Saturday, September 4, 2010

What Steve said ...

Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen had a fascinating item yesterday that's worth pondering.

If the folks planning to turn out this year matched the 2008 electorate:

- Alex Sink running for Governor in Florida and Alexi Giannoulias running for the Senate in Illinois would have double digit leads.

- Elaine Marshall running for Senate in North Carolina and Pat Quinn running for Governor in Illinois would have small leads instead of trailing.

- Ted Strickland running for Governor in Ohio, Lee Fisher running for Senate in Ohio, Joe Sestak running for Senate in Pennsylvania, and Robin Carnahan running for Senate in Missouri would all be within three points rather than trailing by 7-10 as they do now.

Jensen characterizes the enthusiasm gap as really being the be-all, end-all variable this cycle. There's little evidence of Republicans getting more popular, but there's ample evidence that Democrats aren't inclined to turnout on Election Day. The result is "races that would otherwise be lean Democratic into toss ups, turning toss ups into leaning Republican, and turning leaning Republican into solid Republican."

Much has been written about how we reached this point, but Adam Serwer's summary today sounds about right to me.

I'd chalk it up a few things: the administration and Democrats in general being timid about defending themselves and their policies, a general sense that key liberal priorities were compromised on or abandoned, and the failure to get the economy moving again. What most people are seeing and hearing is that Democratic Party leaders are failing, which doesn't exactly make people want to come out and vote for them, let alone make phone calls and knock on doors.

If you're reading this blog, you're probably significantly more engaged than the typical voter, so other examples -- Robert Gibbs' comments about the "professional left," the defeat of the public option, annoyance with Rahm Emanuel in general, frustration on judicial nominees, the administration's disappointing record on civil liberties in the context of national security -- likely come to mind to explain progressive disillusionment. But like Adam, I suspect these developments are noticed in far more detail among actively engaged voters, and occur under the radar of folks in general, most of whom don't keep up on current events at the granular level.

Of course, if Adam's assessment is correct, and I think it is, then there's just not much to be done between now and November. Major liberal initiatives are highly unlikely to be approved over the next 59 days, and the economy almost certainly won't see dramatic improvements. A party goes into an election season with the broader circumstances it has, not the broader circumstances it wants or wishes to have at a later time.

But there's one aspect of this that I struggle to wrap my head around. In campaign politics, there's always been one major drawback to playing exclusively to the base, and it has nothing to do with alienating the "middle." It's the risk of a backlash from the other side. If Republicans, for example, cater exclusively to the desires of right-wing lunatics, rank-and-file Democratic voters will see this and think, "Hey, I'm starting to feel more motivated all the time...." At least, that's the theory.

In practice, that doesn't seem to be happening. The GOP is going exclusively with a base-mobilization tack, even going so far as to drive Republican moderates out of the party altogether, and yet, the Democratic base isn't responding in kind. I'm tempted to think the most radicalized Republican Party in generations would alone be enough to bring Democrats out to the polls in droves.

And yet, if polls pointing to the enthusiasm gap are accurate, the collective response from the Dem base is, "Meh."

There was a front-page piece in the New York Times yesterday, which seemed to suggest that Democrats, on top of all their other election-season troubles, are losing one of the party's key group of supporters: young people. Relying on research from the Pew Research Center, the NYT reported that "fewer younger voters see themselves as Democrats."

The college vote is up for grabs this year — to an extent that would have seemed unlikely two years ago, when a generation of young people seemed to swoon over Barack Obama.

Though many students are liberals on social issues, the economic reality of a weak job market has taken a toll on their loyalties: far fewer 18- to 29-year-olds now identify themselves as Democrats compared with 2008.

As it turns out, it depends on how one defines "far."

Way down in the story, the NYT gets to the data: younger voters' identification with Dems "peaked at 62 percent in July 2008." The newest data puts the number at 57 percent.

Paul Waldman's reaction seemed like the sensible one.

Well now. That doesn't seem so dramatic anymore, does it? In the heart of a presidential campaign in which the Democrat, a dynamic young candidate, would go on to whip the Republican, a crotchety old candidate, the proportion of young people identifying as Democrats peaked at 62 percent. And now, with the economy in the toilet, the president's approval ratings in the 40s, and Democrats facing huge losses in November, that number has plummeted all the way to ... 57 percent.

