that the national debt ceiling has been raised, and the
country has averted economic catastrophe, it really is necessary
to process and analyze what a small band of obstructionists
have put the nation through. This
debt ceiling debate, usually a pro forma act of Congress,
took on a political - largely ideological - tone of huge
proportions. Why is that?
last President, George W. Bush, raised the debt ceiling
seven times without as much as a peep out of Congress. The
federal deficit was spiraling out of control at that time
too…so much so that by the time Bush left office, the economy
was in a freefall. More debt had to be taken on just to
keep the economy from crashing…and burning.
parties, the Republican controlled Congress before the 2006
mid-term elections, and the Democrat controlled Congress
after 2006 mid-term elections, accommodated then President
Bush’s request. Then Barack Obama became President, and
a national movement ensued to “take our country back.”
movement calls itself “The Tea Party,” named after the taxation
revolt of 1767 that occurred after King George III and Parliament
put the Stamp Act on the colonists. The colonist then dressed
up as Mohawk Indians and threw tea shipments into the Boston Harbor in protestation. The modern
day Tea Party hadn’t been taxed, nor had they been dictated
to. They simply reacted to the election of the nation’s
first black President and immediately sought to obstruct
anything he tried to do from its inception.
not act as if this four month debt ceiling debate, one of
the most disruptive and intense debates about the economy
ever, was not about President Obama. It was ALL about President
Barack Obama (more on this later). But have the country’s
economic problems been resolved as a result of this protracted
debate? The common consensus is, “NO!” So what will it take
to bring the two parties together?
be clear: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party
were held hostage by a relatively small band of political
mavericks that have gained critical mass in the Congress.
They are not so large that they can takeover either chamber
of Congress, but they proved that they are not so small
that they can be dismissed by at least one chamber of Congress,
the House of Representatives. Well, who are the Tea Partiers
in Congress? That’s where it gets a little fuzzy. There
were 87 new Republicans elected to Congress in 2010, producing
63 new seats in the House (seats previously held by Democrats).
This was the largest shift of party control in history and
by and large, has been seen as a backlash to the election
of Obama, or his Health Care reform initiative named by
the Tea Partiers as “Obamacare.”
of them ran against incumbents, and received little backing
from either of the two major parties, so now that they are
in Congress, they don’t feel beholden to either party; they
clearly have the most leverage in the Republican Party.
This was demonstrated when President Obama and Speaker John
Boehner made a sincere effort to do the “big deal” to address
some real problems in reducing the deficit. The Tea Party
killed the deal because Boehner couldn’t herd in the party’s
mavericks. The Tea Party drove the debt ceiling debate all
the way until the end, but not before trying to pass a temporary
extension that would expire in the middle of the 2012 Presidential
elections. This was their shot at trying to derail Obama’s
re-election hopes with another artificial debate about taxes.
Republican Party is now being held hostage by the Tea Party.
Fifty two of the newly elected Republicans have officially
signed on to the Tea Party caucus and the rest acknowledge
that the Tea Party movement assisted their election in part,
if not in total. They are highly sympathetic to the Tea
Party position, as Tea Partiers vote with the Republican
Party, but in the most extreme of policies associated with
the Republicans far right wing.
Tea Party has emerged as the most radicalized segment of
American politics. And they are only relevant because they
could obstruct a critical vote, at a critical time, when
the country needed to address it. They leveraged the media
by sharing the President’s spotlight on a critical predicament.
They also have very highly racialized sensibilities amongst
their constituents. So much so, if there is another race
movement in America, the Tea Party will
be at the front of it. I feel safe to say that the rise
of the Tea Party wouldn’t have taken place had we had a
white president. Blink if you want to…but the fact
this has not happened to any other President has raised
my “Race-dar,” beyond anything ideological battles could
muster. Race(ism) has not disappeared in this country. It’s
just been codified.
is compromise, and pragmatism should always prevail when
the national interest is at stake. It did for the two wars
that increased the deficit and it should have now that it
is time to pay the piper. America
is not going to survive without increased tax revenues.
All the economists say it. But these “lay legislators” (common
folk representing “the people” in Congress) know more than
the economists. I don’t think so.
President offered up cuts in exchange for taxing the rich
and closing corporate tax loopholes. The President was left
hanging. And so was Boehner. And so were the American people.
The Tea Party claim they are not about “politics as usual,”
but they proved they are about politics. It was a classic
filibuster without a reasonable expectation of compromise.
It was like how the Dixiecrats used to filibuster civil
right bills without one inch of give. Same thing. The only
thing different was that they filibustered taxing the rich,
the President’s request and the Democrats in Congress caved
on it under the deadline. So,
we got $2.4 trillion in spending cuts and not much else.
And the Tea Party claims victory.
American people should be asking why would Tea Partiers
get in a game and ask for somebody to throw them the ball,
then just hold it? We are foolish to believe that this was
just about ideology. We need to stop playing ignorant about
race realities in America. Wonder what a white
president would have gotten?
if he (or she) would have had to go through this at all?
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national columnist, managing
director of the
Urban Issues Forum
and author of
Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Click
to contact Dr. Samad.