Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Money, Greed, and the Hijacking of the Tea Party

I write this post on the day of the New Hampshire primary, as HuffPo announces that Trump still leads GOP voters nationwide, although elections results from three tiny towns in New Hampshire have Trump, Kasich and Cruz in a dead heat.

The last eight years have been awful for the U.S. and for many of us personally.  We have experienced one of the greatest wealth transfers in the history of our nation, massive unemployment hidden by creative accounting, loss of property and recession that does not end.  I read a few weeks ago that as of 2014, 93% of U.S. counties had not recovered from the recession.

Living here in North Texas it is easy to forget that--one new person moves to North Texas every five minutes.  Jobs and growth are here because of a government committed to conservative principles.  But for many places in the U.S., the recession will never end--the jobs and industries that those counties relied on to drive their economies are gone permanently.  Happy days not only aren't here again--they aren't coming back.

One of the great ironies of the last eight years is that the rise of Obama and his signature bill Obamacare--which has increased taxes and cost jobs across the country--also gave rise to a major grassroots movement to reform the country--the TEA Party.  Across the country, millions of Americans came together to demand smaller, more conservative government, the repeal of Obamacare, and the return of common sense government by the people for the people.

From that movement came first a Republican Congress led by the highly disappointing John Boehner, and then a Republican Senate led by the equally disappointing Mitch McConnell and now a field of GOP candidates. We have a genuine principled conservative--Ted Cruz; a moderate but well spoken candidate--Marco Rubio, and a loutish liberal fraud--Donald Trump.  Unfortunately, it is the loutish fraud who has apparently deceived the staunchest defenders of conservatism.

I never paid much attention to the buffoonish Trump.  Anyone who is famous for shouting, "You're fired!" at hapless reality show contestants who debase themselves by groveling in front of him is, in my opinion, a big-mouthed blowhard.  Trump is like the worst boss/ex/neighbor/coworker you have ever had--rolled into one person.  He is rude, abusive, and treats the people around him like dirt.

I would have never believed that he would have had massive appeal with Americans simply because of his rude, overbearing obnoxious nature. And yet, today, the reality star who used to have his own reality show contestants groveling and debasing themselves now has conservative icons doing the same.

Consider what this means in real terms.  Phyllis Schlafly--who fought to end ERA and to preserve traditional values--has endorsed wholeheartedly a man who supports partial birth abortion, who has been married three times, who left his first wife for his pregnant lover, has engaged in numerous affairs, and whose current wife posed nude for a magazine.  Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, where I currently attend church--gave a de facto endorsement in the form of a very enthusiastic introduction, of this same candidate while saying that he is the ONLY candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton.  It is truly befuddling--Donald Trump--who said he has never needed to ask for forgiveness in his life, has the enthusiastic backing of a Baptist pastor who teaches weekly that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and can only be reconciled to a relationship with that same God through forgiveness offered by Jesus.

Perhaps the deepest cut of all, Donald Trump supports a single payer healthcare system.  That is not rumor or gossip.  I listened very carefully during the last debate to exactly what Trump actually said about his healthcare plan and he absolutely does plan to repeal Obamacare but he is going to replace it with a singlepayer government system.  And yet, he has the endorsement of Sarah Palin--the darling of the Tea Party movement which was started for the sole purposes of repealing Obamacare!  If that is not proof that we have lost our way, I don't know what is.

And it is not just leaders who are enamored with Trump--a lot of every day voters are too.  I talked yesterday to a man I have known since I moved to Dallas.  He leans more libertarian than conservative but he supports Trump.  He was telling me that at a meeting he had hosted last month, the speaker told the crowd that Ted Cruz is a real conservative and Trump is only about 60% conservative but Cruz can't get his agenda passed while Trump can get about half of his agenda passed and 50% of 60% is better than nothing. 

When I pressed my friend about what that agenda truly is, I asked him if he understood that Donald Trump is backing a single payer healthcare system. "I've heard that.  He must not understand what a single payer healthcare system is. He can't understand what it is--it is so counter productive."  That is where Donald Trump supporters are--when he stands for partial birth abortion, or single payer health care, or higher taxes, or bigger government--he really doesn't mean it.  That reminds me of another candidate who convinced Americans that he did not mean when he said when he promised to fundamentally transform America eight years ago.

The irony of all of this "only Trump can beat Hillary" rhetoric is that Hillary may not be the nominee.  In the first three towns to provide election results this morning in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders won handily.  Over 40% of Democrats now self-identify as Socialists.   As much as baggage as Hillary is dragging behind her, Bernie seems to many be a picture of integrity--a pure socialist who promises to rob the rich and give to everybody without the Wall Street connections and the blood of dead soldiers in Benghazi to muddy the waters..  Interestingly, a group of students from Communist China in Iowa for the caucuses were asked which candidates they liked and overwhelmingly they chose Sanders and Trump.  Why not?  China has billionaires too--and its communist, repressive government guarantees that the few will always control the many.  Is that so different from what Trump wants?

If Sanders does win, the choice on one hand is open Socialism.  What do we want to offer as option 2?  Socialism light?  The rich guy who is the smartest guy in the room but can't seem to understand how anything works or offer any real solutions or any real plan for how he is going to "Make America Great Again"?  Or do we offer a real choice--smaller government--more power to the states, and a real action plan for reforming the country?  Do we want another Reagan?  Or do we just want a less open Socialist who will keep growing government, raising taxes and tearing away at the fabric of our nation. What do we still believe?  What do we still want?  And are we willing to vote for it?  Or has a nation obsessed with entertainment completely sold out to the reality show president?

When the Tea Party movement and the conservative resurgence began, it was in part a reaction against a corrupt system which buys and sells politicians.  Washington's love affair with money had led to so many dirty deals and so much selling out that everyday Americans were saying "ENOUGH."

Unfortunately, it was not just D.C. having the affair.  America as a whole is in love with money.  Donald Trump's entire campaign could be summed up with "I'm rich--vote for me."  Sanders' campaign could be summed up with "I'll take from the rich and give to you--vote for me."  In both cases, it is a message based on money.  Trump's supporters are willing to overlook everything he is not in favor of all that he is--a rich bully who threatens and demoralizes anyone who opposes him and has a tantrum when he does not get his own way.  Very presidential.

I hope there are still enough of us left who are not enamored with "The Donald" to turn this around.  Your turn to vote is soon.  Choose wisely.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.