Since January of last year, worries about the ballooning deficit and the Obama administration's spending excesses have been driving the polls and the political debate. The only thing that seems likely to prevent massive conservative victories in this year's midterm elections would be missteps by key leaders within the movement.
Over the last week, we have seen a high-profile Republican senator and a noteworthy grass-roots conservative do just that — perhaps enough to make people stand up in passionate opposition to the conservative momentum of the past two years.
Last Sunday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) made a statement on deficit spending that reeked of the Republican stereotype that has in recent elections driven both conservative Democrats and independent voters into the arms of the Democratic Party. Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Kyl said unemployment benefits should not be extended if financed through deficit spending — thus eliminating a much-needed safety net for thousands of Americans currently on their last line of defense during this recession.
Kyl also went on to argue that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should not be eliminated, even if that meant deficit spending should cover the shortfall. In juxtaposing these contradictory positions to the Sunday political television audience, Kyl created an opportunity for passionate conservatives and liberal voters to unite on a common issue facing the nation: unemployment and the accompanying economic peril that folks everywhere (except Capitol Hill, apparently) are painfully aware of. With all of the momentum that Republicans have gained at the expense of Democrats and the White House over the past 18 months, taking positions that favor the segment of Americans least likely to suffer during this crisis jeopardize the inroads that conservatives have made with a growing portion of American voters.
Williams' bigoted ignorance arrogantly and disrespectfully pitted the contemporary economic significance of a civil rights organization to the economic engine of rape, torture, brutality, exploitation and murder that slavery was for slave traders — and the fledgling United States — for more than 200 years. Any moral high ground the Tea Party had over the NAACP on issues of race evaporated the moment this soulless statement was offered on behalf of a grass-roots movement full of good people who do not share Williams' viewpoint.
The Tea Party movement will suffer another huge public relations demerit in the battle to gain enough political capital to drive the midterm elections this fall. Democrats are haunted by a lingering recession, a bad oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, mounting debt and an aura of ineffectiveness. However, if key Republicans and conservative leaders continue to launch diatribes of economic inconsistency and racial insensitivity, the ghosts of 1994 that brought the conservative right to power on Capitol Hill may remain just a memory in November.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the book, Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative). He is featured regularly on outlets including CNN, Fox News and XM Radio. Follow him on Twitter.