National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Tea Bags, 2M4M & Susan Boyle

The thousands of Americans who engaged in exhibitions of public teabagging yesterday, a.k.a. rallies emulating the anti-tax Boston Tea Party, cheered on by Fox News and CNBC throughout the day, constitute the Republican Party’s worst nightmare.

The right wing is simply not cut out for the kind of populist mass demonstrations that their counterparts on the left have been mastering since the suffragette days. When the right does it, the radical fringe piles onto the center stage,and makes it a horrible embarrassment for everyone.

The same goes for when Karl Rove or Dick Cheney dive for the spotlight to defend the Bush legacy and criticize the Obama administration. Are they really so ego-centered and obsessed that they don’t see the damage they wreaking on efforts to retool their party as a potentially-viable force in future years?

The once-mighty GOP has not only struck an iceberg, but it is not even seriously trying to limit the damage by steering away from it, gashes are ripped deeper and deeper into its hull.

Take the case in Virginia, where right-wing Republicans successfully dug their own political graves last week by rejecting a plan of Gov. Tim Kaine to qualify the state for added federal stimulus funds aimed at broadening the availability of unemployment benefits.

In many parts of Virginia, especially in the more rural areas that tend to be run by the right wing, the unemployment rate is already far over 12 percent, and still rising.

As a result, the state’s unemployment trust fund is on the brink of insolvency, and the only way it can be maintained, once exhausted, is by raising the amount that employers have to pay into it.

So, with this stroke, the state’s GOP not only punished the unemployed, but the business community at the same time. This year’s statewide elections in Virginia were supposed to be a harbinger for a GOP comeback after its debacles of 2008. But chances of that happening all but vanished with last week’s vote in the state legislature.

Every single Democrat voted for the governor’s plan, so blame for its defeat can be pinned exclusively on the GOP writ large, and Democrats are licking their chops for the chance at not only retaining the statehouse, but winning a major in the House of Delegates in time to dictate redistricting in 2011.

In this way, the GOP remains trapped in its own shell, or hell. It is banking on the hope that the American public will become impatient with Obama soon enough, and drop its support for him. So, these delusional GOP types think, all they need to do is remain true to their same-old-same-old approach to the issues, and they’ll again become America’s darlings.

But the world has changed, American culture has changed, and they really, really don’t get it.

Their teabagging campaign led to little more than a cascade of jokes about alternative definitions of the term that had even some of the most austere news commentators, like David Gergen, giggling uncontrollably on national TV.

Just as humorous has been the wanna-be-hip campaign of the rightwing National Organization for Marriage, whose recent “dark storm rising” television ad campaign against gay marriage was already widely discredited for its use of professional (such as they were) actors masquerading as concerned, fearful citizens.

Now, the group has adopted a supposedly Internet-savvy slogan, 2M4M, ostensibly texting and twittering shorthand for “2 Million for Marriage.”

The problem is that the shorthand has already been in play for a long time on Internet social networking sites, and it stands for “2 Men for a Man,” in other words, it is a code for hooking up for a three-way homosexual tryst.

The only thing more uplifting than the Internet’s exposure of all this evidence of the right wing’s hilarious social stumbling has been the incredible YouTube video of the 47-year-old “cheekey monkey” Susan Boyle singing from “Les Mis” on the Britain’s Got Talent amateur competition. That, and the fact the guy who is running away with this season’s American Idol competition is openly gay, are making for a very good week.