The Fever is Spiking

For two years the American political landscape has been rocked by a movement that has turned the GOP into a Frankenstein and set back rational debate on climate change. I submit that the Tea Party’s power to shape politics and climate policy has now crested. Consider two seemingly unrelated events that happened yesterday.

One of them, a source of unnecessary anguish for some (but really a clever chess move move by Democrats), was written up in The Hill:

The House rejected a Democratic amendment Wednesday that would have put the chamber on record backing the widely held scientific view that global warming is occurring and humans are a major cause.

Others are also inclined to interpret this event as a dark day for humanity. But I see it as the moment the Tea party tinged opposition to climate science spiked.

That’s because it came on the same day that Glenn Beck announced his departure from Fox News. This observation in the Guardian captures why I think the phenomena of the Tea Party as a political force will be short-lived (my emphasis):

The show’s peak of popularity coincided with the rise of the Tea Party, and his trademark blend of paranoia and conspiracy attracting a wide following ““ and an equally wide circle of criticism, thanks to often bizarre statements.

Will the Tea Party’s influence on the climate debate be a passing phenomenon, like Glenn Beck? I think we’ll know the answer to that on November 6, 2012.

46 Responses to “The Fever is Spiking”

  1. lucia says:

    Weird.  I don’t know if your theory about the tea-party cresting is correct or incorrect. But I’d love to read “back channel” discussions about the full Beck story. He still has great ratings, or am I mistaken?

  2. Keith Kloor says:


    Great ratings aside (they have been steadily declining, too), because Beck’s craziness has become increasingly transparent to a wider audience and is subject to routine mockery, I suspect that Fox News decided that he was bringing their brand down.

    I know that’s saying a lot when they still have a slightly less loony O’Reilly (the tides go in, the tides go out) and a hyperpartisan Hannity, but Beck really has proven to be orders of magnitude of craziness above them.

    At some point, even a place like Fox News has to draw the line somewhere.

  3. lucia says:

    On further reading, I suspect you are right. Beck’s ratings sliding from #1 to #3 would by themselves not lead to cancelling the show. But it seems the craziness is losing advertisers and I guess many would judge further sliding likely. Putting a fresh face into a time slot while it draws viewers and hoping that can maintain or attract more audience is probably wise.
    even a place like Fox News has to draw the line somewhere
    Maybe. I suspect a business motives may predominate and Beck would stay in place a long time if ratings didn’t slide and advertisers spent money!

  4. lucia says:

    Need…. edit… feature….I suspect a business motives

  5. kdk33 says:

    Ahhh, the Tea Party boogeyman.  Nice try.

    As most know, what we are actually debating is whether or not the EPA should regulate CO2, and the Waxman resolution would have provided cover.  The EPA play is an executive branch end-run, a fallback, after democrats failed to pass cap and trade.  Republicans want CO2 regulation choices to be made in the legislature (where they belong, IMO), not by bureaucrats. 

    AGW was not envisioned when the legislation creating EPA was written.  CO2 is so ubiquitous and energy cost a critical economic driver; it is clearly beyond the original intent. 

    Tea party boogeymen not withstanding.

  6. Oddly. I concur with kdk33 and think going through EPA is a bizarre and absurdly awkward way of dealing with the problem.
    However, what matters is 1) that the Supreme Court does not think so, and 2) that the congress seems incapable of coming up with something better. Everybody’s a purist when the other guy pushes the limits.
    As for the Tea Party, it is clear that whatever the people supporting it may think or might have thought, it is an instrument of irresponsible corporate raiding of the treasury and a complete sell-out of the United States.
    We can hope that this phenomenon has peaked, but not soon enough to avoid a lot of permanent damage. The fact that they have turned climate disruption into a wedge issue in America, though is likely to persist after their likely remission and hopeful collapse. That could end up being their worst legacy among various real and tragic human impacts. Being in Texas and recently hailing from Wisconsin, where these things are happening at a dizzying pace, it’s hard for me to take the ongoing massive destruction of the social fabric in the name of “freedom” lightly.
    Even a couple of years of this will sting for a very long time.

  7. Roddy Campbell says:

    Keith, the quote you give from The Hill about the Waxman amendment leaves out the third section:
    – world is warming
    – we largely did it
    – it poses significant risks for public health
    While kdk33 I’m sure is right, that third section is rather less certain / definitive / quantified and so on than the first two, and is an important part of the amendment.

  8. kdk33 says:

    “it’s hard for me to take the ongoing massive destruction of the social fabric in the name of “freedom” lightly”

    And, frankly, it’s hard for me to take anything you say seriously when you offer such vitriol with nothing substantive underneath.  Other than “they don’t agree with me”.  I

    Massive destruction of the social fabric.  Is that euphemism for balanced budget.

  9. harrywr2 says:

    US Politics is played between the 40 yard lines.
    The Tea Party emerged when ‘someone’ tried to carry the ball past the 40 yard line. The ball is moving back to the center of the field and the steam of the Tea party will eventually dissipate.
    It’s hard for Beck to maintain a ‘frenzied’ tone when the ball is heading in the direction his audience prefers. Hence he ended up ‘reaching’ into conspiracy land in an effort to maintain the frenzy.
    In the US we prefer divided government.
    It minimizes the risk that 1/6th of the economy will be nationalized in the middle of the night and other such concerns.

