Tea Party candidates less than calming

Anytime I’ve heard Tea Party updates over the past few weeks, my first thought is always the same: they cannot be serious.

Alissa Masutani | Daily Trojan

With midterm elections coming up, the Tea Party is on the verge of establishing a permanent place for itself in American politics. Incredibly, columnists and pundits across the country are still spending their time analyzing the significance of the movement’s emergence instead of pointing out a crucial yet underemphasized reality: The politicians that have a chance to be elected thanks to Tea Party support can be most flatteringly referred to as eccentric.

Let’s begin with Alaska, where moderate incumbent Lisa Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary by Joe Miller, who received more than $400,000 this month from the California-based Tea Party Express.

Miller is a stand-up tea partier, meaning he wants to get rid of Medicare, Social Security and the Department of Education. Miller considers unemployment benefits unconstitutional and has called the scientific evidence for climate change “dubious science at best.”He wants to cut foreign aid and United Nations funding at a time when the United States’ international image hangs in the balance and slash funding to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Some of Miller’s other proposals might sound reasonable at first, but they are cloaked in the language of smaller government that would in practice really lead to a paralyzed government.

These include proposals to give the president power to veto line items in spending bills, requiring each bill to note what part of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to enact it and allowing unlimited debate over appropriations bills.

These ideas might be motivated by a sincere desire to hold government more accountable to the people, but it is clear the proposal would create so much unnecessary red tape that it would lead to an even more inept federal government.

As of Sept. 1, Miller is leading in the polls.

Things look even worse in Nevada, where Sharron Angle is the Republican candidate running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Angle agrees with virtually all of Miller’s positions but takes them a step further; for example, she considers the Department of Education’s existence unconstitutional and wants the United States to withdraw entirely from the United Nations, calling it “the umpire on fraudulent science such as global warming.”

Although it is interesting that she believes that “there’s not sound science to back that up,” I personally prefer the findings of an international panel of leading scientists.

Some of Angle’s other career highlights include supporting a prison drug rehabilitation program based on principles of Scientology, counseling young pregnant girls to turn “a lemon situation into lemonade” and publicly stating her opposition to legalizing alcohol, which is either a bad joke or belies Angle’s mistaken belief that we live in the 1920s.

Angle is tied with Reid in the polls.

However, neither of these two fine political specimens can match the recently victorious standard bearer of Tea Party politics: the Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.

The 41-year-old Sarah Palin replica has seen her politics — the nature of which closely mirrors Angle’s and Miller’s — take a backseat in recent weeks to two videos of her from the 1990s.

In the first, filmed in 1996, O’Donnell makes a strong stance against masturbation, calling it equivalent to adultery. Sure, the video is scandalous, but we shouldn’t hold her religious views against her. What we can, however, hold against O’Donnell is her 1999 admission on comedian Bill Maher show, Politically Incorrect:

“I dabbled into witchcraft — I never joined a coven. But I did, I did … I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. … One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. I mean, there’s little blood there and stuff like that. We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.”

Because O’Donnell has raised nearly $1 million online, we are now facing a serious threat that she will actually be a U.S. senator next year. Nobody seems concerned about that prospect beyond its potential ramifications for a Democratic or Republican majority.

Something needs to change fast. The federal government, as much as it is maligned, is a serious institution that plays a crucial role in every American’s daily life. Candidates such as Miller, Angle and O’Donnell are threats to the government’s functionality, credibility and overall legitimacy; their success is an indicator of how unsuccessful the U.S. government is at communicating its message to the public and the lack of serious critical thinking that takes place in this day and age.

Hopefully, someone will emerge with the capacity to reverse this worrying trend. Otherwise, we might soon find our Senate filled with even more fools than it already has.

Daniel Charnoff is a senior majoring in international relations (global business). His column, “Through the Static,” runs Wednesdays.

16 replies
  1. Diane
    Diane says:

    Joseph, you embody the problem.

    You dismiss vast numbers of Americans with legitimate political beliefs with words like radical, hate, racist.

    Look in the mirror, dude. Glenn Beck hasn’t said anything hateful, and neither are these people.

    Their views aren’t radical (as the polls clearly show) — but yours probably are.

    As for racist — I won’t even dignify that incredibly idiotic and ill-founded comment with a response.

    Think for yourself, Joseph! Talk about an incredible threat to America.

    • Joseph
      Joseph says:

      Polls don’t show radical or moderate, right or wrong, they only measure popularity. Again, I have many friends who are conservative who I respect and admire, I wonder if you could breathe the same about any liberal folks you know.

