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Alaska’s Republican primary voters ousted incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski for a more conservative candidate: The power of Tea Party activists, religious conservatives and the future of the GOP.
- Kate Zernike a national correspondent for The New York Times and member of the team that shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Her book, "Boiling Mad -Inside Tea Party America," will be published in September.
- Stephen Moore member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
- Geoff Garin Democratic pollster, Peter D. Hart Research Associates
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Tea Party scored another victory earlier this week. Alaska's incumbent Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, conceded defeat to the -- in the primary to Joe Miller. He's a conservative favored by Tea Party activists. Joining me to talk about the Tea Party movement and its potential impact on both parties and Congress, Geoff Garin. He's a Democratic pollster and analyst. Stephen Moore is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Joining us from an NPR studio in New York, Kate Zernike. She is a national correspondent for The New York Times. Of course, we do invite you to join us as well. 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. GEOFF GARINGood morning.
MR. STEPHEN MOOREHi, Diane.
MS. KATE ZERNIKEGood morning.
REHMGeoff Garin, what do you make of this latest Gallup poll saying that Republicans are favored by the public over Democrats, 51 to 41 percent?
GARINWell, the Gallup polls have gone up and down. This is a very large number. And it had been no secret all through the year, this is a very challenging political cycle for Democrats. People are not feeling particularly optimistic about the economy right now. And I think they're casting a vote to say that they are looking for a change and more progress. And there are a lot -- and people who have grievances with the ways things are, are very activated.
GARINBut what I would say is that the other piece of the dynamic here is that through all this, through people's preferences for the Republicans and these trial leads, the negatives for the Republican Party remain sky high. And if you ask people how they feel about the Republican Party, the negatives are as high or even higher than for the Democratic Party. And I think part of what's going on here is that people don't think there's any particular consequence to electing a lot more Republicans to Congress. It's a way to cast the protest vote without having a much downside. And this is -- to remain to their -- our discussion about the Tea Party because I think that it may have the potential to change that a little bit.
REHMGeoff Garin. He is a Democratic pollster for Peter D. Hart Research Associates. How do you read these figures, Stephen Moore?
MOOREI generally agree with Geoff. I think the one thing I'd hone in on is this energy factor. Because, Diane, I was out at the Glenn Beck rally this past weekend and there were hundreds of thousands of people out there. I've very rarely seen anything like that. And these are people who are just pumped up. And Geoff is right. They're angry. You're also right, Geoff, that I talked to a lot of these people. They're not especially fond of the Republican Party. They haven't forgiven the Republicans for their misbehavior over the last 10 years. But they're really concerned about the direction that Obama and Democratic Congress have taken the country over the last 18 months or so.
MOOREAnd so, look, two months is a long time in American politics so things can change. I've seen that happen many times just in the last couple of weeks in election cycle. But right now, if these numbers were to hold up until Election Day, these would translate into about a 60 or 70 seat loss for the Democrats on the House.
REHMAnd speaking of numbers, I don't wanna let your statement about hundreds of thousands of people at the Beck rally stand without some question because there had been lots of estimates regarding that number from...
REHM...10,000 (laugh) to 100,000.
REHMAnd now, your views, hundreds of thousands.
MOOREWell, you're right. These numbers are always in question.
MOOREWe can tell from the aerial photos, there are a lot people there. I asked some of the park police people, you know, how many people do you estimate are here? And they estimated to me about a quarter million so...
REHMInteresting. All right. Turning to you, Kate Zernike. Joe Miller had the support of Tea Party activists in Alaska and also of Sarah Palin. So to what extent do you see a distinction between the Republican Party and the Tea Party?
ZERNIKEWell, I think the Tea Party has been saying this all along that -- as Stephen said, they're upset with the Republicans as well as the Democrats. And so it -- I think a lot of the Tea Party action -- I think when we look at back on this in a year, we're gonna say that a lot of the Tea Party's most important impact was, in fact, in the primaries, where, again, they're pushing the party to the right and they're choosing these more conservative candidates. What I think is interesting is just -- even a month ago, people were worried and Republicans are worried that this was going to mean they would lose a lot of these seats. I think the anger is now such -- or the discontent is now such that people think that these Tea Party candidates who -- the Democrats were hoping they could portray as fringe or extremists.
ZERNIKEThey now stand a very good chance of winning. So I think -- you know, if you look at Alaska, I think this is exactly what the Tea Party has been saying for months that they're gonna do. You know, everyone has been debating, are they racists? They've been looking at the signs and trying to figure out what they want. And, meanwhile, the Tea Party has been organizing and looking for candidates like this who they can help and who can help push the party to the right.
