Sen. Chuck Schumer’s speech denouncing the Tea Party has received a bit of mockery on conservative talk radio this week. Yet it is worth exploring in greater depth, because it reveals the confusion–and the deception–of the Democratic Party’s leadership as they attempt to salvage control of the Senate in 2014, and to rescue the left’s agenda from the many failures of the Obama presidency, especially the disastrous rollout of Obamacare.
At the core of Schumer’s argument is the contention that the Tea Party is racist. Americans who support the Tea Party, he says, share a “fear of a changing America…It looks different; it prays different; it works different. This is unsettling and angering to some.” (Never mind that the most prominent Tea Party leaders were women, and that the Tea Party is responsible for the first black U.S. Senator from the South since Reconstruction.)
That fear, Schumer said, needed an additional element–and here he weaves a conspiracy theory around what he calls “Tea Party elites.” It was these “elites,” he says, who commandeered conservative media and “proffered government as the reason, the cause, of people’s frustration and anger. They proposed a simple remedy: greatly shrink or even eliminate government and your problems would vanish.” Democrats didn’t push back enough.
The very idea of a “Tea Party elite” is ridiculous. The movement defines itself as anti-elitist, and is virtually at war with the Republican leadership and the well-heeled donor class. True elites, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are committing serious money to defeat Tea Party candidates in the 2014 primaries. The Tea Party even lacks a unified organizational hierarchy–a fact that has, at times, made it far less politically effective.
What Schumer, the Senator from Wall Street, is doing is merely joining two terms–“Tea Party” and “elite”–that are each, on their own, somewhat unpopular. Schumer has been obsessed with such framing, ever since the Tea Party helped Republicans win the House. In March 2011, for example, he urged Democrats on a conference call to use the word “extreme” when discussing Republicans, not realizing that reporters were listening in as well.
Schumer’s strategy for defeating the Tea Party is even more laughable. He believes that the Tea Party elites hate government, while the grass roots look to government for help: “even the average Tea Party member likes and wants to retain most of what government does,” he argues. Therefore Democrats need to champion government itself: “We must state loudly and repeatedly that we believe government is often a necessary force for good.”
Unfortunately for Schumer and his ilk, the Obamacare failures continue to mount, and millions more people stand to lose their health insurance this year. Schumer’s strategy is not even new: the Democrats first tried it in 2010, under the tutelage of Chicago radicals like convicted felon Robert Creamer, who at least understood that the Tea Party is anti-elitist, even if he mistakenly thought that Tea Party supporters resented the wealthy.
Schumer’s agenda is the same today as it has always been: to frame the opposition as extremists. To that end, he is even willing to acknowledge that middle class incomes have declined “significantly” and that “good paying jobs” have disappeared “in the past few years.” If Schumer truly believes 2014 is a “golden opportunity” to boast about government, then Republican victory is certain, despite deep divisions. As they say: good luck with that!