m used to absolutely breath-taking dishonesty from these guys, but sometimes its just too much to take in.  If Obama is responsible for our debt downgrade I’m personally responsible for the massive budget cuts at NCSU.

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