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Tea Party Cabal in Congress and Voter Backlash

By       Message Karl Grossman     Permalink
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Will voter reaction to the U.S. government shutdown--notably the effect the Tea Party cabal in Congress is having on the public--have an impact in the coming election?

Will citizen outrage towards the GOP and particularly the Republican arch-conservatives whose actions have triggered the shutdown result in a voter backlash?

In New York City, it has become an issue in the race for mayor between Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota. "I'm being burdened by what the crazy part of the Republican Party is doing in Washington," Lhota declared in an interview on CNBC last week. "There's a spillover effect."

De Blasio's campaign has set up a website titled "Goldwater * Tea Party * Giuliani * Lhota." It links Lhota to the late conservative Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, quotes him as backing the tea party, and connects him, too, to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for whom Lhota was a top deputy.

In neighboring Nassau County on Long Island, Tom Suozzi, the Democratic candidate for county executive, the top post in Nassau government, is also linking his Republican rival, incumbent Ed Mangano, to the Tea Party.

Suozzi issued a statement last week charging that "Ed Mangano, on the eve of the Tea Party shutdown of the federal government, continues to proudly proclaim that he's a conservative Tea Party Republican." He declared that Mangano "supports the conservative agenda in Washington, and he must be held accountable."

A Mangano spokesman, Brian Nevin, countered that " Suozzi should focus more on his high tax-and-spend policies."

Mangano in an interview said that he "welcomed Tea Party support," reported an October 1 piece in the New York Times headlined "Rematch for Nassau County Executive Could Be Bellwether of National Trend."   The article quoted Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, as saying t he race for county executive in Nassau, a suburban county with 1.4 million people, could be "the canary in the coal mine" for national politics in 2014 and 2016.

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Already, in Suffolk County, to the east of Nassau, also a big suburban county with 1.4 million people, the situation is being raised in connection with the 2014 election. A New York State senator, Lee Zeldin, a conservative Republican, announced this week that he will be seeking the GOP nomination to run for the House of Representatives in 2014 and the Suffolk Democratic chairman, Richard Schaffer, declared: "The last thing we need is another Tea Party Republican to join Speaker Boehner's crew, who have ground our government to a half with their extreme ideas."

Zeldin, a Shirley resident, wants to run against incumbent Democratic Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton. Bishop has been strong in criticizing his GOP colleagues who have been blocking passage of a federal budget because of their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, known, too, as Obamacare.  

Bishop has said: "The House GOP has voted to ensure a harmful, and completely avoidable, shutdown of federal government operations... It is deeply reckless that the House leadership and its Tea Party-dominated caucus have abdicated their responsibility to govern and, instead, have chosen to pursue partisan political goals at the expense of the American people's interests."  

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Look for other Democratic politicians to make similar statements in the days, the weeks and the months ahead. An extremist faction within the Republican Party is shooting itself and the GOP not just in the foot--but in the party's political heart.

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There is deep unhappiness in the United States over what is going on. And these arch-conservative zealots don't get it. A major Tea Party and GOP figure in the shutdown, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, rejects the possibility that--as CNN's Candy Crowley asked--his actions have "hurt the Republican Party brand." Cruz, in a CNN interview Sunday, responded: "Not remotely."


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Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up.

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