Scary High Number Of People Support Tea Party

The headline at Gallup is Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low. I don’t think that’s the real story. First, here is what Gallup reports:

Americans' tea Party affiliation

In November 2010, days after the Republicans recaptured the majority in the House of Representatives, 32% of Americans pledged support for the Tea Party, or 10 percentage points higher than in the latest survey, conducted Sept. 5-8.

Opponents of the Tea Party now outnumber supporters 27% to 22%, which is similar to their edge in 2012. However this differs from most of Gallup’s earlier measurements, in 2010 and 2011, when supporters and opponents were either equally matched, or Tea Party backers had the slight edge.

Fully half of Americans, 51%, currently say they are neither a supporter nor an opponent of the Tea Party, or they have no opinion about it.

Strong Tea Party Opponents Outnumber Strong Supporters

In addition to their overall advantage in numbers, opponents of the Tea Party also lead supporters in intensity. The majority of Tea Party opponents call themselves strong opponents, while supporters are evenly divided as strong and not strong supporters. The net result is that 17% of Americans consider themselves strong opponents of the Tea Party, contrasted with 11% who are strong supporters, similar to the balance seen in 2011.

Yes, it is good that the number of supporters is on a downward trend. It is still scary that over one-fifth of the country supports a group which opposes the basic tenets of self-government which this country was founded on with their hysterical hatred of government (especially when there is a black president) and unquestioning support for plutocrats like the Koch brothers. Americans should know better, and far fewer should support the Tea Party insanity. Having half the country not taking a position isn’t reassuring either.

The last time we faced a vote on the debt ceiling (which allows the United States to pay its bills, not increase spending), the Tea Party created a show-down which led to a downgrading of the credit rating of the United States and slowed economic recovery.

Now that we face a comparable crisis, we need far more than twenty-seven percent opposing this extremist and dangerous group.

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Conservative Group Spreads Misinformation About ObamaCare In Creepy Ad

As I pointed out again yesterday, conservatives are trying to create opposition to the Affordable Care Act with a massive misinformation campaign. An example can be seen in the above ad from Generation Opportunity:

Generation Opportunity, a Virginia-based group that is part of a coalition of right-leaning organizations with financial ties to billionaire businessmen and political activists Charles and David Koch, will launch a six-figure campaign aimed at convincing young people to “opt-out” of the Obamacare exchanges. Later this month, the group will begin a tour of 20 college campuses, where they plan to set up shop alongside pro-Obamacare activists such as Enroll America that are working to sign people up for the insurance exchanges.

Generation Opportunity intends to host events at college football tailgate parties festivals, where “brand ambassadors” (read: hot young people) will pass out beer koozies that read “opt out,” pizza and literature about the health care law. Some events may have impromptu dance parties with DJ’s, complete with games of cornhole and competitions for prizes, organizers said.

Their message: You don’t have to sign up for Obamacare. And they want students to sign a pledge not get insurance plans set up by the law.

The ad shows Uncle Sam playing doctor, trying to do a pap smear on a young girl. A similar ad was made of a Creepy Uncle Sam trying to do a prostate exam on a young man.

Beyond the fact that prostate exams are not typically done on the age group these ads are aimed at, these ads spread misinformation and provide terrible advice as they try to get y0ung people to refuse to purchase health insurance. Under Obamacare, most college age students actually do not even need to purchase health insurance because insurance plans are required to cover dependent students until age 26. Despite the advice in this ad, those who are not otherwise covered are certainly better off purchasing insurance through the exchange where insurance coverage is generally more comprehensive and less expensive than it has been in the past.

Under any situation, going without health insurance is risky. In the past many people had no choice. It would make no sense for people to refuse to take a good deal under Obamacare as opposed to risking bankruptcy should they develop an expensive medical problem while uninsured. Believe me, if you get sick, the Kochs might be happy you helped them make an extremist political point, but they will not pay your health care bills.

The insinuation that a Creepy Uncle Sam or the government will be running their health care is also false. The Affordable Care Act allows people to obtain private health insurance. They will be seen by the same doctors as everyone else. If they currently have a doctor, there is no way to absolutely guarantee that their doctor will accept every plan, as is the case today, but the chances of keeping their current doctor are greater with the Affordable Care Act than in the past, as I explained last month.

