Thursday, March 03, 2011

Poison tea

Elections matter. In the run-up to the 2010 US elections, many of us warned about the dangers of the corporate-owned-and-led tea party “movement”, that its agenda was far more radical than they were letting on, except in the occasional unguarded comments by some of their looniest candidates.

How do know whether elected politicians are actually tea party drones or just run-of-the-mill extremist Republicans who exploited the tea party to win votes? In general, the label refers to politicians who were either backed by a tea party group or identified themselves as a member of the tea party “movement”.

In Wisconsin, the Republican governor has been leading a tea party class war against worker and union rights, apparently at the behest of the bankrollers of the “movement”, the billionaire far-right Koch brothers who want to destroy unions for the benefit of the corporate elites. That’s called fascism, and the teabagger Governor and the Republicans who control the state legislature—whether part of the astroturf tea party “movement” or not—are all part of that corporatist agenda.

The same thing is happening in Ohio, where Republicans are working to advance the agenda of the corporate elites, including union busting. Apparently the Koch brothers spent well.

Here are some of the other highlights so far this year from the elected officials belonging to that veritable intellectual and moral superpower called the tea party:

January 2011

North Carolina: Tea party Republican school board members voted to reinstate segregation in Raleigh, North Carolina by ending all desegregation efforts. The school superintendent resigned in protest and the Teapublicans put forward a fellow teabagger, a former general who is a fan of Glenn Beck.

New Mexico: Tea party Republican NM Representative Nora Espinoza introduced an amendment to the state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Republicans also put forward another amendment that in addition to defining marriage would also ban New Mexico from recognising same-sex marriages and civil unions. Yet another bill would enact just the ban. Democrats managed to table all three bills in committee—so far.

February 2011

South Dakota: Teaparty Republican SD Representative Phil Jensen was chief sponsor of a bill to change the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide to add language saying, “homicide is permissible if committed by a person ‘while resisting an attempt to harm’ that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.” Critics called it an invitation to murder abortion providers. In the face of criticism, Jensen talked of amending the bill. "There's no way in the world that I or any other representatives wish to see abortion doctors murdered," he claimed. Later, he talked of dropping the bill altogether.

Montana: Tea party Republican Montana Representative Joe Read introduced a bill declaring that climate change is “a natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it,” and also declares it is “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.” He admitted this is a radical act, and that he hadn’t bothered to consult climate scientists, including the state’s own experts.

Montana: Representative Kristen Hansen, another tea party Republican, introduced a bill to overturn all local laws protecting gay people in the state and make it impossible to enact any local laws in the future. Republicans in committee later refused to hear testimony from any opponents of the bill, allowing only supporters to testify. One anti-gay speaker called for the death penalty for homosexuality. Republicans claimed there “wasn’t enough time” to hear from opponents, but still managed to hear testimony on bills to make a hand thrown spear a legal form of hunting, allow every city to create their own militia, to urge the United States to withdraw from the United Nations, a “birther bill” and another bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons in bars, banks and churches (yes, really…).

Said Montana Capital Report: “These are bills, which are either unconstitutional, based on conspiracy theories or seriously threaten our public safety… they think are worthy of their time, however they believe bills that strip rights from Montanans aren’t worthy of full hearings. It says a lot about the priorities of the Republican Majority in the Montana Legislature.” Indeed, it does.

On February 22, the bill passed out of committee and moved to the House floor. The Republican-controlled Montana House passed the measure 60-39. All Democrats and only seven Republicans voted against it. Currently, Missoula is the only Montana city with GLBT protections, through an ordinance passed in 2010. Interestingly, legislators also voted to overturn a 2006 Missoula citizen referendum to make marijuana the lowest priority for law enforcement. Apparently for the tea party/Teapublicans, personal freedom, liberty and the right to democratic self-determination are sacred ONLY if tea party agrees with the results.

Iowa: A coalition of 29 tea party Republicans introduced a bill giving immunity to persons using deadly force to prevent an abortion. If the killer is arrested and later found to have acted in accord with the law, they will have the right to sue the police. A companion bill defines human life as beginning "the moment the female ovum joins with the male sperm to create a fertilized egg."

Republicans/Teapublicans in the Iowa legislature are also trying to find a way to repeal marriage equality in the state, to gut the state supreme court, or both.

Nebraska: Tea party Republicans support extremist Republican Nebraska Senator Mark Christensen’s bill to make murder of an abortion provider “justifiable homicide”. Unlike the South Dakota bill, which limited the right to murder to “family” of the foetus, Christensen’s bill would allow anyone to murder an abortion doctor. He denies that was his intent. He said, "I do not believe in killing people for undue reason” (emphasis added). Christiansen has also backed bills to allow teachers and school officials to carry concealed weapons, a “birther bill” and also to ban “Sharia Law”.

March 2011

Georgia: Teaparty Republican Georgia Representative Mark Hatfield introduced a “birther bill”, carrying the teaparty/Teapublican obsession into another month.

Kentucky: Tea party Republican Kentucky Representative Mike Harmon has proposed an amendment to a bill that would outlaw anti-gay bullying. Harmon’s amendment would specifically exempt religious bullies. Put another way, he wants fundamentalist “Christians” to be able to bully GLBT students without consequence for them, and to provide a “religious belief” loophole for other bullies to exploit. The fact that the bullying can only be verbal, not physical or against property, changes nothing.

Taken together, these actions at the state and local level show how extreme the tea party/Teapublicans are. Far from being committed to small government/limited government and personal freedom and liberty, the tea party have so far shown themselves to be typical hard right extremist Republicans dedicated to using the power of government to limit freedom and liberty—especially of people they don’t like.

In fact, so far the tea party in action has not been about freedom or liberty at all, but imposing a theocratic authoritarianism, and too often veering into corporatist fascism, as in Wisconsin and Ohio, among other places.

THIS is why elections matter.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

The Christian member of the Pakistani parliament was killed recently, and his opponents justified the assassination by claiming he didn't have tthe right to live. The North Dakota bill, in particular, is no better than the sharia law that some local legislatures in the US have voted to ban.