REHMKate Zernike. She is a national correspondent for The New York Times. She is the author of the new book titled "Boiling Mad-Inside Tea Party America." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. Geoff Garin, what about money? How much of a role is money playing in these primary elections?
GARINI would say that, on the surface, it's much more about activism than about money. And we live in a new world. The internet has changed everything. You can organize in a different way. And so -- but I don't think that money, per se, is at the heart of all of this. In fact, Lisa Murkowski had much, much more money in Alaska and that -- and much, much less energy, obviously, on her side. But, you know, there is -- according to Jane Mayer's interesting piece in The New Yorker, there's money going into the Tea Party movement from very wealthy people who would like to see it succeed. So it's not that it's -- it is wholly a creation of the grassroots.
REHMBut at the same time, you've got George Soros giving lots of money to Democrats.
GARINRight. I think that we know that to be the case.
GARINI think that that's much more public than a David Koch role in funding the Tea Party.
ZERNIKEBut Diane, if I could just...
ZERNIKE...get in there. I do think that Geoff is right. I mean, this is about organizing. It's not about money. The money is important, but the Koch brothers, for instance, spent against John Kerry in 2004 and, of course, they helped. But Americans for Prosperity has been around, as have groups like Freedom Works. What's new about this year -- I mean, these groups, Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity, have been trying to create a grassroots movement for years and have not been able to. And so I think they were really helped by sort of indignation over the stimulus and bailouts and just worried about the economy. And I think they've -- that's driven a lot of people to help them. But it really is more about the organizing than about the money.
REHMStephen Moore, what generalizations can you make about the policies that these outsider groups, Tea Party...
REHM...and otherwise, are looking for? What policies do they want? What do they wanna discard? What did they wanna change?
MOOREI see some parallels to the Perot movement back in 1992, which, you know, Ross Perot ran sort of on fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. I think a lot of -- I'd be interested in Geoff's view on this. But I think a lot of those Perot voters have kind of become part of this Tea Party movement. When I talked to these folks, they feel like things are out of control in Washington. They feel that $1.5 trillion deficits are just wholly irresponsible and are mortgaging our future. They don't think that the stimulus plan worked and they do want a kind of return to fiscal responsibility. They want ethics in government. And they're really concerned -- not just angry. They are angry. You know, boiling over is a good point. But they're also really fearful. These are people who are really afraid about where our country is headed.
REHMWhat do you think, Geoff?
GARINWell, I think that there are lots of people who are afraid of where the country is headed for lots of different reasons. The people in the Tea Party are fearful, specifically, about federal power.
GARINThe Tea Party is an ideological movement...
GARIN...to the extent that it has coherence.
GARINAnd what makes it cohere is, really, an antagonism to the role of the federal government.
GARINAnd that leads it not to -- not just to talk about concerns about the deficit and things that many...
REHMThat everybody has heard about.
GARIN...that many Americans share, but really fundamental question is about what the federal government should and shouldn't be doing, including Medicare and Social Security and the Department of Education and a whole host of things of that nature. So that this is not your garden variety we're-concerned-about-the-deficit kind of group. This is a group with a very strong ideological point of view and sense of antagonism toward and grievance about the federal government. And they are fearful.
REHMBut wouldn't they be more angry with Republicans than with Democrats than...
REHM...considering the Bush year?
MOORE...this is the key point that we're just talking about, that I agree. The major impact of the Tea Party movement has been in Republican primaries. I mean, if you look -- Lisa Murkowski, my goodness. If you would ask me two weeks ago -- or Geoff two weeks ago, what are the chances that Lisa Murkowski was gonna lose? Nobody saw that coming. And, you know, when you talked at -- about the money advantage, Lisa Murkowski outspent Jeff Miller 20 to 1 -- 20 to 1, and yet he still won. So that was an incredible political statement and it is gonna be interesting. If some of these candidates like Rand Paul and some of the others -- Sharron Angle in Nevada, win, you're gonna have a much more -- not just a more Republican Congress, but a much more conservative Republican Congress.
REHMStephen Moore. He is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Kate Zernike is a national correspondent for The New York Times. Geoff Garin is a Democratic pollster. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. We are talking about the -- will you two hush, please? We are talking about the Tea Party movement, its effect on politics, its effect on the Republican Party. And here in the studio, Stephen Moore. He's a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. And Geoff Garin, a Peter D. Hart Research Associate. He's a Democratic pollster. On the line with us from New York, from our NPR studio, is Kate Zernike, national correspondent for The New York Times and author of the new book "Boiling Mad-Inside Tea Party America." We're going to open the phones shortly, but first, I wanna come to you, Kate. Stephen Moore mentioned Glenn Beck and the rally on...