What's more, party I.D. notwithstanding, the same data shows younger voters are more socially progressive and less anti-government than other age groups. That's not a sign of trouble for Dems; it's the opposite.

Now all Democrats have to do is figure out how to get these younger voters to care about the midterm elections.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why won't the White House listen?

Just about everyone is screaming at the White House that they need to push a big economic recovery bill. The policy and the politics are obvious, but the WH seems to think that forcing the republicans to vote against something good that has no chance of passing due to their intransigence is a waste of time and just not serious. Do they really not understand politics? Really?

It's incredible to me that genius political strategists think that what voters really want are tepid and timid half measures.
Booman: Some Friendly Advice
I don't know if David Axelrod will see this, but maybe he will. He says the following:

"We'll continue to do everything we can, understanding that recovery will require persistent effort. There are no silver bullets," senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said in an interview Thursday. "At the same time, we have to make clear our ideas and theirs, and the fact that the Washington Republicans, having helped create this recession, have attempted to block our every effort to deal with it."

Here is my advice. Stop defending what you've done on the economy. Do not say that the stimulus was big enough. Do not say that no one realized how badly the economy had been damaged. Focus like a laser on the second part of your statement. The Republicans created this recession and they have obstructed every effort to fix it. That's your message. Stick to it.

And, what would help is having an actual fight on the Senate floor over a bill that would fix the economy. I know you're going to lose the fight and that a bunch of Democrats are going to side with the Republicans. Don't worry about that. Show people that you're fighting for their jobs and that the Republicans are not. If you want to change the dynamic, this is the only way to do it.

Krugman: Op-Ed Columnist - The Real Story -

Next week, President Obama is scheduled to propose new measures to boost the economy. I hope they’re bold and substantive, since the Republicans will oppose him regardless — if he came out for motherhood, the G.O.P. would declare motherhood un-American. So he should put them on the spot for standing in the way of real action.

But let’s put politics aside and talk about what we’ve actually learned about economic policy over the past 20 months.

When Mr. Obama first proposed $800 billion in fiscal stimulus, there were two groups of critics. Both argued that unemployment would stay high — but for very different reasons.

One group — the group that got almost all the attention — declared that the stimulus was much too large, and would lead to disaster. If you were, say, reading The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages in early 2009, you would have been repeatedly informed that the Obama plan would lead to skyrocketing interest rates and soaring inflation.

The other group, which included yours truly, warned that the plan was much too small given the economic forecasts then available. As I pointed out in February 2009, the Congressional Budget Office was predicting a $2.9 trillion hole in the economy over the next two years; an $800 billion program, partly consisting of tax cuts that would have happened anyway, just wasn’t up to the task of filling that hole.

Critics in the second camp were particularly worried about what would happen this year, since the stimulus would have its maximum effect on growth in late 2009 then gradually fade out. Last year, many of us were already warning that the economy might stall in the second half of 2010.

So what actually happened? The administration’s optimistic forecast was wrong, but which group of pessimists was right about the reasons for that error?

Start with interest rates. Those who said the stimulus was too big predicted sharply rising rates. When rates rose in early 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial titled “The Bond Vigilantes: The disciplinarians of U.S. policy makers return.” The editorial declared that it was all about fear of deficits, and concluded, “When in doubt, bet on the markets.”

But those who said the stimulus was too small argued that temporary deficits weren’t a problem as long as the economy remained depressed; we were awash in savings with nowhere to go. Interest rates, we said, would fluctuate with optimism or pessimism about future growth, not with government borrowing.

When in doubt, bet on the markets. The 10-year bond rate was over 3.7 percent when The Journal published that editorial; it’s under 2.7 percent now.

What about inflation? Amid the inflation hysteria of early 2009, the inadequate-stimulus critics pointed out that inflation always falls during sustained periods of high unemployment, and that this time should be no different. Sure enough, key measures of inflation have fallen from more than 2 percent before the economic crisis to 1 percent or less now, and Japanese-style deflation is looking like a real possibility.

Meanwhile, the timing of recent economic growth strongly supports the notion that stimulus does, indeed, boost the economy: growth accelerated last year, as the stimulus reached its predicted peak impact, but has fallen off — just as some of us feared — as the stimulus has faded.