      But this particular movement is fueled by anger and hate, win you may, but I much rather lose on an agenda aimed at helping the most vulnerable in our community and standing up for something bigger than myself. And before you try and make a demeaning comment about paying my own bills and taxes, I have been for a long time now. I am Catholic and it is those beliefs that fuel my political belief.

      As for racism, may I correct myself and say there are certainly elements of the movement that have racist elements. The signs, Mark Williams (who in fairness was expelled) etc…

      As for Glenn Beck, maybe us liberal tree huggers have a different definition of hate than you all in the tea party. But I’d sure call the comments below unkind. =)

      Glenn Beck quotes:

      “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. … No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong?”

      “The only [Katrina victims] we’re seeing on television are the scumbags.” –”The Glenn Beck Program,” Sept. 9, 2005

      “When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.” –”The Glenn Beck Program,” Sept. 9, 2005

      Nah, you’re right. He’s never said anything hateful.

      • Diane
        Diane says:

        Oh my gosh, Joseph. Do you really need me to pull out the long list of hateful, nasty, vicious comments made by liberals? In the nasty game, you guys win, hands down. Do a Google search for Hollywood quotes about Bush. Shoot, just read quotes from Michael Moore himself. That will be eye-opening for you. And if that’s the worst you can come up with from Beck (and 5-year-old quotes at that) — again, the issue is what the Tea Partiers are up to. I’m pretty sure that nobody is worried that they’re out to get Katrina victims. Your inanity is only outflanked by your self-righteousness (as you made clear that you are “standing up for something bigger than yourself”). Newsflash, Joseph: that’s what the Tea Partiers are doing, too. Standing up for something they believe in that they think (with history on their side) will improve life for everyone in this country.

        Consider the obvious point that the Tea Partiers don’t go around calling people like YOU “haters” and “racists” — but actually are ANGRY about government abuses. In other words, issues. They don’t offer childish arguments like Daniel did, which started this thread: “The other side – they’re scary!” You are offering the same toxin, my friend, so don’t you dare lecture me about being friendly with liberals (the way you, noble soul, are friendly with conservatives).

        As for what’s radical, consider the definition. It means advocating for drastic change. I would submit that people who wish to adhere to fiscal sanity and a limited government as provided in the Constitution — people who wish to protect America from terror at home and abroad — those people are clearly NOT advocating for drastic change.

        On the other hand, leftists who wish to remake our economy into a nanny state a la Europe, and who wish to weaken America’s security, are indeed advocating for fairly drastic change. I think you all called it “hope and change,” in fact. Pres O wanted to dramatically transform America, and all that. Hello, “radical.”

        • Joseph
          Joseph says:


          Let’s review the debate we were having.

          1. I asked if we as a nation will really be turning to the like of Beck and Olbermann as sources of news. You will notice I noted the two extremes. You said Beck has never said anything hateful- I simply presented facts that showed the fallacy of your statement. I never defended anyone on the far left- you did however defend someone on the far right and so I responded.

          2. I spoke about the need for a political middle ground. Again, I fashion myself very liberal. I am of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Paul Wellstone, and yes, Barack Obama political philosophies. But I understand the need to reach out, to debate with dignity, and yes, maybe even find something that resembles at least a slight common ground. And I guess I’d say that’s something that seems to be leaving politics together as more and more people end up on the extremes.

          And so we will forever disagree. I do not like the angry like of Michael Moore anymore than I do of Sean Hannity. I see the Tea Party in those extremes- a movement that is more inflated than real because people are afraid and the Tea Party tent captures that fear and accelerates it. I never said the other side is scary. The other side is a big tent, and I am not afraid of them, it is this fringe element that is the tea party that I consider frightening.

          So you can call me inane or self-righteous, you can mock the fact that yes I was and still am motivated by a political belief that calls upon the best of who we are. If any of my comments were personally attacking you as yours were mine, I apologize. I don’t know you and so I have no problem with you, I have a problem with a political movement. Win or lose, we’ll all need to work together to improve this country. And so after November, it will be interesting to see how the conversation shifts if at all.

          God Bless,


          • Diane
            Diane says:

            Joe, you continue to bleed self-righteousness. It is not attractive, and it is disingenuous. Here’s why:

            The political beliefs you espouse are a direct threat to the America most of us love. You can call it extreme, you can call it angry — but the truth is, YOUR beliefs require a firm response. A firm NO, if you will. That’s what America seems to be gearing up to do. A firm pull back from the far left where we’ve wandered (and where you, by admission, want to go).