The facts in this ad are so demonstrably false, and the logic so incoherent, if college students are dumb enough to fall for this ad, we have bigger problems in this country than lying wing-nuts.

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Latest Conservative Exposure: The Obamas Do Not Have Any White Dogs


The White House Blog has introduced Sunny, the Obamas’ new puppy. The Daily Caller  also reports that the Obamas got a new puppy but gives a detail you won’t find in the mainstream media (emphasis mine): “With the addition of Sunny, the Obamas now have two black Portuguese water dogs. The Obamas do not have any white dogs.”

I swear this is true and not from The Onion.

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Con Men Of The Right

The right wing noise machine is a massive con outfit. They spread false facts in order to get massive numbers of Americans to vote against their interests, and the interest of the nation. They don’t stop at using their influence on gullible viewers, listeners, and readers to influence views on public policy. Anyone who is on any conservative mailing lists knows how often they also use the trust they have obtained from their followers to profit financially. Obviously this includes sales of politically-related books and paraphernalia, but also includes numerous get rich schemes. See Media Matters and this post by Steve Benen for one example.

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Trends Opposing Social Conservative Views

Whether the country has become more or less liberal on economics depends upon both the time frame considered and definition of economic liberalism used. The country has moved towards the right in some ways on civil liberties issues since 9/11. On the other hand, while the pendulum sometimes moves briefly in the other direction, the country is becoming socially more liberal.

Stuart Rosenberg  points out the difficulties now faced by social conservatives, as their archaic views are rejected by increasing portions of the country:

Starting with TV shows like “All in the Family,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Maude,” progressing to the very funny “Will & Grace” and going right up to today’s most obvious example, “Glee,” television has pushed socially progressive themes. Socially progressive characters are enlightened and admirable, while traditionalists are unappealing, to say the least…

The public and TV networks’ reactions to two recent Supreme Court decisions, one invalidating Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the other invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, were noteworthy.

Both decisions were 5-4, but only about the Voting Rights Act decision did I hear the high court widely described as “bitterly divided.”

In the days after the Voting Rights Act decision, you might have thought that the high court had taken away the right to vote from African-Americans. Journalists gave plenty of attention to voices opposing the decision and arguing that the ruling would overturn all the progress of civil rights since the 1960s.

The media’s coverage of the DOMA decision, on the other hand, was almost euphoric, geared overwhelmingly toward those celebrating the decision…

The type of coverage of the two decisions undoubtedly also reflects the fundamental values of most journalists, who are generally more liberal than the country as a whole. There appeared to be plenty of cheerleading after the two rulings on same-sex marriage, and not merely from the obvious voices on MSNBC.

But it wasn’t only surrounding the Supreme Court’s opinions on marriage that some of the recent media coverage seemed tilted.

On his final show hosting CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, media critic Howard Kurtz commented on the media’s very sympathetic treatment of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster at the end of a special session prevented the enactment of a bill limiting abortions and requiring facilities performing abortions to meet certain standards.

“If Wendy Davis had been conducting a lonely filibuster against abortion rights,” Kurtz asked, “would the media have celebrated her in quite the same way?” Kurtz didn’t offer an answer — because he didn’t have to. The answer certainly would have been “no.”

For social conservatives, the greatest problem may be the undermining of traditional religious authority and belief.

While Gallup showed only a slight annual increase last year in the percentage of people saying that they had no religious identification (up to 17.8 percent in 2012), the trend is clear.

“The rise in the religious ‘nones’ over time is one of the most significant trends in religious measurement in the United States. … The percentage who did not report [a religious] identity began to rise in the 1970s and has continued to increase in the years since,” wrote Gallup in a January 2013 report.

In the 2012 exit poll, President Barack Obama won 62 percent of voters who never attend religious services but only 39 percent of those who attended weekly. He carried 70 percent of those voters who said they had no religion, compared with only 42 percent of Protestants and 50 percent of Catholics…

Social conservatives probably see Obama, liberals on the Supreme Court and Democrats in Congress as their main adversaries. But they are wrong. The most important leaders of cultural liberalism may well be the members of the media and entertainment communities, and social conservatives simply have no strategy to deal with that.

While the country is becoming more liberal, I see the record of the Supreme Court as far more mixed, making some rulings which liberals are happy with but also taking moves to try to move the country to the right, such as with the Citizen’s United ruling. Their efforts to reduce the ability of minorities to vote may also be of value to Republicans. I wouldn’t underestimate the value of looking at popular culture as an indicator of which direction the country is heading in, but a conservative Supreme Court can leave us with a government which continues to be overly intrusive in the private lives of individuals.