REHM...this past weekend. Where does he fit in? He came out that day with a totally religious kind of force behind his statement. What do you make of that?
ZERNIKEWell, I find that the rally was definitely more religious than the standard Tea Party rally and I think some of the people there, who are real sort of -- who came to Glenn Beck through the Tea Party movement, were a little surprised that it wasn't more political. But I did talk to a lot of people in the crowd who had never been to a Tea Party movement. So they were just big Glenn Beck fans.
ZERNIKEIn terms of his role in the movement, I sort of think of him as the Oprah of the Tea Party movement. (laugh) He -- you know, he recommends books on -- I mean, there are people who call him The Professor. And they say they go home and they DVR his show, if they don't make it in time to watch him every day. But they do watch him every day and they think of him as The Professor. And they feel like, you know, he gives them these history lessons and they -- he gives them books that they then go out and buy.
ZERNIKEI mean, he made Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," he made it a bestseller. He made this book called "The 5000 Year Leap," which is about the Constitution, you know, published in 1981, it was a bestseller again last year because Glenn Beck recommended it. So I think they are really -- I think the reason they like him is they see him as someone who is self-taught and they like that he refers them to these books. He sort of says, you know, don't take my word for it. Go out and read this book. So they feel like there's something there. They feel they can trust him more than they can...
ZERNIKE...other media figures.
REHMKate, you are creating a fairly benign picture of Glenn Beck. And what you haven't mentioned is the fact that he's called the president of the United States racist against...
ZERNIKEAbsolutely. And listen. There are other less benign things, too. I mean, certainly he's called the president a Marxist. He's called the president a socialist. I mean, these are routine things on the Glenn Beck show. He's also, in terms of -- you know, when we talk about the vision of the country, his vision of the country, his vision of the Constitution is one where there's no public safety net, where that's unconstitutional, where the founding fathers meant there to be much more religion in schools, much more religion in our public life.
ZERNIKEAnd they're not talking about the religions that we -- the sort of variety of religions that we see in American life today. They're talking about a very -- you know, the Judeo-Christian perspective, which is what he says. So I think you're right that his is a very specific perspective. I think he thinks -- I think there was definitely an overtone at the rally that this president is not one of us.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Tom in Baltimore, Md. He says, "Informal and formal surveys of the knowledged Tea Party rank-and-file members have about the issues, including my own very informal interviews with folks on the Washington mall, indicate they have an astonishingly poorly informed perspective on the issue. Many insist Obama has raised their taxes and is responsible for the largest part of the deficit." Geoff Garin, aren't they blaming Obama...
REHM...for everything that's wrong?
GARINThose are two separate questions. Are they poorly informed and are they blaming Obama? The answer to the first is no, and the answer to the second is yes. I don't think the question is whether -- it is not about the level of information. In fact, they've got an abundance of information. It is the interpretation that people put on the information. People in the Tea Party know chapter and verse on where Barack Obama went to school in Indonesia. They know a lot of stuff. It is how they put it all together and interpret it and they interpret it in a very negative way.
GARINAnd, you know, I've said they have hostility to the federal government. They also have an incredible sense of hostility to President Obama. And, you know, obviously, we had a lot of that on our side to President Bush during the final years of his term, but it was, I think, of a different character and nature -- is that people in the Tea Party don't just see President Obama as being wrong on the issues. They see him as being a conspirator. I mean, they talk about him in those kinds of terms.
GARINAnd that Obama is dangerous, you know, not -- dangerous to the fabric of the country. And that is another, I think, defining characteristic. All of this will become, you know, relevant next year when we have at least some of these people in the United States Senate. And it will raise real questions about how are we supposed to make all of this work.
MOOREBut, you know, I think that it's interesting to me how -- two years ago, we saw this kind of phenomenon with Barack Obama, that Barack Obama would bring out huge crowds of people and people on the left said, how wonderful this is. We've got citizen engagement. We're overcoming the apathy. I mean, my two sisters were out at Grant Park the night that Barack Obama won the election.
