By Charles D. Ellison
It goes without saying that the debt-ceiling debate left a detectably sour taste in the collective mouths of any Americans paying attention. Which is to say that Washington looked so dysfunctional that folks actually paid attention. This was the silver lining in the impasse. Perhaps that’s what democracy needs, an injection of the anti-apathy.
It’s the credit tea party folks don’t get. Although they represent about 20 percent of a very decentralized, but angry American public, they represent an active percent. You might not agree with them, but, hey now: they get whatever they want to get done. “Both parties are sitting in a burning theater,” deadpanned FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe on a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, one of numerous self-appointed and highly visible tea party founders who ripped it away from a poor Florida woman with a picket sign. “It’s crowded, it’s burning. They’re doing nothing. We yelled ‘fire,’ and now they call us irresponsible?”
He is also one of many well-(corporate) financed naysayers of “big government” and “over regulation” representing a small, dangerously ill-informed segment of the population that is centered in small Main Street rural parts of America. Places where they don’t want to get it. Kibbe, running naked through his proverbial burning theater, is quick on the scene to tap that. The message to the rest of us is if you want to get your way then haul your ass to the next town hall.
We belabor the tea party because it impacts a big question everyone is asking: what this means for President Obama’s reelection prospects in 2012. While it’s still very early in the cycle to make predictions, it’s bad enough to feel the tear on the tea leaves. It’s not a good look. Certainly, if the election were held today, he’d lose. A recent aggregation of RealClearPolitics’ tracked polling data finds the President’s approval rating at 44%. Gallup, which is the Godfather of polls, has him at 41% – spread 10 points away from the 51% disapproval rating which means he’s got a long way to scratch.