            OF COURSE you think we should all move to the center! Your kind have moved us all so far left that the center would now be quite a bit more comfortable for you. But being in the center, my friend, does not solve any problems in and of itself.

            As for Beck/Olbermann, puh-leez. You bring up a couple of old semi-serious quotes from Beck, but give Olbermann a complete pass. That’s just silly. Oh, and for the record — he’s not “far right.” He apparently is in the mainstream. Get used to it.

            You have a severe perception problem. You think Michael Moore — that angry, often confused filmmaker who says “there is no terror threat” — is comparable with Sean Hannity, who welcomes liberals onto his show EVERY NIGHT to debate issues? I thought you wanted us all to work together? Isn’t that what Hannity is doing? Like most leftists, you really have no idea what Hannity or Beck or Rush or any of them are saying. You only have a knee jerk response to what you think they’re all about. But you know not of what you speak.

            Like most liberals, you play the victim card. You were “personally attacked”? No, you weren’t. But your views were. Because they are dangerous and short-sighted. And even as you hide behind your mantle of being “motivated by a political belief that calls upon the best of who we are” (which, by the way, applies to the Tea Partiers as well) — you can’t resist taking a shot at those with whom you disagree — THEY are motivated by fear. YOU, of course, are motivated by all that is pure.


          • Joseph
            Joseph says:

            Oh Diane,

            We can’t have a good debate if you are going to be putting forth straw man arguments. Again, I never defended the likes of Olbermann, I said I didn’t like that we as a nation are turning to the likes of him on the left and Beck on the right for NEWS. You said Beck never said anything hateful, I countered with facts to the contrary. I never said Olbermann has never said anything hateful- you however did claim Beck never did. So I responded with some clarification that calls your argument into question. If you wish to keep distorting my argument there isn’t much more I can say.

            Regarding left, right, center, it seems you think liberals have dragged the country so far left we need to pull it past center and far to the right. So be it, we disagree. I think healthy debate is what is missing in politics and has been for several years, across now several sessions of congress and various presidential administrations. I want debate, healthy debate. And I recognize the need for compromise on issues. Do you feel the same?

            And to clarify the motivations for my belief- I am a Christian. My views are not fully encompassed by liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. Maybe you aren’t Christian and if you aren’t then my motivating factor may mean nothing to you. But the motivating factor behind my views is the compassion I learned in Sunday school and that I read about in the Bible. Compassion for those Jesus spent his life advocating for. Show me where there is the compassion Jesus taught us in the Tea Party movement. No party or political group fully captures my views and positions, but I do feel the Tea Party certainly does not get close to it. I see no compassion in this movement, I see nothing of the principles I was taught to live my life by in the policies of this group.

            Now, I imagine you will respond with more straw man arguments, but have at it- I leave you with the last word.


  2. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    Wow, it is frightening to watch the responses come in on this. I am liberal through and through but I understand that compromise is the art of politics. I grew up surrounded by conservatives and so I am blessed to be able to see, for the most part, the rational way in which people come to their political beliefs, even if different than my own cherished beliefs.

    And so it troubles me to watch the rise of the Tea Party because I don’t understand how such a radical agenda is so almost main stream. Radical policies, hate, racism, it’s just too much for me. If the Republicans win back Congress I could accept that. It is what it is. But I look at any Tea Party victories as a loss for both parties. Has our nation come to a point where Joe Miller and Sharron Angle are the best we have to send to the United States Senate? Are we at a point where Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann are who we turn to for “news?” I don’t much care to engage in battles about politics I much rather chug along doing what needs to be done to improve our communities and our world, but I can’t help but infuse my two cents and say the Tea Party is an incredible threat to everything I hold dear about America.

    Daniel, you wrote a great article. I know a great number of Republicans who aren’t part of the radical right that are concerned as well. We live in an age filled with apathy and the politics of hate, somewhere there has to be a middle ground. Let’s hope the Tea Party loses and if the Republicans do win in November, as much as it will pain me to see that, let’s hope the two parties can maybe work toward a sensible way to compromise and move forward governing our nation.

  3. Diane
    Diane says:

    Janna, if you choose to ignore the evidence that many scientists are not on board with “climate change” then no amount of URL links are going to help. If you had an open mind, you’d find them yourself.

    As for your criticisms of the GOP — perhaps you don’t understand that THAT is EXACTLY the Tea Party’s point. Too many Republicans acting like Democrats. (However, keep in mind that it is Congress that spends the money, and so it’s not entirely accurate to classify that as “8 years of Republican leadership” when talking about spending — just like Congress is spending the money now, not Obama.)