MOOREAnd what's happened, which is really a remarkable thing, is in two years, all the energy that was on the left has now come from kind of the old Reaganite crowd on the right. And I think -- look, I know I've spent a lot of time with the Tea Party people. I think they're extraordinarily patriotic. I think they're extremely knowledgeable about the issues. You're right. They really detest Barack Obama much the way -- same way the left detested George Bush. But the citizen engagement, I think, is a very positive thing.
REHMBut there is another element to this hatred of Barack Obama, which is that there are accusations that he is not -- he was not born...
REHM...in this country, that he is non-Christian. Kate Zernike, is that coming from the hatred of Barack Obama and combining that with the hatred of government?
ZERNIKEI think it's -- I think the birther faction, as we call it, is definitely there. And I heard on Friday night there was a convention of candidates that Freedom Works organized in Washington before the Glenn Beck rally. And there was a candidate there, Morgan Philpot, who's running for Congress in Utah, and it's actually a district -- Utah is a very red state. But this is a district that's now represented by a Democrat. And he stood up and he said -- he told a story about how his son looked at -- was looking at his infant brother's head and said, oh, look, made in China. And Philpot said, well, what I wanna know is, you know, when you shave Barack Obama's head, where does it say made in there? And the crowd went wild. So there is certainly this sense --there are people in the Tea Party movement who hate this birther faction. They think it demeans what they are doing. They wanna be -- they think that they are just being citizen activists and they think -- they see a lot of pride in that. But there's absolutely a faction that does not see Barack Obama as one of us.
ZERNIKEAnd I think that does combine.
GARINYou know, this conversation we were having about the antagonism of the Tea Party movement to the Republican Party, I think, is also -- raises an interesting point. Because if you're Mitch McConnell and John Boehner after these primaries, I think you're in the position of if you can't beat them, do you join them?
GARINAnd that, you know, to what extent will the Tea Party come to define the Republican Party in the minds of the public? And I think the more that that happens, it will make the Republican Party even more polarizing to the middle of the electorate than it already is.
MOOREBut that's happened. I mean, this is -- the most important thing I've seen politically in this country in 20 years, is the Democratic Party has moved way to the left. And now, we're seeing the Republican Party, in part because of the Tea Party, move to the right. And you've been, you know, in Washington a long time yourself. I've never seen anything quite like it before. I mean, there is more political polarization. And I have to say, I blame, to some extent, Barack Obama. I mean, he came in with 70 percent approval ratings.
MOOREHe could have passed the stimulus bill back last year that had bipartisan support. Instead, you know, he passed this $800 billion bill that got not a single Republican vote because he never really reached out to the Republicans. I think there's a bit of a negative feedback loop to that kind of highly -- I mean, we passed the two biggest bills, the partisan spending bill, and the health care bill, virtually got no Republican vote.
REHMSo do you see, Geoff Garin, a parallel to the 1994 elections?
GARINWell, the parallel is that we're in deep trouble as we were in -- we Democrats are in deep trouble as we were in 1994. But I do think that the nature of this is different, in part because in 1994, people didn't have these extraordinarily negative feelings about the Republican Party. Nobody had a living memory of what it meant to have a Republican majority who remembered Joe Martin, who is the previous Republican Speaker.
MOOREAlthough it's true that Bill Clinton was, at that time, kind of as unpopular as Barack Obama is with, you know, with Republican voters.
GARINAnd so -- I think the one big difference is that -- in these two remaining months, that there is a genuine question about whether the Democrats are able to make their antipathy to the Republicans more relevant to people's decision making. There is a possibility of doing that.
REHMSteve, you had a piece over the weekend in The Wall Street Journal...
REHM...about South Carolina...
REHM...Republican Jim DeMint. Talk about his role.
MOOREWell, Jim DeMint has been a real political power player in the last years. He's probably the most conservative member of the Senate. I'm a good friend of his. I agree with his politics. He is fiercely anti-government growth and anti-spending. And he has created this kind of pact, which has helped a lot of these conservative candidates that we've been talking about, like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky and in Colorado, Ken Buck. So there have been a number of upsets where conservative primary candidates have won against the establishment choice, against the people that Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, who runs the senatorial committee, wanted. And that's a factor that will, you know, move the Republican Party further in a conservative direction. And the real, you know, this -- if the Republicans do win -- and I think they are gonna win the House. I don't know about the Senate. It actually offers Obama a chance to sort of move back to the middle, the way Bill Clinton did after 1994 and resurrect his presidency.
REHMHow do you see it, Kate?