Oh, and don’t tell me that Germany proves that austerity, not stimulus, is the way to go. Germany actually did quite a lot of stimulus — the austerity is all in the future. Also, it never had a housing bubble that burst. And with all that, German G.D.P. is still further below its precrisis peak than American G.D.P. True, Germany has done better in terms of employment — but that’s because strong unions and government policy have prevented American-style mass layoffs.

The actual lessons of 2009-2010, then, are that scare stories about stimulus are wrong, and that stimulus works when it is applied. But it wasn’t applied on a sufficient scale. And we need another round.

I know that getting that round is unlikely: Republicans and conservative Democrats won’t stand for it. And if, as expected, the G.O.P. wins big in November, this will be widely regarded as a vindication of the anti-stimulus position. Mr. Obama, we’ll be told, moved too far to the left, and his Keynesian economic doctrine was proved wrong.

But politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. The economic theory behind the Obama stimulus has passed the test of recent events with flying colors; unfortunately, Mr. Obama, for whatever reason — yes, I’m aware that there were political constraints — initially offered a plan that was much too cautious given the scale of the economy’s problems.

So, as I said, here’s hoping that Mr. Obama goes big next week. If he does, he’ll have the facts on his side.

  • Steve Benen adds:

    I have to admit, as disconcerting as it is to see the political winds blowing in the wrong direction, arguably the most frustrating thing about Republican impending successes in the midterms is the perverse rewards for those who were the most wrong.

    At a moment of crisis, conservatives made a series of predictions, assessments, and guarantees -- all of which turned out to be hopelessly backwards. Rewarding the confused only encourages more confusion, while punishing those who were right only encourages worse policymaking.


With the economy struggling to break out of its funk, many are asking what, if anything, the White House intends to do next. Reading the tea leaves is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

ABC News reported last week that leading officials had no intention of pushing significant new proposals, beyond what's already on the table. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that leading officials are actually considering a sizeable new package.

A few days later, President Obama's outgoing chief economist said what the economy needs is more stimulus. This was immediately followed by President Obama's press secretary saying that "some big, new stimulus plan is not in the offing."

As of this morning, the Washington Post has a front-page piece suggesting a stimulus-esque tax-cut package is receiving "serious" consideration.

With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax breaks - potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars - to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

Among the options under consideration are a temporary payroll-tax holiday and a permanent extension of the now-expired research-and-development tax credit, which rewards companies that conduct research into new technologies within the United States. [...]

More spending on infrastructure, particularly transportation projects, is also under discussion. But it would be easier for a package composed purely of tax cuts to "avoid the stain of a 'bailout' or 'stimulus' label," said one official familiar with the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were private.

Great, the most effective policy in boosting the economy doesn't sound good, so it's more likely we'll see proposals touting less effective measures.

Given the mixed signals of late, it's worth noting that Politico has a report similar to the Post's, explaining that administration officials are "mulling a raft of emergency fixes to stimulate the economy before the midterms, including an extension of the research and development tax credit and new infrastructure spending."

It's hard to evaluate any of these ideas without more details, and for that matter, no matter what the White House recommends, Congress' inability to function makes progress unlikely for the foreseeable future.

That said, it's at least somewhat encouraging to see a shift away from "everything's on track, so just be patient." Moreover, there's obviously real political salience to even just having the debate -- with two months before the midterms, it's worth having the two parties fight over how to help the economy grow. If Republicans intend to kill every proposal the White House offers, that should matter to voters, too.

The Post's report concluded that President Obama "could roll out additional measures as soon as next week." Stay tuned.

digby: Message: They Care

This NY Times story says that the youth vote for Democrats is dwindling because of the economy. I think this quote is very telling:

“There’s a vibe,” he said on a recent afternoon, while pumping weights at the gym. “Right now it seems like Republicans just care a lot more than Democrats.”
I get that. They do seem like they care more.

Those who are paying close attention realize that they either care more about destroying the socialist/Muslim menace or they care more about taking back the power they so recently lost. But either way, they do appear to give a damn. The Democrats, on the other hand, rather than coming out with their guns blazing at those who have made it impossible for them to fix these problems seem content with trying to convince people that it isn't as bad as they think it is.

