Republicans and Democrats
BY SETH GALINSKY
NEW YORK—Tea party-backed real estate millionaire Carl Paladino routed former congressman Richard Lazio to win the Republican nomination for governor in the September 14 primaries here. While shaking up the Republican establishment, Paladino’s win and other tea party victories also have sections of the Democratic Party on edge.
In Delaware, tea party candidate Christine O’Donnell won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. She handily beat Michael Castle, a congressman since 1993, who had the support of state and national Republican leaders. These follow earlier tea party victories in gaining Republican Party nominations in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, and Utah.
Channeling the resentment felt by many middle-class voters and some workers, Paladino promised to “clean out Albany with a baseball bat” to dislodge what he calls “the ruling class.”
“We are mad as hell,” Paladino said in his victory speech September 14. “The people have had enough.”
Like other tea party candidates, Paladino emphasized fiscal responsibility and opposition to big government and its meddling in individual’s private affairs. He didn’t say much about his opposition to legalizing undocumented workers and abortion rights, as well as his views on other social issues.
As the U.S. economy falters and unemployment continues to clobber working people—and in the absence of forces moving in the direction of a mass working-class party independent of the Democrats and Republicans—the tea party wins a hearing for voting out incumbents from both parties. According to the Washington Post, “poll after poll” shows that both the Democratic and Republican parties are “deeply unpopular with the electorate looking for something new and different.”
While the tea party is a heterogeneous grouping, its supporters often rail against the Republican “establishment” as much as they do against the Democrats. “George W. Bush and many incumbents, including President Obama, are the reason we even have the Tea Party movement,” said Fox news commentator Andrea Tantaros, a tea party proponent. She complained that Bush was responsible for “open borders, tax cuts that expire, Medicare Part D, and busted budgets.”
Paladino’s “combative style” has unnerved his opponents. Paladino challenged Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo to “come out and debate like a man.” Cuomo, so far, has skirted Paladino’s challenge.
“I’ve been saying everything you just said from the beginning of this campaign,” Cuomo told the New York Post, referring to Paladino’s economic proposals. “You’re going to have to cut the programs because you’re not going to be able to pay the amount.”
Some Democratic Party tops are hoping that the fracture lines in the Republican Party will bolster their chances in the November elections. But many union officials and others see the tea party successes as a threat to the Democrats too.
“Labor leaders, alarmed at a possible Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress, promise to devote a record amount of money and manpower to helping Democrats stave off disaster,” the New York Times wrote September 17.
“The problem for us is to really re-excite the rank and file to the greatest degree possible,” Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told the Times, noting that union members were “disappointed” at the lack of government action, “especially to create jobs.”
“We heard everything was going to change,” Mike DeGasperis, a steelworker from Martins Ferry, Ohio, told the Times, referring to the election of Obama. “But there hasn’t been much change and the unemployment is still bad and the area we live in is still really depressed.” He said he had not decided which candidates he will support.
Union officials and the NAACP are pulling out the stops for the October 2 march for “jobs, justice, and education” they have called for Washington, D.C. They hope the event will convince unionists and other workers to get out the vote for the Democrats. March organizers say they are expecting hundreds of thousands to turn out for the action.