    Finally, saying the Constitution was not created to limit federal power is being disingenuous. Anyone with more than a (current) public high school knowledge of American history knows what the Founding Fathers were discussing in setting up this country, which was a union of STATES. The states’ rights were or paramount importance, as was the check-and-balance system, because the founders were well aware of human nature and the natural tendency for power to move toward the central government. Furthermore, the Constitution does in fact LIMIT the federal government severely, whether you like it or not. To use just the example noted below, Carter overstepped his boundaries in creating a new department.

    And you show your complete ignorance of the Constitution when you say silly things like “It’s the government’s job to ensure that we can all get an education.” Really? Who says? And which government? As I already pointed out, the states were doing a better job BEFORE Carter paid back his mistress the NEA with their little plum which has cost so much and done so very little. People with the thinking skills you are now exhibiting are the fruit of this folly — people who think we can change the Constitution to whatever the latest liberal wet dream involves.

    And THAT’S common sense for most Americans. Maybe you should tune in to a little Beck. You might learn something.

    • AOC
      AOC says:

      “Anyone with more than a (current) public high school knowledge of American history knows what the Founding Fathers were discussing in setting up this country, which was a union of STATES.”

      FINALLY! I am so glad to hear someone talking sense about what the founding fathers really wanted. In fact, I love the founding fathers so much that I want to go back to the REAL Constitution–the Articles of Confederation. Did you know that those big-government Federalists/liberals ILLEGALLY did away with the TRUE Constitution of these United States?! Look it up. I won’t provide a link, you can do that yourself if your mind is open enough.

      We should do away with this silly document that some ACTIVIST JUDGES (I’m looking at you, Scalia, you 2nd-amendment-loving clown!) are forcing us to live under. The Articles of Confederation leaves the power to the true Americans, the States. Enough of this federal government, I want to see the STATES get power back. If Texas wants to wash Thomas Jefferson out of the history books, let them. Who needs a Department of Education when we have the infinite wisdom of STATES RIGHTS.

      Where’s George Clinton when you need him, right Diane? Man, oh man if he could only see this country today…

        • AOC
          AOC says:

          And what, my darling Diane, does not make sense about my previous comments? The illegality of dropping the Articles of Confederation is unquestionable. At the Annapolis Convention, the five states that attended decided to endorse the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, but it was ONLY given the power to amend the AOC; instead, they wrote an entirely new Constitution, over the objection of Rhode Island, which under the AOC (the controlling legal document) should have had the power to veto any proposed changes to the AOC, including its elimination. Instead, the new Constitution was adopted. Doing what is against the controlling legal document is illegal. Hence, the dropping of the AOC and the adoption of the Constitution was illegal.

          You do have a point about my argument with regards to the Department of Education, however. Their federal mandate is much less powerful than I originally believed. Their job, in essence, is to ensure equality of access, to help get federal funds to local schools, and to distribute financial aid. They have absolutely no power to control the curriculum in any state. Wait, why is this program an example of federal overreach, again?

          • Diane
            Diane says:

            Many on the Left have a pathological fear of states’ rights, and quite possibly you are suffering from this malady of ignorance. Bluntly — we don’t NEED the federal government to “ensure equality of access” — even in the most backward states, my friend, somehow everyone gets to go to school if they want to. We don’t need federal funds going to local schools — we need local funds staying local to support schools. We don’t need the federal government to distribute financial aid. Colleges did just fine before Carter and the teacher unions cooked up this Cabinet department. In fact, as pointed out, public schools have declined markedly since the department was founded. What are we to make of that, constitutional questions aside? The fact that Carter had no business doing it just makes it more irritating.

            And your comment about curriculum control is highly disingenuous. He who holds the money holds the power, ultimately. And I can attest to the fact that the Department of Education spends a lot of its time issuing pointless regulations that schools and colleges have to follow, costing millions of dollars. Examples abound, for anyone who cares enough to research it.

            Or are you of the mistaken impression that children will be educated more efficiently if someone sitting in Washington DC has all the power, money and decision-making ability?

  4. Janna
    Janna says:

    Spot on, Daniel! Apparently someone at Tea Party HQ has a Google alert out on these candidates so they can spam the comments sections of any negative press. Good lord you people have been watching Glenn Beck too long.

