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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Why We Can't Have a Tea Party

I don't anticipate writing that much today; I need a bit of a break and I know I'm going to spend a decent amount of time on the post-mortem roundup tomorrow. I just wanted to share an article from Thursday's USA Today by Jason Sattier about one of the topics I've written a decent amount about, the need for some big money behind an organized liberal movement. In this case, he explains why it probably won't happen.

So why aren’t liberal donors trying to spark a Tea Party of the left?
They know as well as anyone that the “spontaneous” uprising of 2009 was fed or led by an extremely well-financed web of conservative networks. How else do you get a movement enraged by teacher’s salaries and government regulation during an apocalyptic financial crisis caused by bankers exploiting a lack of government regulation?
Conservative donors have spent tens of millions of dollars and decades building a movement that revolves around resentment of liberals and the government. The gains of tax breaks, deregulation and privatization are massive — so massive that the donor class is willing to suffer some demands from an activated grassroots, as long as those demands don’t get in the way of tax breaks, deregulation and privatization.
Big Democratic donors also tend to have their pet causes, such as guns and climate change. And in some cases, such as climate and immigration, a Demos study shows, these funders actually push the party to the left. But the story is different when it comes to "pocketbook" issues such as the budget and taxes.
Democrats in general were nearly six times as likely to support raising taxes to reduce the deficit as Democratic donors who gave $5,000 or more, the Demos research found. Organized labor, meanwhile, the backbone of the left, has been systemically hollowed by the right while Democrats failed again and again to strengthen unions when they had the chance.
Yes, the left needs a movement that rivals the Tea Party movement’s passion, reach and influence. But rather than happening with the encouragement and funding of the party’s rich donors, it might have to happen in spite of them.

He's probably right, and it bums me out. I do think that we can win the Presidency back in 2020, and maybe even get a slim margin in the House and Senate by 2021. But we're never getting a majority of state legislatures back, at least not while I'm still *fairly* young, unless we can get a mass national movement like the Tea Party. I've been trying to make the point over and over, to no avail -- because, really, who the hell am I? -- that I think the Indivisible crowd is making a mistake to frame the Tea Party as a grassroots movement:

As much great energy as we have at the bottom in the progressive movement, we need real, well-funded leadership at the top, as well. It's largely because of the lack of that that despite the fact that we're on the right side of history that we're still relitigating the 2000s, the 1990s, the 1960s, the 1930s, hell, even the 1890s! It's why when they had Brooks Brothers Riots while we have somber press conferences. They've been building a movement for decades with tremendous resources behind them, win or lose, while we appear to dissolve and start anew after each loss because we have nothing to fall back upon

I should amend that to say "relitigating the 1870s... or even 1850s." And given that there's a lot of talk comparing Trump to Andrew Jackson, maybe we're looking further back. A Trail of Tears for Latinos isn't really out of the question.

But I digress. One of the reasons I was so excited about a Hillary Clinton presidency was the potential for a liberal-leaning Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United and start to take at least a chunk of the money out of politics. We're pretty clearly going the other way for at least the next decade or two. So we're going to need money. We can't pretend we don't, and we can't pretend that it wasn't big money that built the other side.

I continue to admire the goals of Indivisible, but it's really, really tough to get to the right conclusion when you're starting with the wrong premises. And until people like them acknowledge that they need to fight fire with fire, we're going to keep trying to douse gunfire with water because we learned the wrong lessons from history (and metaphors).

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