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Wingnuts Say The Darndest Things: Rape Kits, Sex-Ed, and Muslims Coming Here With Three Wives

Texas Republicans, with their usual strong support for owning guns and opposition to women owning their own bodies, recently tried to push through a bill to restrict abortion rights. When Democrats pushed for an exception in case of rape or incest, Republican Representative Jody Laubenberg made this claim for why it is not necessary: “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert gave this reason for opposing sex education:

Let the kids be innocent.  Let them dream. Let them play. Let them enjoy their life. You don’t have to force this sexuality stuff into their life at such a point. It was never intended to be that way. They’ll find out soon enough.  And, in fact, … mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody.  And now we feel like, oh gosh, people are too stupid to unless we force them to sit and listen to instructions.  It’s just incredible.

And there is a natural law that parents should be involved in education, they should know about, they should be part of the training – that’s a law of nature; Alan Keyes was just talking about it this weekend when we were together. That is such an important part of nature and yet that is the very thing that some of these liberals want to take away.

And it reminds me so much of the summer that I was an exchange student in the Soviet Union back in the Seventies and I was shocked when they were saying ‘no, the children don’t belong to parents, they belong to the state.’ And if any parent said anything in front of their children negative about the wonderful Soviet Union, then we will take their children away and give them to somebody more deserving.  And I just thought how horribly shocking that was, that of course parents were the ones who love the children, not the state. And I thought thank God that we don’t have that in our country.

And now I’ve seen this coming with a lady from MSNBC saying “hey, children belong to the state” … and it just sent chills because it took me back to the Seventies when that’s what the Soviet Union used to say and we know how well that worked out.

Ignoring the idiocy about the Soviet Union, is Gohmert aware of all the misconceptions floating around about contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases? Mankind dealt with lack of education for a long time. It was bad enough when this led to syphilis. Now we have to contend with HIV.

Rand Paul is with him. Shorter Rand Paul (my interpretation of his views, not a quote): My daddy taught me to hate minorities and I will always find an excuse to keep them out of the country.
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Question of the Day: Is Obama Waging Psychological Warfare On Americans?

Dr. Keith Ablow, a member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, says yes to his question of whether Obama is Waging Psychological Warfare on Americans.

There are alternative answers to this question from Balloon Juice, James Joyner, and Melissa McEwan, and Hunter of Daily Kos.

We Report, You Decide (but the answer is No, and as a physician the thought of a Fox News Medical A-Team sounds quite scary to me).

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Conservatives Spreading Fake Story To Invent IRS Smoking Gun

The recent IRS scandal provides a good example of the way in which the right wing noise machine spreads misinformation. Here they have a real abuse–the increased scrutiny of conservative organizations applying for tax breaks. Too many conservatives cannot settle for what is actually there and insist upon trying to turn it into a Watergate-style standard, which it doesn’t come close to being. From the actual evidence so far we have lower level bureaucrats in the IRS taking short cuts. We have no evidence of a case of a president using the IRS to harass political enemies, as was done by Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Now the conservative claim to have found a smoking gun, but it has blown up in their faces.

The Daily Caller checked public visitor records and believed that they found that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times since Obama took office. To the paranoid conservative mind, this must have meant that Obama was meeting with Shulman plotting how the IRS would harass conservative groups.

There are so many holes in this story. The 157 episodes documented are times in which Shulman was cleared to visit the White House or Executive Office Building. This included everything from meetings regarding the IRS’s role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to possibly the annual Easter Egg Roll with his kids.  This does not mean meetings with Obama to plot attacks on conservatives. Plus, while this represents times in which Shulman was cleared to visit the White House and Executive Office Building, there is only confirmation that he attended eleven events.

Conservatives have also tried to compare this bogus 157 number to the number of times his predecessor visited with George Bush. We will never know. The Obama White House remains less transparent than many of us hope, but it is a considerable improvement over the Bush White House, which didn’t release the visitor logs the way that Obama did.