You know --- like when your friend tries to convince you that you shouldn't be upset about something you are upset about. It's annoying. And you realize very quickly that they just don't want to hear about it anymore. That's how the Democrats seem right now --- that they are sick of hearing about it.
Serwer: The false 'liberal overreach' narrative

Michael Scherer, who generally writes good stuff, succumbs fully to village fever here:

It's not as if the White House didn't see this coming. After a meeting in December 2008 about the severity of the economic crisis, Axelrod pulled Obama aside. He recalls saying, "Enjoy these great poll numbers you have, because two years from now, they are not going to look anything like this." But even as Obama aides were aware of a growing disconnect, it didn't seem to worry their boss. Instead, the ambitious legislative goals usually trumped other priorities. Both in the original stimulus package and then in the health care and energy measures, the White House ceded most of its clout to the liberal lions who controlled the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. That maneuver helped assure passage of reforms, but it also confirmed some of the worst fears about how Washington works. "I'd rather be a one-term President and do big things than a two-term President and just do small things," he told his team after Republican Scott Brown was elected Senator in liberal Massachusetts and some in the Administration suggested pulling back on health reform.

This isn't even a remotely accurate reading of recent history. Liberals wanted a bigger stimulus package and more infrastructure spending, the moderate Republicans in a position to kill the bill wanted a smaller package and more tax cuts. With health care, liberals wanted a (popular) public option, centrist Democrats in the Senate arbitrarily decided that it was more important to make liberals unhappy than to have a more fiscally responsible and effective health-care bill. In the House, liberals agreed to stronger restrictions on abortion then they wanted to appease the pro-life faction led by Bart Stupak.

With both bills, the point of leverage was somewhere in the center right, not on the left. Which is why liberals ended up making concessions, leaving Democrats feeling more ambivalent about their legislative victories than they should have been.

Furthermore, as an empirical matter, it's clear that it was compromising with Republican centrists by making the stimulus smaller that is hurting Obama and the Democrats now. As Jonathan Cohn points out today, had the stimulus been twice as big, "unemployment would have been more than a full percentage point lower than it is today. And it would be heading down faster." And the Democrats poll numbers would look substantially better.

"Liberal overreach" is a beltway rule of thumb, and in a country where more people identify as conservative than liberal, it's sure to be a crowd-pleaser. But that doesn't mean it's accurate. Liberals didn't "overreach;" they didn't reach far enough. They didn't reach far enough in part because they were unwilling or unable to counter silly beltway narratives of "liberal overreach" with empirical evidence. And now Democrats are paying the price, not just with Americans who are angry about the economy, but with their own frustrated, demoralized base.

Monday, August 30, 2010

No good choices

Booman: Wrong Answer
This is not good enough:

Asked if the stimulus bill was too small, [White House press secretary Robert] Gibbs says: "I think it makes sense to step back just for a second. ... Nobody had, in January of 2009, a sufficient grasp of ... what we were facing." He adds that any stimulus was "unlikely to fill" the hole the financial meltdown created.

"What the Recovery Act did was prevent us from sliding even into a deeper recession with greater economic contraction, with greater job loss than we have experienced because of it," he says.

This answer has the dubious distinction of being erroneous and stupid. Plenty of people had a sufficient grasp of the situation to recommend a much bigger stimulus bill. The no one could have predicted line of argument is not a political winner under any circumstances but it really stinks when it isn't true.

Now, the best answer here may not have been the most truthful one, which is that Congress wasn't offering a significantly bigger stimulus, but it is now clear that it is not going to be enough to significantly bring down high unemployment. Rather than looking helpless, the administration should just start making the argument that we have a choice between prolonged high unemployment or another big stimulus package. Make the election a referendum on that choice.

Setting aside that his delivery was uncharacteristically terrible, the president's statement on the economy today was pretty pathetic.

This ain't getting it done on any level.

E.D.Kain: Why I am Not a Conservative

Short answer: When I think about the GOP retaking Congress I get cold sweats and flashbacks of 2000-2008. Ditto that for the prospect of say, Newt Gingrich sitting in The Oval Office. The only Republicans who are at all honest – like Gary Johnson who has really good civil liberties bona fides – would A) never win and B) are really way too economically conservative for me. So yeah, Republicans taking back Congress in a couple months is just bad news as far as I’m concerned.

This graph, for instance, really frightens me:


I’m really flabbergasted by the lack of enthusiasm on the part of Democrats. It’s not so much that the Democrats are offering anything particularly exciting to the voters (though they have passed a few major pieces of legislation, you know!) but that the alternative just seems so unabashedly awful…can’t Democrats at least mobilize opposition to the opposition?

