Schumer Speech to Liberal Think Tank Targets Tea Party

Image: Schumer Speech to Liberal Think Tank Targets Tea Party

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 11:18 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer will attempt to dilute the tea party in a speech today by arguing that its working-class base are nothing more than stooges for the wealthy donors who fill the party’s coffers, The Hill reports.

Addressing liberal think tank Center for American Progress, Schumer plans to characterize the donors – many of whom are considered titans of American industry – as prosperous puppeteers posing as libertarians to protect their pro-business agenda.

“Wealthy Tea Party leaders have convinced Tea Party rank and file and many other Americans that anti-government ideology is the answer to their problems – but many Tea Partiers and sympathizers support government programs – Democrats must exploit the difference,” Schumer’s office said in a statement announcing the speech, according to The Hill.

Schumer also will suggest a two-party primary would undercut the tea party movement, according to The Associated Press.

Schumer says a number of states let voters of all parties participate in a primary, with the top two vote-getters deciding the election in a runoff. This can result in more moderate Republicans and independents prevailing, according to excerpts from his speech.

A year ago, Mother Jones published a piece with a similar tone, saying that the conservative non-profit FreedomWorks “battled accusations of ‘astroturfing’ – posing as a populist organization while doing the bidding of big-money donors.”

A strategist for the Tea Party Express, a political action committee, tells The Hill that the movement’s followers are far savvier than Schumer and the Democrats realize, explaining that the tea party was born in response to the “oppressive intrusion into the people’s lives by the federal government, runaway spending and an unsustainable national debt.”

In fact, “the Tea Party is an indigenous grassroots reaction to ‘exactly what Chuck Schumer is,’” noted Sal Russo, the strategist.

Schumer is the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, behind Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois.

The genesis of Schumer’s position stems from recent polling data showing that 39 percent of respondents want the president to focus on the economy over the federal deficit, something Schumer believes provides Democrats an opportunity to sway tea partiers to the left’s agenda of things like extending unemployment and raising the minimum wage.

“He will suggest specific issues for Democrats to focus on in 2014 in order to remind the Tea Party and its supporters that government can be a force for good,” his office said.

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