Answering phone calls in a Senate office can be tedious, but every so often you get a gem that makes everything worthwhile. The grand finale came this week, when a woman called to complain about President Obama’s taxes, identifying herself as a “tea-bagger.”
When I heard that, all I could do was smile, offer a grateful nod to the gods and think to myself: The Democrats are going to be in office a long time. If the foot soldiers of the Republican Party are so out of touch that they resort to tea parties and adopt the nickname “tea-baggers,” I think it is safe to say the Democrats can make themselves feel comfortable on the Hill.
Angered by Obama’s spending and America’s growing debt, the tea-baggers took to the streets on April 15, the deadline for paying taxes. Some donned colonial costumes, because we wouldn’t have understood the American Revolution analogy otherwise. One person at a Montgomery, Ala., tea party carried a sign that said “Sieg Heil Herr Obama” and featured a picture of Obama with Hitler-style hair and mustache. Other protesters labeled Obama a socialist, a fascist and a communist.
Though the tea-baggers certainly made me optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party, I didn’t want to get overconfident. After all, people just about wrote off the American left after Reagan’s popularity and Bill Clinton’s famous declaration: “The era of big government is over.” But all it took was one leader to reverse the seemingly irreversible political current and turn Washington blue once again.
This may indeed have been a grassroots expression of outrage, but every movement needs a leader, and the Republicans have been hard-pressed to find one. Allow me to indulge myself by offering a short list of frontrunners in the GOP’s quest for leadership.
Candidate number one: Rush Limbaugh (aka “Doctor of Democracy”). Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called this radio host and political commentator the voice of the GOP. The Rush Limbaugh Show is America’s most listened to talk radio show in America, broadcast nationwide on over 600 stations. Limbaugh has demanded loyalty from the party, earning apologies from Republican politicians who dare to criticize him. He called Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease an act, said he “hoped [the president] would fail” in his efforts to jumpstart the economy and suggested a “posthumous Medal of Honor” to James Earl Ray, the killer of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rush Limbaugh Show Web site ennobles him with the title, “America’s Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy.” Is Limbaugh in fact the “voice” of the Republican Party? If so – advantage Democrats.
Candidate number two: Michael Steele (aka “The Hip-Hopper”). As the new head of the Republican National Committee, Steele hit the ground running, promising a public relations offensive that would be “off the hook.” Said Steele, “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”
On one hand, Steele’s strategy seemed wise given that, “Young people and minorities, especially Latinos, make up a far more significant piece of the electorate today than in Reagan’s years,” The Los Angeles Times reported. On the other hand, Steele’s comments made him the butt of late-night show jokes across the airwaves and led Stephen Colbert to challenge him to a rap contest. Despite angering the far-right base because of his pro-life positions and his criticism of Doctor of Democracy Rush Limbaugh, this conservative hip-hopper remains head of the Republican National Committee – advantage Democrats.
Candidate Number 3: Newt Gingrich (aka “Old White Guy”). After an illustrious career, Newt Gingrich resigned as speaker of the House in 1995 after House Republicans’ refusal to submit a revised budget led to expired appropriations, a federal government shutdown and, not surprisingly, a political backlash.
But Newt has returned to the spotlight. He gained popularity for using the Internet to spread his new energy slogan: “Drill here, drill now, pay less.” He collected a million signatures and submitted to Congress a petition to support domestic drilling. He led Republicans in a revolt against Bush’s bank bailout plans in September and his book, “Real Change,” spent 11 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.
Let’s not forget his history. Gingrich gained a reputation for vicious partisan outbursts against Democrats during his tenure as speaker. He was called a hypocrite for having an affair with Callista Bisek at the same time he was playing a lead role in the Monica Lewinsky investigation. His temper could also be a liability. He was featured on the cover of The New York Daily News as a diapered baby after he’d complained about Air Force One’s seating arrangements on a flight home from Israel. Though Gingrich decided against a 2008 presidential run, The Washington Post listed Gingrich as a contender for 2012. Something tells me, however, that Mr. Gingrich wouldn’t be able to mobilize the public behind the banner of “change” that Obama wielded with such success – advantage Democrats.
Candidate Number 4: Sarah Palin (aka “Hockey Mom”). Politico’s Kenneth Vogel writes that Sarah Palin has “emerged as an almost unparalleled fundraising force, with both foes and fans minting money off the mere mention of her name.” The loveable Palin has set up a committee called SarahPAC to “raise money for her political staff, travels and contributions to like-minded candidates.” I can barely contain my excitement when I consider her potential 2012 presidential campaign. President Sarah Palin? – advantage Democrats.
I wish the best of luck to all of these candidates should they decide to run in 2012 and assure them that I will campaign for them in the primaries – as any one of their primary victories will almost certainly mean a Democratic general election victory.
As for you, tea-baggers, keep sending those tea bags to my Senate mail room. I like Earl Grey.
Andrew Dubbins is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at dubbinsthehoya.com. This is the semester’s final installment of Breaking News. Tim Swenson’s column, Closing Arguments, will not appear today.
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