ZERNIKEWell, I think the real question is what Geoff was saying, which is how they're gonna make this work. I mean, the things that they're promising -- when you go out and you listen to Rand Paul in Kentucky and what he's saying to voters is this is an unsustainable budget. We can't do this anymore. We cannot have politicians who bring home the money and promise you they're gonna bring us home. I mean -- which is all true, but the question is whether voters are going to like this. I mean, again, in 1994, they had no memory of what Republicans were doing.
ZERNIKENow, they're watching to see if -- they're gonna be watching and saying, well, wait, Republicans, you have to cut spending, too. And to cut the debt meaningfully, you have to cut entitlement programs. There's just no way around it. And so the question is whether that's gonna be popular. If these Tea Party candidates get in there, are they going to be able to do things like pass a balanced budget amendment?
ZERNIKEBalance the budget within a year…
ZERNIKE...which is something Rand Paul had talked about, even cutting the Department of Education. I mean, what about all these, I mean, you know? These are tough things to do.
REHMYou bet. Kate Zernike, a national correspondent for The New York Times. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll open the phones now, first to Birmingham, Ala. Jonathan, good morning.
JONATHANGood morning. Thanks, Diane.
JONATHANI have a quick question with regards to the Tea Party. It was stated earlier that they are a very ideological group. I guess they stand on shrinking government and the budget and also just on a lot of anger. And I wonder -- where now most people get their news, it seems from a tweet or from a Facebook post or from a sound bite running on the news program -- how does Obama and the Democrats, how do they show that in the last administration the budget was, you know, out of control, the deficit was already climbing?
JONATHANHow does he demonstrate and communicate that that's not something that you fix in 18 months? How does he show that the path that he's on is a meaningful path and is hopefully going to get us to the point that Tea Partiers want us to be, with a budget that is controllable? Also with their ideology, the defense of their civil liberties that, as some of them have said, that Obama is somehow eroding, where was the Tea Party in the last part of the Bush years when wireless wiretapping was all over and our image across the world was going down, in terms of (unintelligible) ?
REHMAll right. All right. Geoff Garin.
GARINWell, I would say that the presidency is still the bulliest pulpit there is. I mean, you know, up against...
REHMBut the question is...
GARIN...up against tweets that the...
REHMA lot of people have raised the question as to why President Obama has not used that bully pulpit more, that his speech from the Oval Office the other night was only the second of his presidency. So there are questions about why he has not been more forceful.
GARINI think, you know, we can talk about that, but I think the caller was saying how do you, you know, compete...
GARIN...against all of these...
GARIN...other information. But the presidency is the bully pulpit. It remains that.
REHMBut he is not using it, Geoff.
GARINWell, I don’t have that view particularly, but you might. I think the other thing that has changed over the course of 20 years is that people choose the news sources that suit them. We don't really have common news sources in America the way we would have when everybody was watching one of the three nightly newscasts and so that the news itself has become a little bit more ideological and -- or a lot more ideological. And people choose the news source that they feel most comfortable with, in terms of their own view of the world. And so that, you know, there still is a middle in the American electorate and it's easy to miss (unintelligible)...
MOOREBut the other question is, what would you have Barack Obama say? I mean...
REHMSay or do.
MOORERight. Well, let's just talk about what he can say. I mean, the economic program, in my opinion, has been a catastrophe. It hasn't worked. We've got 10 percent unemployment. We've got these massive deficits.
MOOREAnd I just, you know, that all that they can say would be worse, but I don't think most Americans really buy that. And there's also evidence that Americans are getting really tired of Obama blaming Bush for everything. I mean, it's been a year and a half. This is a president who said he was gonna, you know, take charge. And so I just think it puts in a very difficult position and right now they don't have much of a game plan to get us out of this recession.
GARINWell, the fact that it could be worse, is cold comfort, but it also is true. I mean...
MOORENo, it's not. He made it much worse with the...
GARINWell, I think, you know, Mark Zandi, who is a...
MOOREHe's not a -- don’t call him a Republican. (laugh)
GARINHe was -- well, Senator McCain felt comfortable counseling with him...
MOORENo. I asked John about that. He was not...
GARINHe, you know, he made it pretty clear that along with -- it is the economic consensus that the stimulus...
MOOREOnly with liberal economists. (laugh)
GARINI don't think that's true. I don’t think that's true at all.
REHMAll right. Geoff Garin, Stephen Moore, Kate Zernike. In the rest of the program, I hope they will stop interrupting each other. And we'll take calls from around the country. 800-433-8850.
