Election years between presidential elections are usually pretty ho-hum. Primaries come and go with almost no one caring except for the people who lived in the states where they occur. No longer. The Tea Party obsession with destroying the U.S. government which hit a peak in 2010 makes primary-watching right up there with the World Series and the World Cup. Some pundits may have thought that Rep. Eric Cantor’s loss to an unknown Republican two weeks ago was the high point, but Tuesday’s struggle in Mississippi surpassed that in another GOP crisis.
In early June, incumbent GOP Sen. Thad Cochran failed to get over 50 percent in the Mississippi primary and was forced into a runoff with opponent Tea Partier Chris McDaniel. The night before the runoff, he described his election as “unstoppable,” and then lost by 6,693. Cochran won by 1.8 percent after he asked for help from black, probably Democratic, voters. Mississippi law doesn’t require recounts, but McDaniel has refused to concede, saying that he’s looking into voting “irregularities.”
In a campaign that could be called McCain v. Palin, an extremist radical conservative tried to paint a conservative as too far left. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) politely described McDaniel as inexperienced, and his running partner in 2008, Sarah Palin, was joined by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) to defend McDaniel.
Before the primary, an attempt to sneak into a nursing home to take photos of Cochran’s wife, who suffers from dementia, led to arrests. One of those arrested, a McDaniel supporter and founder of the state Tea Party, killed himself this week. The campaign also attacked Cochran’s daughter, Kate, for criticizing McDaniel on her Facebook page with a creepy photo of her and the hash tag “#Who’s Ya Daddy?”
In the early morning hours after the primary, three McDaniel supporters, Tea Party members, mysteriously locked themselves into the basement of the Hattiesburg courthouse next to the ballots. According to a report, Constable Jon Lewis, a big McDaniel supporter, had helped them get in. They claimed they wanted to see how the ballot count was proceeding, but the building was empty after the task had been completed hours earlier.
The day before the runoff, a McDaniel supporter filed a lawsuit to stop crossover voting. Mississippi has no party registration, but state law prohibits voters from participating in the GOP runoff if they voted on a Democratic ballot in the primary. Another state law requires any voters in a party primary to support that primary’s nominee in the general election. Although a federal appeals court struck down that law as unenforceable in 2008, the South keeps unconstitutional law on the books in perpetuity. The lawsuit was dismissed.
Far-right GOP gubernatorial loser in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli threatened to send poll watchers into precincts with largely black voters. The watchers didn’t materialize, but the Tea Party is crying “foul” about blacks voting in the runoff. “Our whole system is corrupt,” said a woman who attended the McDaniel post-election party. “We deserve to be called the most corrupt state in the nation.”
Two days after the runoff, Palin called for Tea Party members to leave the GOP and form a third party. She commiserated about McDaniel’s loss with Sean Hannity on his Fox program:
“Well, if Republicans are going to act like Democrats, then what’s the use in getting all gung ho about getting Republicans in there? So yeah, if Republicans aren’t going to stand strong on the planks in our platform, then it does no good to get all enthused about them anymore.”
Palin’s sour grapes comes from more than just Mississippi. Tea Party candidates lost in New York and Colorado, and Palin’s pick for the U.S. senator from Oklahoma, T.W. Shannon, lost by almost 23 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had also backed Shannon as an “outsider.” It seems that John McCain has been replaced in Sarah Palin’s heart.
Already elected Koch-Republicans want to shut down government because of the EPA’s proposal to control carbon pollution from the country’s power plant. Congress has no authority to change the EPA’s proposal without without amending the Clean Air Act. The ultra-conservative Supreme Court also sided with EPA’s authority to impose specific standards for carbon emissions. This month’s SCOTUS decision upheld the plan to regulate power plant and factory emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Loonier yet, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has decided it’s in his best interest to sue President Obama because “the president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country.” The man who spent over $5 million to fight marriage equality now wants to waste more taxpayer money on a lost cause. After years of complaining about activist judges, the GOP is looking for an activist judge to rule against the president. The organization behind the suit would be the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) which is controlled by the GOP.
Boehner’s House of Representatives is actually the government branch that suffers from failure to perform. Jobs, immigration, tax reform, Export-Import bank, the Senate’s high-way-funding bill—these are a few of the areas in which the House takes no action. About Iraq, Boehner said, “It’s not my job to outline for the president what tools he should use or not use.” According to the U.S. Constitution, deciding about war is Boehner’s job. About the serious immigration problem, Boehner said, “I want to get our members to a place where they are comfortable, whatever that is.” He’s named a “working group” to eventually “suggest to the administration things that we think can be done.”
When asked what specific executive actions he intended to challenge in court, he said, “When I make that decision, I’ll let you know.” He’s left Washington for over a month. By September he may have some ideas.
Even Fox network Neil Cavuto blasted a Republican, specifically Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), for the proposed lawsuit:
“There are far more important things that you guys have to be addressing than filing lawsuits passed by each other. BY THE WAY, ROME IS BURNING.”
Bachmann’s said that the GOP needs to defund the executive branch, and Cavuto proclaimed:
“Think about what you are saying. Defund the Executive, Congresswoman? If Democrats had said we are just going to defund President Bush, defund the Executive, you would have laughed them out. … I think Democrats would be in their right minds to laugh you out now. … Rome is burning and you are filing.”
After it was clear to President Obama that Boehner had abdicated his responsibilities, the president made 180 executive orders compared to George W. Bush’s 291 and Ronald Reagan’s 381. Boehner’s 112th Congress passed only 284 bills, the fewest since the 1940s, and his 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer. Currently, it has passed 121 bills with only 48 days—many of them not full days—until the session is over.
The conservatives are going off the rails in three different directions: shut down the government, keep the president from taking any actions, and form a third party. We’ll see how well these ideas work in hiding the GOP incompetence from the voters.
Far-right conservative Erick Erickson said it best on redstate.com: “I’m just not sure what the Republican Party really stands for any more other than telling Obama no and telling our own corporate interests yes. That’s not much of a platform.”
Yup. Erickson is right.