After Republican Eric Cantor lost his primary race to a Tea Party challenger last week, most press prophets seemed either to sympathize with the House Majority Loser as Capitol Hill’s equivalent of California Chrome losing the Belmont Stakes to little-known Tonalist or to celebrate the upset as Washington’s or the GOP’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
But it’s less about the Loser – an Establishment Republican, despite his ultra-conservative bona fides – than the Virginia voters who supported Dave Brat: populists.
Further, as I wrote almost four years ago in the Progressive Populist newspaper, maybe there’s common ground between conservative Tea Party types and progressive Green Party-ers – a Green Tea Party partnership.
After all, apart from the 2014 Election primaries, there are important issues that populists from the Left and Right have similarities. The most recent is ‘Net Neutrality, the fight to keep big corporations from exerting more control and an access edge over everyone else online.
Plus, as I wrote in 2010, “The three most common ‘core values’ expressed by Tea Party activists are fiscal responsibility, limited government and free markets – pretty sensible goals that have nothing to do with race, ‘birthers,’ Oklahoma City-style uprisings, etc.” Half of the Greens’ “10 key values” fit comfortably with the Tea Party: a decentralized government, community-based economics, ecological wisdom (especially expressed as “conservationism”), personal and global responsibility, and grassroots democracy.
Obviously, there are divides, but isn’t it possible to work together where possible? Another likely area of unity is peace. William Lind, co-author of “The Next Conservatism,” in The American Conservative magazine wrote, “Left nor Right has anything to lose by exploring a coalition because alone neither is having an impact.” And Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, adds, “The brewing populist revolt against our corrupt, hapless elites can be turned against the War Party quite easily. A Pew poll showed that Americans would prefer a foreign policy described as ‘minding our own business.’ Our elites have quite the opposite opinion.”
Indeed, the 1% is manipulating everything from the economy to education for its own interests. The 99% are the victims. In party politics, it’s increasingly becoming the Haves and Have-Nots, regardless of personal preferences about gun rights or workers rights, same-sex marriage and “family values.”
More common ground is found with populist outrage about government surveillance of everyday people. Progressive U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to limit the power of the National Security Agency and FBI to secretly track phone calls by millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing. In the House, a bill from Tea Party-aligned U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Ohio) narrowly lost (205-217). It would have stripped funding for the NSA program that collects phone records of people in the United States.
Populists since Ron Paul have warned about NAFTA-style trade pacts written by and for corporations at the expense of regular working people, and Tea Party Nation president Judson Philips agrees, blasting the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. He said, “When you look behind the ‘free trade’ label, you find this is not a magic elixir that cures all ills, but a noxious brew of unsavory ingredients.”
How about public “Aid to Dependent Corporations” (government handouts to drug companies, Big Oil, Wal-Mart, etc.)? U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), of all people, in March said, "We need to end the corruption. We need to eliminate corporate welfare and crony capitalism.”
And the banksters who got rich as they ruined the economy but weren’t held accountable? At the Conservative Political Action Conference, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) remarked, “The Facebook generation can detect falseness and hypocrisy a mile away. They are the core of the ‘leave me alone’ coalition. They worry about jobs and money, rent and student loans. They want leaders that won’t feed them a line of crap or sell them short. They aren’t afraid of individual liberty. Ask them whether we should put a kid in jail for the nonviolent crime of drug use and you’ll hear a resounding ‘No.’ Ask them if they want to bail out Too-Big-To-Fail banks with their tax dollars. And you’ll hear a ‘Hell, no.’ There is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street.”
Progressive U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in her new book “A Fighting Chance,” writes, “Big corporations hire armies of lobbyists to get billion-dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in their favor. Meanwhile, hardworking families are told that they'll just have to live with smaller dreams for their children.”
Populists might still brew a “Green Tea” party.
Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.