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Conservative Bloggers Can’t Handle The Truth About The Effects Of Climate Change

The headline at The Daily Caller: Democratic senator uses Okla. tornado for anti-GOP rant over global warming

Well, not exactly. At least it isn’t as bad as the original title: Democratic Sen. Whitehouse Blames Republicans for Tornado. On the one hand, global warming is causing warmer, wetter weather which is fueling the catastrophic weather changes we are seeing. On the other hand, we could imagine inappropriate statements which might sound inappropriate this soon after the Oklahoma tornado. Let’s look behind the headline at what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said:

“So, you may have a question for me,” Whitehouse said. “Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we’re in this together.”

Whitehouse went on to condemn the current Republican position on global warming, citing economic, environmental and diplomatic damages.

“You drag America with you to your fate,” he continued. “So, I want this future: I want a Republican Party that has returned to its senses and is strong and a worthy adversary in a strong America that has done right by its people and the world. That’s what I want. I don’t want this future. I don’t want a Republican Party disgraced, that let its extremists run off the cliff, and an America suffering from grave economic and environmental and diplomatic damage because we failed, because we didn’t wake up and do our duty to our people, and because we didn’t lead the world. I do not want that future. But that’s where we’re headed. So I will keep reaching out and calling out, ever hopeful that you will wake up before it is too late.”

This was widely quoted on conservative blogs but unfortunately they won’t learn from this. There is nothing inappropriate here. It is an accurate assessment of the political divide in this country over science and its effects, placing the Oklahoma tornado in context. It is probably premature to say with certainty whether any one event is caused by climate change, but overall there is no doubt about the role that climate change has in more volatile weather conditions. Conservatives might not be able to handle the truth, but their denial of science does cost lives. If they don’t care about this, their policies are also causing considerable economic damage. This is reactionary extremism, not conservatism in the traditional sense.

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IRS Acted Improperly Without Evidence Of Involvement By Obama Administration

The investigations are far from over (especially as the Republicans will continue to milk this as long as they can) but evidence so far shows that  improper things were done by IRS agents with  no evidence of any involvement by the Obama administration.

USA Today reports that the IRS did approve tax-except status for some liberal groups while holding up applications from conservative groups

As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.

Reports so far do suggest that there was a clear tendency to place more scrutiny on conservative groups but the same article does report that the IRS didn’t exclusively target conservative groups:

Some liberal groups did get additional scrutiny, although they still got their tax-exempt status while the Tea Party moratorium was in effect. For the “independent progressive” group Action for a Progressive Future, which runs the web site, the tax-exempt process took 18 months and also involved intrusive questions.

Bloomberg also found that some liberal groups were treated as the conservative groups were:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

I wonder whether any of these political groups should really be receiving special tax treatment, but if tax exemptions are being given the same criteria should apply regardless of whether the organization is liberal or conservative.

CNN reports that two rogue IRS employees were primarily responsible for the extra scrutiny of conservative groups:

The Internal Revenue Service has identified two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for “overly aggressive” handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN.

In a meeting on Capitol Hill, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller described the employees as being “off the reservation,” according to the source. It was not clear precisely what the alleged behavior involved.

Miller said the staffers have already been disciplined, according to another source familiar with Miller’s discussions with congressional investigators. The second source said Miller emphasized that the problem with IRS handling of tax-exempt status for tea party groups was not limited to these two employees.

While the misconduct at the IRS demands investigation, the politics provides a story which is just as interesting. Conservative groups tended to ignore direct abuses of power by the Bush administration, but both liberals and conservatives are condemning the targeting of conservative groups. There is a long history of liberals defending civil liberties regardless of the victim while conservatives have typically been more selective in taking sides on civil liberties issues.

Conservatives would love to tie this scandal to President Obama, who has condemned the misbehavior at the IRS. It is unlikely that any connection between the White House and this scandal will be uncovered. Most positions at the IRS are held by civil servants and the IRS Commissioner at the time was Doug Shulman, a Republican who had been appointed by George W. Bush.

While there is no sign of a Watergate-style scandal here, we can expect Republicans to continue to make noise about this. Unlike most of the scandals they scream about which are almost entirely fictitious, there was real wrong-doing here, even if not by the Obama administration. Generally Republicans have resorted to fear, greed, racism, and xenophobia in their appeals to the base. This gives the Republicans a scandal which they can use to fire up the base, and use for fund raising, which will not alienate people outside of their bubble. This also allows Republican leaders to align themselves with the Tea Party without necessarily embracing their nuttier views.
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