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Thomas Frank: Why the Tea Party Needs Mitt

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Ode on American Earnings
A Poem for Campaign 2012

Goldman Sachs ($367,200)
Credit Suisse Group ($203,750)
Morgan Stanley ($199,800)
HIG Capital ($186,500)
Barclays ($157,750)
Kirkland & Ellis ($132,100)
Bank of America ($126,500)
PriceWaterhouseCoopers ($118,250)
EMC Corp ($117,300)
JPMorgan Chase & Co ($112,250)
The Villages ($97,500)
Vivint Inc ($80,750)
Marriott International ($79,837)
Sullivan & Cromwell ($79,250)
Bain Capital ($74,500)
UBS AG ($73,750)
Wells Fargo ($61,500)
Blackstone Group ($59,800)
Citigroup Inc ($57,050)
Bain & Co ($52,500).

Now, if that isn't a poem that sings the (corporate) body electric, I don't know what is.  According to the invaluable OpenSecrets.org website, it's also the list of the top 20 contributors to presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign.  It's his "people," so to speak.  And if he weren't to get the nomination, those involved (or their PACs, employees, owners, and top execs) would be someone else's people because places like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase -- four of whose officials recently held a $2,500-a-person fundraiser for Romney in New York City -- just love presidential candidates.  They are simply so much more civic-minded than the rest of us.

As it happens, another must-read ode to our screwy moment has entered our world.  Just out from Thomas Frank (author of the bestselling What's the Matter with Kansas?) is a riveting new book on the Tea Party and the country.  It's focus: how for almost two post-economic meltdown years -- until, that is, Occupy Wall Street came along -- we were left in a land of activists (and Republican operatives and billionaires) promoting a set of positions so wild that, under normal conditions, they might send you to an asylum, not the White House.  It is a movement, Frank writes, "in favor of the very conditions that had allowed Wall Street to loot the world."

It's as if, having had your city ravaged by Attila the Hun, you formed a movement in total outrage that essentially begged Attila to take another whistle-stop hop through your wrecked community.  The book, with a title to die for, is Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, and Frank has a little advice for the Tea Party whose life he's chronicled and whose rank-and-file activists could still help put a quarter-billionaire in the White House to defend his financial betters. Tom

Pity the Quarter-Billionaire
Take a Ride on the RINO in 2012

By Thomas Frank

Dear Tea Party Movement,

For the last few months, the world has been fascinated by your frenzied search for a presidential candidate who is not Mitt Romney. We know that you find the man inauthentic and that you have buoyed up a string of anti-Mitts in the Iowa polling -- Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich -- buffoons all, preposterous figures whom you have rightfully changed your minds about as soon as you got to know them.

It was quite a spectacle, your quest for the non-Romney -- and I think we all know why you undertook it. In ways that matter, Romney is clearly a problem for you. His views on abortion, for example, change with the winds. Ditto, gay rights. He designed the Massachusetts health insurance system that was the model for Obamacare. And he's even said that he approved of the TARP bank bailout, the abomination that ignited the Tea Party uprising in the first place.

Grievous offenses all, I have no doubt. Still, my advice to you idealists of the right is this: get over it. Not for sell-out reasons like: Romney has the best chance of beating Obama. No. You should get behind the charging Massachusetts RINO (your favorite term for a Republican-In-Name-Only sellout type) because, in a certain paradoxical way, he may turn out to be the truest of all the candidates to the spirit of your movement.

After all, given everything you represent, why wouldn't you line up behind this quarter-billionaire who's calling for just a little human love and sympathy for billionaires?  I'm sure you already understand me perfectly well, but just to be certain, let me make the case.

The Gimme Candidate of 2012

Start with those issues where Romney's positions so offend the sensibilities of you Robespierre Republicans. First, of course, the social issues.  If nothing else, you in the Tea Party movement have spent the last three years teaching Americans that they no longer matter -- not when we're supposedly in a battle for the very soul of capitalism.

And here comes Mitt Romney, the soul of American capitalism in the flesh. Look back over his career as a predator drone at Bain Capital: Isn't it the exact sort of background you always insist politicians ought to have? Isn't it the sort of titanic enterprise for which you lust, as you wave your copy of Atlas Shrugged in the air?

You accuse the former Massachusetts governor of opportunism, but from where I stand, the bad faith is all on your side. What offends you about Romney's Massachusetts healthcare plan, for example, isn't that it crushes human liberty, but that it provided the model for President Obama's own healthcare overhaul, which you spent the last two years decrying as the deed of a power-grabbing socialist.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews (more...)
 

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