REHMWelcome back. We'll go back to the phones in just one moment. Here's an e-mail from Roj (sp?) who says, "One of your guests claimed Obama has gone far to the left. Can he explain why he thinks that? To most of us who are actually on the left, we see Obama as a moderate, not left or even liberal. If he had gone to the left, he would have ended the wars already, advocated for single-payer health care, taken a stronger stand against Israel, not given a bailout to the banks. His rhetoric is not left at all. Diane is correct. He is not using his bully pulpit to espouse anything but moderate politics." Stephen Moore.
MOOREWell, I just don't agree with that. I think we had this massive near trillion-dollar spending bill, which just gave us a trillion dollars of more debt. It didn't get a single Republican vote. And he could have, at that point, gotten a lot of Republican votes for a more balanced package. And then, we have this health care bill that I think does move us towards a socialized medicine system. -
MOOREAnd again, there was a bill that he couldn't get a -- virtually a single Republican vote. And those are two big deals. He tried to advance the cap and trade bill, which the American people don't want. He tried to pass a very pro-union agenda. I think one of the problems with this president and the Democratic Party today, and Geoff probably disagrees, was that I think that every policy they implement is oriented towards the militant labor unions, as if the labor unions run the party today.
GARINYou're right, I disagree with that. But I think even the health care bill is, you know, the health care bill is -- the structure of it is something that Bob Dole would have embraced, that Orrin Hatch was for, a mandate at -- before he was against it, that it -- this is not a radical notion. This is not out of the mainstream of what both Democrats and Republicans have been talking about in terms of fixing the health care...
REHMIt was actually Mitt Romney's bill.
GARIN...health care -- right. It's very much in line with what occurred in Massachusetts. And here's what I think is happened. It's not -- and this is relevant to our conversation about the Tea Party, is that part of the reason why there is not bipartisan support for what President Bush is doing is that...
GARIN...that what President Obama is doing -- thank you, Stephen -- has -- it is -- the Tea Party has made it too dangerous for Republicans to meet Obama in the middle or anywhere close to the middle. That is, if we live in a world where Bob Bennett is too liberal and where Lisa Murkowski is too liberal, how do Republicans function in a government by consensus?
REHMAll right. Kate Zernike, I think you can weigh in here.
ZERNIKEWell, I think that's absolutely right. But in -- and even on the rhetoric on the other side, I mean, if President Obama were a socialist, wouldn't he have nationalized the banks? Wouldn't he have -- I mean, I think the far left wants a public option. So I think the rhetoric on both sides and the expectations on both sides are a bit much. And I think Geoff is right that this was very much, you know, a fairly middle of the road approach. And I think the Tea Party has spooked people. I mean, Lindsey Graham said this after Scott Brown's election in January. He said, if you were a Republican in a red state, don't think this can't happen to you. Don't think that you can't be voted out. And look what happened. Lisa Murkowski, gone. Robert Bennett, gone.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Charlotte, N.C. Hi, Scott, you're on the air. Go right ahead.
SCOTTThank you for taking my call.
SCOTTI just wanted to go back to what Stephen said about these people not being misinformed. When I'm looking at one in five Americans believe that President Obama was not born in the United States, when they believe that he is a practicing secret Muslim, you know, basically, all of the propaganda I'm seeing coming out of Fox News that -- which is where they get the majority of their information, I just don't understand how that comment can hold up. Now, I am a -- what I call a Frederick Douglass Republican. And I have to say that with the election of all of these Tea Party candidates, if they're on the ballot, I think you can have the opportunity of getting more of President Obama's supporters to turn out to the polls.
ZERNIKEI think that's true. I think there are -- you know, look, in Kentucky, you have to win -- there are more Democrats registered than there are Republicans. You have to win Democrats to win the Senate seat there. And I think that's why Republicans are very worried about whether Rand Paul can win. I think there are policies that the Tea Party candidates talk about that are gonna be alienating to independent voters and that's why you see Rand Paul and Sharon Angle not saying much in the campaign trail.
REHMAll right. To South Bend, Ind. Good morning, John.
JOHNHey, guys. I have kind of a simple question. It's a brief question.
JOHNI'm a college student and I've been basically living under a rock for the past nine months with homework and everything.
JOHNI pretty much only get my news from "The Daily Show," and I know (laugh) next to nothing -- sorry, guys, I know. I know next to nothing about the Tea Party, to be totally honest. My general impression is that it's a movement mostly made up of baby boomers and misinformed crazy people. So I was wondering if the panel would give me their brief leg as a -- what's the word I'm looking for? A leg? Just basically explain to somebody who doesn’t know what the Tea Party is.
