Republican politicians are afraid of their base. Very afraid. Press folks have categorized the April 15 TEA parties -- TEA for "Taxed Enough Already" -- as anti-President Barack Obama, anti-government and even "anti-CNN." But it is GOP leaders who are scared senseless (for want of a better word) by the protests.
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin posted reports about Republicans who were booed at TEA parties -- including a video of Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., addressing protesters. Barrett told them, "I respect you." He also said he had introduced friendly legislation. Folks didn't care. Many in the crowd booed or told Barrett, "Go home."
Anti-taxers are going after Republicans, not Democrats. Los Angeles radio talk show hosts John and Ken have gone after the handful of Republicans who voted for a state budget that included tax increases. For their troubles, some of those Repubs got their heads on sticks posted on "The John & Ken Show's" Web site.
GOP officials are so afraid of becoming talk show pariahs that the Executive Committee of the California Republican Party voted to oppose all six ballot measures, propositions 1A to 1F, on the May 19 special-election ballot. That's an amazing decision, considering that the cash-poor California GOP gave $650,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political action committee, which is supporting all six measures. Not only that: Republicans came up with propositions 1D, 1E and 1F.
Mike Spence, head of the state GOP's initiatives committee, told the Sacramento Bee that the party decided to oppose all six measures to avoid diluting the "no" message. Hmm. That sure seems to suggest that party solons think their voters are too stupid to vote "no" on some but "yes" on others.
Or could it be that the GOP opposes all six measures because John and Ken oppose all six measures?
California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas noted that some talk show hosts and bloggers have "used legislators as hostages."
Hostages? That says GOP pols are afraid of the base. "Wouldn't you be afraid?" another operative, who did not want to be named, told me. She added that despite the vocal protesters, many GOP voters have a different goal; they want government to work better.
But a top staffer to a conservative GOP U.S. senator told me he believes that "Republicans need to be afraid." When the GOP was in charge, he added, "we didn't do what we said we'd do" -- and now politicians must pay the price.
GOP state Sen. Abel Maldonado -- a John and Ken head-on-a-stick victim -- put it another way. He noted that GOP lawmakers were good at saying "no taxes, no taxes, no taxes" when they should have been saying "no taxes, no borrowing, no spending."
A minority of no-tax Republicans and a majority of big-spending Democrats appeased their bases by jointly overspending without raising taxes. Anti-tax types didn't really get vocal until Sacramento could not borrow anymore.
I've received many e-mails from TEA party supporters telling me they are angry about the spendfest in Washington. Who isn't? But you have to go after the big spending first.
In a way, this is like Iraq. Once American boots hit the ground, there was no easy exit.
And once the Bush and Obama administrations, with the help of Congress, threw well more than $1 trillion at the economy, someone would have to pick up the tab.
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