Okay so that’s the short answer.

Long answer after the fold…

It’s certainly been a change of pace and perspective for me to blog here at Balloon Juice, and one I’m profoundly grateful to John for. I’ve been drifting leftward for quite a while now (from dissident conservative to fed-up libertarian to, more recently, pro-market liberal with libertarian and especially civil libertarian streaks) – so drifting leftward, but on uncertain feet. And one weakness of my blogging style and perhaps of the habits I’ve gotten into blogging at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, is that I’ve been able to walk this particular ideological tightrope past the point of its usefulness. The ‘pox on both your houses’ style really is sort of annoying after a while even if it is unintentional and even if it is due to honest doubt rather than an attempt to please everyone. Certainly it’s nothing to build one’s political philosophy upon. And quite frankly, the pushback I’ve gotten in the comments about having it both ways is fair, and it’s gotten me thinking – a lot – about picking a side. How you frame your argument and who you frame it for matters. Picking sides matters.

So I will. I no longer have any desire to be considered a conservative – and no longer consider myself one (I do have a somewhat anti-modernist streak, for instance, which I blame on all the fantasy literature I read as a child but which is more a sort of romanticism than anything very political. I recall as a child being quite depressed by the thought that no matter how far I walked in any direction from my home I would inevitably come up against a paved road. How this translates into right vs. left is another matter though it does make me a strong supporter of localism and buying locally and so forth.)

I’ll vote Democrat this fall and I’ll almost certainly vote Democrat in 2012. If I’d been a Senator last year I would have voted for the HCR bill. The Democratic Party has its flaws but at least it cares about governance, at least Democrats try to make the world a less harsh, more egalitarian place even when sometimes their policies backfire or are simply wrong to begin with. And liberalism generally is just more serious an endeavor than conservatism is. More wonky, more beholden to, you know, data and facts.

I have always voted Democrat in any case, even as a self-described conservative, and remain pro-gay-marriage, anti-war, anti-torture, and against the drug war, against the security state, against crony capitalism. It’s not my politics so much that have undergone a change lately (though they have as well), but my thoughts on who I should and should not align myself with, and why this is important

Conservative politics don’t even lend themselves all that well to conservative ends to begin with.

For instance, I’d say the generous maternity leave in Sweden or Germany is far more in line with a belief in the importance of family than our lack of any policy to that effect. If being pro-family is conservative then I guess I’m conservative in that way – but I think ‘family’ should include committed gay couples. If wanting a stable fiscal future is conservative, then again I suppose that describes me. But we can’t simply cut spending down to the marrow to achieve this, nor should we. Slashing taxes at all costs is not fiscally conservative. Raising them is much more so – and conservatives are by and large too irresponsible to even countenance this. Only a very few are considering cutting defense spending to help balance the budget. And indeed, there are a very few very smart, honest, hopeful thinkers on the right who I admire a great deal but they are only a very few. And not movers and shakers in any case. On the libertarian front – or the liberal-tarian front at least – I see much more hope.

I also share a good deal more cultural affinity with the left, broadly speaking, than with the right and my cultural politics have always reflected this. I watch Colbert and the Daily Show and almost never turn the channel to Fox News. I listen to NPR. I hang out mostly with liberals. I have very liberal views on most social issues. I still believe in the importance of decentralized power structures, checks and balances, and in not placing too much faith in the state – but again, these are positions that are perfectly acceptable on the left in ways that my belief in gay marriage or higher taxes or non-interventionist foreign policy are simply not acceptable on the right.

Furthermore, while I think there’s a great deal of merit to competition (one reason I really liked Ron Wyden’s healthcare plan!), free markets, economic liberalism and so forth I find the fetishization of low taxes among the right and among many American libertarians more than a bit silly. I favor investment in public health, public transit and infrastructure, and in the welfare system generally rather than some vague bare-boned state. Sure, there’s problems with all sorts of government programs, with some public sector unions, etc. but at least liberals seem open to tackling these problems. At least within the big tent of liberalism there is room to disagree.