JOHNWhat is the Tea Party?
REHMI'm gonna start. And since you, Kate, have written a book (laugh) about the Tea Party, let's start with you.
ZERNIKEWell, I would say that the Tea Party move -- one of the polls definitely show the Tea Party movement is older and whiter and more male.
ZERNIKEBut within that, you have to see the nuances. And there is -- actually, what’s interesting to me about the Tea Party is that it did start with a very young libertarian faction, people who are very text savvy, who went out and did these first rallies. They -- Rick Santelli, who's a CNBC broadcaster, called for a Chicago -- was railing against bank bailouts and mortgage bailouts in February of 2009 and he said, we're gonna have a Chicago-style Tea Party in July.
ZERNIKEWell, a week later, there were about 50 Tea Parties across the country and they were largely organized by young, as I said, text-savvy conservatives. Those rallies were then swelled over the next few months by older people who were really fearful or angry about bailouts. They were, I think, scared about what was happening with the economy. And the Tea Party has gradually just attracted more, I would say, more older people. But there are definitely -- there are young mothers organizing this. There are young people freshly out of college, you know, young conservatives. And I think there is largely a conservative movement. I would say there are some crazy people in there, but there are crazy people in most movements. So I hope that's a (unintelligible).
REHMI think that's terrific. Go ahead, Stephen.
MOOREYeah, I agree with that characterization. I was interested, you know, Kate, that when I was out there at the Beck rally, I saw a lot of women. I thought there was almost more women than men at that rally. And I was impressed by the fact that people came from so far away. I mean, these people rode in buses, in some case, for 12 or 13 hours to get here. That’s a major commitment. And these are not rich people and, you know, it is expensive. I just had to say that I appreciate this gentleman's call. And I did "The Daily Show" a few weeks ago and every college student I know watched it. And for better or worse, that's where our college kids are getting their news.
REHMInteresting. Geoff Garin, do you want to add to any characterization? All right. Let's go to Hanceville, Ala. Good morning, Joe.
JOEHi, good morning. I love your show. Thank you.
JOEOh, yeah, I was just wanting to start holding these Tea Party folks and the conservatives -- put their feet to the fire and ask them which senator, which representatives are gonna start sending people home when they have to start cutting jobs, the construction programs, teachers, all the Social Security plans, all these cuts they wanna do? Nobody's asking, well, who's gonna do it and what exactly are you gonna cut and who are you gonna send home?
GARINThat is a very good question. (laugh) That is their -- you know, as Stephen says, they have this great concern about the federal budget deficit. There are -- the president has a deficit commission meeting. The right wing of the Republican Party howled over the appointment of Alan Simpson because he, too, was not conservative enough. But when -- you know, what's the plan? Paul Ryan has a budget. Is that the Republican Party plan? Republicans won't own up to it because it privatizes Social Security and Medicare and -- but -- and ATR, the Americans for Tax Reforms, make people sign a pledge in blood that you're not allowed to...
GARIN...raise a penny in taxes. So we've got the deficit, not a penny in taxes. Some of these guys wanna have a national sales tax and replace the income with -- tax with that, which would raise even less revenue. So what are they gonna cut? That -- I think America is in for a -- you know, when you get down to brass tacks, this is gonna be a lot more difficult and the choices that they would advance are not America's choices.
REHMAll right. To Helotes, Texas. Good morning, Kathy.
REHMHi. Go right ahead.
KATHYYeah, this -- Oh, good. My name is Kathy and I'm from a small town in south Texas. And I do wish you had had somebody on your panel who actually was a member of the Tea Party movement. I call it a movement. It's not really a party, so to speak, you can tell that young college man. And I think what's happening is that the Tea Party tends to be a groundswell of ordinary mainstream Americans who -- just they're concerned about losing our freedom. And I think this is a way America is supposed to work, not from the top down...
REHMExcuse me. Kathy, can you help me? Since you are a member, when you say lose our freedoms, what freedoms are you talking about?
KATHYOh, gosh. Do you have the time? (laugh) How about the freedoms to teach your children your family trade? Like the pizzeria in New Haven, who can't employ their children any longer for -- because to -- to wait tables or to learn how to make pizza because it violates the labor laws. Or the freedom to succeed or fail, giving companies the bailout because they're too big to fail? Now, they don't have any motivation to control their risks. How about the freedom to eat what you want, limits, I think, salt and fat in fast foods and so we don't get to make a choice?
