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BOTH SIDES NOW : After Shutdown, Nader and Alter Discuss 'Vote Against Extremism' As Slogan for 2014

10/20/2013 09:33 pm ET | Updated Oct 27, 2013

By Mark Green

Now that Congress crashed on Cruz Control, Ralph and Jonathan concur that Ted and the Tea Party are fringe but disagree on how Obama is taking them on. And they debate the prospects of Cruz, Booker, Brown.

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Nader and Alter do an after-report on the Shutdown and whether the Tea Party has peaked and/or will do a reprise in February. Also, has Ted Cruz talked himself into being a serious presidential contender or set himself up for a Joseph Welch moment (aka, Cruzin' for a Bruisin')?

On Tea Party Shutdown. How did Obama play his cards in the Defund/Default conflict? "Very well," thinks Alter, "winning in a rout mostly because of the Tea Party [failings] but also because Obama surprised them with his skill. Boehner's people early on thought 'Obama always folds.' Not this time." Alter: "Because of the Tea Party, this is a different GOP -- it was never a no-taxes-under-any-circumstances party but a deficit reduction party which also supported public infrastructure."

Nader agrees that the Tea Party wing is "the most cruel, ignorant, ideological Republican party since it began in the 1850s. That's why Obama should never have lost the House in 2010 and 2012." Well, can he at least use this political victory in the shutdown saga to gain leverage for the next budget fight or elections in 2014? Yes, says Ralph, "If he takes it to the Republicans in the House on their 60 bad votes [see Progressive Caucus] on such majoritarian issues like the minimum wage, public works, pre-school, immigration. Where's FDR?"

Alter, author of The Defining Moment about FDR's first 100 days, notes that the left in the '30s also didn't think Roosevelt went far enough. But didn't FDR work more with Labor to organize people to support him? Nader pounces: "Why didn't he go to those large labor rallies against Walker in Wisconsin...or even allow Biden to attend?" Nader, however, does approve of Obama's language this week

Back to the Tea Party: The two agree that it has recently fallen -- from minus 8 in fav-unfav in June to minus 19 now in October. We hear McCain and Schumer denounce their scorched-earth approach. But Nader/Alter doubt that they've peaked, agreeing that this one-half of the House GOP Caucus doesn't much care if they're popular "so long as they maintain their leverage in the House and Senate based on their arcane rules," according to Ralph.

The two have somewhat different views on how Democrats could run against them next year. Jonathan wants to Goldwaterize them by using the Truman-esque slogan of "Vote Against Extremism." Ralph instead urges Democrats to run on a positive progressive that would attract large majorities. He lauds Obama's reverse-Reaganism of touting the role of government this past week and how it's essential for seniors, veterans, kids, workers, and marketplace and workplace safety. Obama: "Let's work together to make our government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it worse." But the consumer advocate and occasional presidential candidate dismisses that as "very good rhetoric" when, again, it's the program that matters most.

One problem, best argued by James Fallows -- the extensive media "false equivalence" that just tsks tsks "congressional dysfunction" for what was this Tea Party shutdown and near-default. Alter deplores how major media "handcuff" themselves by this protocol while Ralph goes further to denounce how the Sunday shows seem to only able to quote McCain-Graham "as if there are no other people on Capital Hill. Where's Warren or Saunders...or Hightower or Greider?"

Referring to Obama's comment that the public should listen less to "radio talk show hosts and bloggers," the Host asks Alter if the Rush/Sean crowd helps cause this extremism or merely mirrors it. While only 5 percent on any given night is listening to say Fox, answers Jonathan, "They do have an outsize influence on GOP primary voters...and there are parts of the country that for 25 years have only heard Rush's point of view, which can have an impact."

On Prospects of Cruz, Booker and Brown. Cruz has obviously struck a chord with his base -- he has a 74 percent favorable to 8 percent unfavorable rating among Tea Party members. They agree, however, they that his soaring unpopularity with general election voters (11 points underwater) mean that the Obama White House "wakes up every day thanking God Ted Cruz exists" (Alter) and that "he's merely a bomb-thrower in a confined space" and "if he keeps it up, he'll help change the filibuster rules" (Nader).

Do Gov. Jerry Brown's recent successes on the California economy, the budget and immigration merely reflect the two-thirds Democratic majority he enjoys or is he putting himself in play for president in 2016 when he'll be a young 77? Nader believes him to be "very astute politically and keeping himself available if anyone falters in 2016." Alter says that "You'd think that 77 is a disqualification but he's more like 67 or younger."

How do you assess the likely performance of Cory Booker, now only the fourth African-American (and 21st mayor) ever elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction? Alter thinks he'll star in the Senate, though hopes that he'll start modestly like Clinton/Franken and not play into his reputation as more a celebrity than a serious guy. Nader, however, thinks he'll be "a mediocre Senator because he doesn't challenge corporate power." Retorts Alter: "No, he doesn't like to throw spitballs at capitalists but that doesn't mean he's in their pocket."

On (again) Affirmative Action in Supreme Court. Can the 58 percent of Michigan voters in a 2006 referendum ban affirmative action in the state? We discuss how Roberts, Scalia and Cruz are all "smart" in terms of test scores and information "but when it comes to confronting power and not just reacting to it," says Nader contemptuously, "they're in grade school." Alter agrees, noting that any justice who can cling to an "originalist" interpretation of the Constitution can't be that smart.

The Host deplores how, in recent decisions, Roberts and Scalia have shown their racial insensitivity by equating white and black rights when it comes to affirmative action, such as Scalia's comment that the Voting Rights Act was a form of "racial entitlement." For Roberts to say recently that "the way to end discrimination is to end discrimination" is good political rhetoric; but it shows his ignorance of how America fought a civil war and endured Jim Crow because one race used racial superiority to oppress the other. So affirmative action can't be judged as racially neutral...unless you think that an organization called the National Association for the Advancement of White People is the moral equivalent of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

On "Your Week". Citing Ralph's own ventures into fiction with the novel Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, Alter discusses his new comedy series for Amazon, with Garry Trudeau and John Goodman, called "Alpha House," coming out in within a couple months. Ralph tells how he's going back to his Alma Mater Harvard Law School next week to make sure that they evolve from "success to significance by training more graduates for public interest law, especially given its $1.7 billion endowment."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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