I’ve noted before that I don’t think free markets are sustainable without a broad and sturdy welfare state to support them. Theoretically, sure – anything is possible – but the fact is markets fail and must fail to be effective as a system, and very real people pay the price – not because they are lazy, or because they are lacking enough rugged individualism, but because life can be hard, and it is much harder for those people who lack strong family or community support. Ultimately, the highest price is paid by those who can afford it least. We need to craft a society where that price is not so high – and I think we can use markets and the welfare state to achieve this, much as they have done in northern Europe (though undoubtedly our version will be unique and we can, on the way, learn from their mistakes). I don’t see many conservatives taking these questions seriously, and even the most progressive-minded conservatives out there, I fear, are placing their hopes in the wrong coalition.

I don’t feel at home in that coalition, personally, and it’s high time to bid it adieu.

Booman: It's The Stupid, Stupid
This awesome post by Steve Benen is a good starting point for rebutting this piece of shit Wall Street Journal op-ed by James Taranto. Taranto tries to explain why, in his eyes, liberal elites find Americans (meaning Tea Partiers and know-nothing conservatives) revolting.

What is the nature of this contempt? In part it is the snobbery of the cognitive elite, exemplified by a recent New York Times Web column by Timothy Egan called "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings"--or by the viciousness directed at Sarah Palin, whose folksy demeanor and state-college background seem terribly déclassé not just to liberals but to a good number of conservatives in places like New York City.

In more cerebral moments, the elitists of the left invoke a kind of Marxism Lite to explain away opinions and values that run counter to their own. Thus Barack Obama's notorious remark to the effect that economic deprivation embitters the proles, so that they cling to guns and religion.

It's hard to get more elite than Wall Street. The firms there don't hire people with the educational background of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin. So, it's a little rich for Taranto to lecture us about snobbery from the pages of the Wall Street Journal. But it's been a part of the financial elites' playbook forever to rail against the elitism of the left as they play on the prejudices, insecurities, and fears of the 'proles.' This isn't a Marxist-lite argument. There's no obvious reason why a Manhattan investment banker would share the social values of the Hill People of Appalachia or the religious fundamentalists of the Bible Belt. In truth, they don't share their values. They just pretend to. And, in difficult financial times, it's historically indisputable that financially insecure people flock to leaders who offer scapegoats and pat solutions. Unless you think demagoguery thrives during financial booms, there shouldn't be any debate about this.

But the reason that liberals (and not just our elites) are revolted by the Tea Partiers is well explained by Steve Benen. When we try to take their arguments seriously, those arguments vanish into thin air. They have no logical consistency. Once you scratch the surface of their calls for liberty and freedom and following the Founding Fathers, it turns out that there is no 'there' there. Because their policy prescriptions (insofar as they are ever articulated) are either counter-factual or extraordinarily radical, it is impossible to engage Tea Partiers in intellectual debate or enter into any kind of negotiation with them.

When your idea of religious freedom is to ban mosques, how can we take you seriously? It's not that the Tea Partiers' concerns are illegitimate, it's that their entire movement is a nebula of formless angst. What is it that is bringing people out to protest at this particular moment in time? The budget deficit? The budget deficit ballooned under the previous president and these Tea Partiers didn't express any dismay.

It's true that economic conditions have declined, and that probably explains part of the Tea Party phenomenon. But the main thing that changed is that a Democrat became president, and that president is black. That president has an unusual biography and a foreign-sounding name. The reason liberals are quick to throw around accusations of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia is because the heart of Republican resistance to Obama has been based in attacks on black institutions like ACORN, on court rulings related to gay marriage, on manufactured outrages like the deceit that PARK51 is being proposed for ground zero, and on Latino immigration. The rest of the Tea Party/conservative opposition lacks credibility because they didn't oppose deficit spending or warrantless surveillance or Medicare Part D or No Child Left Behind when those those policies were carried out by a Republican. Big government is therefore not the reason that Tea Partiers have taken to the streets.

As Benen notes, there are normally ideas behind mass movements, but the Tea Party doesn't have ideas. What they have are outlets for channeling racial, economic, and cultural insecurity into traditional conservative tropes.

The anti-intellectualism of Tea Partiers (exemplified by the lazy Sarah Palin) is one of its core features, in part, because logic cannot co-exist in the same galaxy with their arguments. But just because someone is revolted by anti-intellectualism doesn't make your a liberal. Or, maybe it does. The Republicans seem to have been replaced by the idiocracy.