    1. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were not created to limit federal power; they were created to establish the laws of this country and to protect its citizens. That is not necessarily synonymous with “small government,” especially in this day, when the government is not the biggest threat to the American people (unlike, say, during the Revolutionary War). Further, they are living, breathing documents defined by judicial precedence. Their writers knew they could not predict the future, so they made the documents flexible. Take the 2nd Amendment. Semi-automatic weapons and nuclear warheads did not exist in 1776. Do you think that means Jefferson wouldn’t want your right to nuclear material to be infringed on today? Americans cannot survive today without an education. The courts have defined education as a right (see anti-segregation rulings). It’s the government’s job to protect the rights of its citizens, so it’s the government’s job to ensure we can all get an education. That’s common sense for most Americans.

    2. Republicans, a category into which Tea Partiers fall, don’t actually give two sh**s about the deficit. If they did, they would let the Bush tax cuts expire. This myth that Democrats want to “spend their way to wealth” is absurd considering it was 8 years of Republican leadership that tanked the economy and launched the massive deficit. You can’t cut taxes AND fund a war. Common sense. Hasn’t worked for the last ten years, won’t work now. And yet that’s the ONLY suggestion the Republicans have for “fixing the economy.” Also, the bank bailout was under Bush. TARP was a Republican policy, but sure, keep blaming Obama for it.

    3. There is not serious scientific debate about global warming. The scientific community has generally acknowledged its existence for years. Evidence of it was first found in studies conducted at the polar ice caps 30 years ago. I will say it again: 30 years ago. Only fringe pseudo-scientists paid by oil companies “doubt” global warming. Show me one paper in a peer-reviewed journal that finds serious flaws with the evidence supporting it.

  5. Joe
    Joe says:

    I think you revealed too much, Daniel, when you describe the tea party candidates as “threats to the government”. The incredulous tone of your article does little to dispel the fact that these candidates’ positions are quite reasonable and refreshing. Cutting unconstitutional bureaucracies, instituting a line-item veto, asking Congress to actually read and argue about their bills instead of just voting on the first draft from K street, all sound pretty sane to me. I wonder if you realize how weak it makes your position seem, that the only criticism you have of Christine O’Donnell is that she dated a wiccan in high school, and quoted the Bible on television 15 years ago.

    Why not write an article about the insane, loopy things that the Democrats believe? They believe that you can spend your way to wealth, borrow your way out of debt, that bowing to your enemies and abandoning your allies will improve your diplomatic standing in the world, that government-controlled health care and education are “free”, and that the federal government can make better choices about your retirement, the car you need, and even the condiments you can put on your food, than you could make on your own.

    If the latter is “sane”, and the tea party is “crazy”… then I’m with crazy!

  6. Diane
    Diane says:

    Oh, Daniel… Daniel. YOU cannot be serious.

    Daniel is under the mistaken impression, apparently having spent the last four years entirely under the enchantment of the liberal profs on campus, that certain ideas (like the Department of Education being unconstitutional) are “crazy.”

    Daniel, allow me to educate you. No matter your political affiliation, there is no doubt that our founding documents were an effort to protect against the kind of federal power grab that Jimmy Carter undertook as president when he established the Department of Education (much to the delight of the powerful teacher unions).

    One thing you can say — test scores and the overall state of American education HAS gone WAY up since the Dept of Education came into existence!

    Oh, wait. It’s the opposite of that. Never mind.

    There’s legitimate debate about “climate change.” (And you only demonstrate your ignorance with that snotty comment about how you “prefer the findings of an international panel of leading scientists” — since there are “leading scientists” who disagree. Ever read anything other than the Daily Kos?) Even Democrats have supported the line-item veto. And cutting money to the U.N. and the National Endowment for the Arts is what we HAVE to do because, dear Daniel, the U.S. is going BANKRUPT.

    All of these are not extreme views, and they are held by a majority of Americans. You, Daniel, appear to be a hard-left extremist whose views can most flatteringly be described as eccentric. Others might call them appallingly ignorant and foolish. Talk to us when you start paying your own bills — and your own taxes.

  7. kurt toneys
    kurt toneys says:

    How can you ridicule the so called tea party people questioning their potential effect on “government’s functionality, credibility and overall legitimacy; their success is an indicator of how unsuccessful the U.S. government is at communicating its message to the public and the lack of serious critical thinking that takes place in this day and age”

    The majority of the people in the US aggressively oppose the governments stance on Obamacare, the stimulus bills, the bowing to foreign leaders, take over of key industries, “to big to fail” bailouts, endless imperial vacations by the Obamas.

    One could go on. (increasing the defecit by a record 4 trillion) It is hard to imagine a more ant-democratic, anti-American and incompetent US government. It is completely against the will of most Americans. Bristol Palin could do better than the clowns running the government now.

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