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Peter Smirniotopoulos

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Politics Down the Rabbit Hole

Posted: 09/29/11 05:42 PM ET

"Has the President Turned the Corner?" suggested that the president's re-election prospects had brightened considerably due to a variety of developments during the week of September 19th. While some of these developments related to things the president had said and done, the other half of this equation reflects growing voter discomfort over what had been said and done by the Tea Party. Voters, even moderate Republicans, are becoming increasingly nervous about the Tea Party's unusually potent influence over the GOP leadership in the House. This potent influence has been highlighted most-recently by what can best be described as overt pandering by a majority of the GOP primary candidates to Tea Party audiences at the candidates' debates.

Two interesting and related articles have come out this week that seem to validate the notion that the Tea Party may end up being a heavy anchor around the neck of the GOP in the 2012 election. First, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough published an opinion column on Politico.com on Monday entitled "Crazy never wins GOP sweepstakes." Referring to Ronald Reagan who, after his passing, seems to have gained almost mythical status with the Far Right, Scarborough writes "Reagan ignored the most extreme elements in his party and governed from the center when compromise was required. That pragmatic streak required the conservative movement's founder to come to the Gipper's defense more than once." Second, on Wednesday, Mother Jones published "Americans Dislike the Tea Party More Than Ever Before," reporting that recent CNN/ORC and Pew Research Center polls show not only that support for the Tea Party is at an all-time low, but that there is a growing sentiment that voters are at best becoming annoyed by the Tea Party.

Having a commonly accepted enemy to fight against can be a very powerful tool in motivating voters. The president used growing dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush to great effect in his 2008 presidential campaign. Consequently, how the electorate feels about the Tea Party, and the extent to which they feel the Tea Party is leading the GOP and the country astray, may figure prominently in the outcome of the 2012 election.

The way voters now view the GOP field of candidates, and the Tea Party's influence over them, is perhaps no better illustrated, quite literally, than in a forthcoming book by long-time political activists and founders of TakeBacktheMedia.com, Michael Stinson and Julie Sigwart. mAlice in Wonderland: A Tea Party Fable adapts Lewis Carroll's The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland to our ongoing political dystopia at the hands of the Tea Party.

Having sat through all four of the televised GOP candidates' debates and thought that the only thing that could possibly make them seem even more Lewis Carroll-esque would have been the Caterpillar's hookah, this book resonates. Stinson and Sigwart are also the creative duo behind Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rouge Coloring and Activity Book. mAlice in Wonderland is meticulously illustrated by Sigwart, in the style of the Carroll original.

The Mock Turtle [House Speaker John Boehner] sighed deeply, and drew the back of one mahogany colored flapper across his eyes. He looked at Alice, and tried to speak, but for a minute or two sobs choked his voice. 'Same as if he had a wad of lobbyist cash in his throat,' said the Gryphon [Rush Limbaugh]: and set to work shaking him and punching him in the back, 'He tells the marks that he's crying for his country, but everyone knows he'd really rather drown it, like social programs in a shallow tub, in his own tears if necessary.' At last the Mock Turtle recovered his voice, and, with pale orange tears running down his cheeks, he went on again:--

'You may not have lived quite long enough to have seen them thriving -- ' ('I haven't,' said Alice) -- 'and perhaps you were never even introduced to someone who's Middle Class --' (Alice began to say 'I once knew one who slaved to send ALL their children to college --' but checked herself hastily, and said 'No, never') '-- so you can have no idea what a delightful thing the Toss The Middle Class Quadrille is!'

'No, indeed,' said Alice. 'What sort of a dance is it?'

'Why, Friends, after billionaires invented the Tea Party we had to make it fit for Public consumption,' said the Gryphon, 'you first form into a line forcing its way into Town Hall meetings--'

Stinson and Sigwart's mAlice in Wonderland is beyond marvelously clever: The fact that they've been working on it for more than three months demonstrates they've been paying very close attention to how truly distorted our politics have become. Tea Party regulars and conservatives (with a capital "C") will not like mAlice in Wonderland. Everyone else, particularly the mostly Left-leaning literati, will find it both comfortably familiar and remarkably sharp in its wit and cynicism. mAlice in Wonderland may well become required pleasure reading for liberals, progressives, and independents with a sense of humor. Even Mr. Scarborough and his right-leaning colleagues in the MSM may have to read it, if for no other reason than to be able to talk about mAlice in Wonderland on their cable programs.

mAlice in Wonderland offers a keen yet disdainful view of the MSM, with some pithy commentary about how social media is changing the way we think and act. An early description of Alice falling down the rabbit hole is illustrative of what's to come:

In another moment down went Alice after it [the white SuperPAC Rabbit, Karl Rove], never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, but she was able to follow the trail of money, before it dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. She clutched at roots to try and stop herself, and tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything but a faint, eerie glow, and soon the roots gave way to a tangle of fiber optic cables, coating the walls, all pulsing in synch. In an instant, she was surrounded on every side of the well by flat video screens floating near and far at impossible angles, each featuring a chattering news person with very stiff hair, or a website blathering of politics, and the further she fell the more insistent these monitors became, nearly flying up her nose as they battled for a spot before her eyes.

She furiously pushed away screen after screen, 'Ugh'. She said, 'Delete, delete, delete! I shall never have time to read any of these, and there are so many! Truly, how is one to believe ANY of them?!' One particularly aggressive set of screens sharing text between them fairly shouting "FREEDOMWORKS" flapped in her face like a butterfly, and she thought about how many organizations with an unpleasant agenda name their sites the very OPPOSITE of what they actually stand for. 'Delete, delete!' she said, kicking them aside, which sent them spinning and crashing into the rest, as she batted away at the swirling maelstrom. 'I'm fearful those Tea Party people are not what they seem to be. My sister [Rachel Maddow] has told me they're not grassroots by any measure of the word.'

Regrettably, Stinson was not able to carve out principal roles for the entire GOP field of candidates. Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Romney, and Santorum have somewhat minor roles, and Cain, Huntsman, and (former New Mexico Governor Gary) Johnson are notably absent from the list of characters. However, "casting" Sarah Palin as the Queen of Hearts and Michelle Bachmann as the Mad Hatter provides wonderful opportunities for some very entertaining and insightful dialogue.

As the Mother Jones article suggests, the Tea Party leadership and the GOP presidential hopefuls who overtly cozy up to the Tea Party movement may have finally overplayed their collective hand, perhaps unintentionally awakening a sleeping giant in the guise of the dormant Obama 2008 supporters (calling to mind Alice's sudden growth during her trumped-up trial in the King's Court, as described in the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). The president's potential 2012 supporters -- as a direct result of the fears they harbor about what havoc a Tea Party influenced GOP White House might wreak -- may collectively feel like Peter Finch's Howard Beale in Network , screaming "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

 

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