KATHYHow about the freedom to teach your child the difference between right and wrong behavior appropriate for their age? I mean, handing out free condoms to the kids in elementary school when you don't tell their parents and the -- but you do have to ask their parents if they can have an aspirin. How about Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut wants to close its plant, the loss of 2,000 jobs and Connecticut's trying to prevent it? If a company can't close its plant 'cause it's not making money, that's a basic freedom. How about paying your employees as much as you want? CEOs, why can't you pay them if they're successful? I agree if they're not successful, but you pay quarterbacks millions of dollars.
REHMAll right. Kate Zernike, does that pretty well sum it up?
ZERNIKEPretty well, (laugh) I would say. Look, this goes back to what Geoff was saying. This is an anti-federalist movement. It's an anti-federal government movement. This is a movement -- if there's a rallying cry of this movement, it's leave us alone.
ZERNIKEIt's not -- you know, Steve said earlier that it reminds him of the Perot voters. And I would say that that's true in terms of fiscal discipline, but it's very different. These people are not that concerned with good government or government reform. They just want the government to leave them alone, not necessarily -- they're willing to give the state government some powers, but they want the federal government to leave them alone.
REHMKate Zernike, she's author of the new book called "Boiling Mad-Inside Tea Party America. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We had an e-mail from Mary in Rochester who said, "One commentator says President Obama did not reach out to Republicans. He did reach out to Republicans, but they refuse because they wanted to defeat President Obama and because it had to be their way only. Republicans were not interested in being bipartisan." Stephen.
MOOREYeah. I think the mistake that Barack Obama made, the critical mistake in his presidency, goes back to the stimulus plan. As I said earlier, he came in with a 70 percent approval rating. The American people really wanted this president to succeed. And he had this crazy $900 billion spending bill with nothing in it that Republicans like. There was -- there is nothing in that bill. Republicans wanted tax cuts. And if they had done maybe half spending, half tax cuts, I still would have been opposed to that. But I bet he could have gotten 20 Republicans in the Senate to vote for it and maybe 100 Republicans in the House. He -- what Obama thinks of bipartisanship is, is here's our plan and you all have to vote for it. That's not bipartisanship.
GARINThat is not what occurred.
GARINThe plan underwent substantial changes. They changed the mix of stimulus spending and tax cuts to suit the Republicans. The fact that they couldn't have it all their way, I'm sorry about that, but there was an election and there was an economic question on the table. And I think there are a lot of people, even now, who think the problem with the first stimulus is not that it did too much, but it did too little. And that we did not do enough to deal with loss of money in the economy as a result of the Bush recession.
REHMAnd here's a question from Justin in Bethesda, Md., who says, assuming a lot of Tea Party candidates make it to Congress, wouldn't their effect on Republicans be similar to the Blue Dogs' effect on Democrats? And wouldn't a bunch of Tea Party wins now help Democrats in 2012, by showing how out of touch with mainstream America their views are? Kate Zernike.
ZERNIKEWell, I think that last point is certainly true. And I -- that, you know, that's possible. I do think -- you know, look, we elected lots of Blue Dog Democrats in 2006 and the Democrats went ahead and did health care reform this year anyway. So I guess you could look at it many different ways. I do think -- I think the latter point is the more relevant one, is this, in fact, could be good for Obama in two years if we get people in there. I don't think it's gonna -- I don't think governing is -- governing is not gonna be smooth under a Tea Party Congress. There's gonna be a lot of fractiousness. And I don't think that's gonna make people any happier.
GARINIt's gonna be a crazy couple of years, if we have a Tea Party Congress. And that -- you know, we got these big problems. And in -- after 1994, President Clinton -- we had to go through a government shutdown and I would think that prospects of that happening again are pretty darn high. But eventually, they came to an accommodation. It's hard to see -- these people do not wanna come to an accommodation with President Obama. They don't wanna see him succeed.
REHMStephen Moore, I'll give you the last words.
MOOREI hope that if Republicans take the House that that moves Barack Obama more to the center as Bill Clinton quite effectively did for his own -- for the good of the Democratic Party and also for the good of the country. And, you know, we had high economic growth and a lot of good policies put in place when we had Bill Clinton in the White House and we had the Republican's Congress. So hopefully, we'll return to that.
REHMStephen Moore, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Geoff Garin, he's a member of Peter D. Hart Research Associates. He's a Democratic pollster. Kate Zernike, a national correspondent for The New York Times, author of a new book titled "Boiling Mad-Inside Tea Party America." We shall see, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for...
REHM...and I'll be back with you tomorrow. I'm Diane Rehm.
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