  10. ivp0 says:

    Interesting chess move indeed.  I am not sure how it will play out.  Time will tell.
    As for Glen Beck and Fox News well, it isn’t really news anyway is it?  More like another bad reality TV show.  One that does get ratings.  In fact CNN, NPR, PBS, MSNBC, have become marginal news services as well.  “Let’s see how much we can scare you” seems to be the current formula to get ratings and it has little to do with newsworthy events.  They are increasingly irrelevant to me and mine and I prefer to get my news in print where usually cooler heads prevail.  Where are you Walter Cronkite???

  11. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    First off, I really have to wonder at calling the Tea Party a monster which has set back rational debate on climate change.  I’m not sure there has ever been a rational debate on climate change in the United States (politically speaking), and I certainly don’t see how the Tea Party could be blamed for the debate becoming less sensible.
    Second, exactly how does Glenn Beck leaving Fox News lead you to believe the Tea Party’s influence has crested?  Do you think his leaving will cause the Tea Party to “fall apart”?  Do you think his absence will severely diminish the Tea Party’s influence?  Or is there something else I’m missing?

  12. Menth says:

    Here’s a column on the Tea Party that is not about climate change per se, but does offer an interesting take on the movement.

  13. Since around the 70s every American generation gets the clownish, noisy Moral Majority it deserves.  And the GOP will reliably kowtow to it for awhile, until it collides with the plutocratic interests backing the parties and/or foments a widespread disgust counter-vote.

  14. Dean_1230 says:

    Michael, re #6,
    While IANAL, and I most certainly am not a SCOTUS expert, I always understood this ruling to be for the following reasons:

    1)  Evidence has been presented that CO2 is causing a change in the climate and that that change is bad.  This evidence has prompted CO2 to be labeled “pollution”.

    2) Congress has refused to make any rules involving CO2

    3) SCOTUS rules that since Congress won’t act, then the only recourse is for the organization that deals with controlling pollution (the EPA) to deal with CO2.

    4) As soon as either A) congress acts or B) CO2 is determined not to be a pollutant, the EPA will no longer be bound by the SCOTUS ruling.
    Am I wrong in that understanding???  If not, then putting the matter back in the legislature’s hands is not wrong as that’s where the SCOTUS said it should be.  Likewise, if the legislature states that CO2 is not a pollutant, then the SCOTUS ruling is null/void.

  15. Keith Grubb says:

    Some of you people have lost your minds, and I need some karma!

  16. Keith Grubb says:

    I submit that the Green Movement’s power to shape climate policy has now crested. Consider this amazing result, that happened in the land down under.

    I suggest the same thing happens to Democrats that embrace this nonsense. Time will tell.

  17. jeffn says:

    I suppose that this means the departure of Keith Olbermann means the loony left “crested” as well, or is the “tv personality=political party status” game that only points dirty fingers at the GOP?

    I don’t remember the Tea Party forming around “global warming”- I do remember it forming around the notion that government spending was going nuts- a theory driven by the fact that Dems had just passed a trillion-dollar health bill and government spending was in fact going nuts. Most say it started with a business anchor’s rant about bailouts.

    You could, of course, realistically argue that the Tea Party would clearly be unsympathetic with the urgent need to pass a huge, regressive energy tax to give the UN a $30 billion global warming “adaptation and mitigation” slush fund during a deep U.S. recession. But that idea had been on the table since at least 1992 and was going nowhere in the U.S. long before anyone heard the word Tea Party and long before the economy tanked.

    On a lighter note- One more time, can anyone explain why you think it’s really good political strategy to insist on attacking the Tea Party and GOP – which together get between 48 and 54% of the electorate?

    Seriously. Why? You know the problem is the exaggeration from green groups and the cost of “action” and yet you insist this all about partisanship.

  18. Keith Kloor says:


    I view the Tea Party as being propelled by an anti-Obama fever, because many of the Tea Party’s supposed big issues (spending, deficit, etc should have whipped them up during the Bush Administration. Nada.

    I’ve covered that ground before on this blog.

    Now maybe if you strip the birther/death panel contingent from the Tea party, maybe we’d get some where. But somehow I don’t think that fringe will be pulling the lever for a Democrat in 2012.

  19. lucia says:


    Oddly. I concur with kdk33 and think going through EPA is a bizarre and absurdly awkward way of dealing with the problem.

    However, what matters is 1) that the Supreme Court does not think so,

    I am under the impression were born and raised in Canada where I assume you probably didn’t have various features explained at different times during your childhood schooling.   The US Supreme Court’s ruling as they did in no way implies that going through the EPA is not bizarre or awkward.
    INAL. Nevertheless, I know there  is no constitutional provision saying the US government cannot do things in  bizarre awkward ways.  

    Being in Texas and recently hailing from Wisconsin, where these things are happening at a dizzying pace, it’s hard for me to take the ongoing massive destruction of the social fabric in the name of “freedom” lightly.


    “Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”
    ” Mayor: All right, all right! I get the point!”

    SCOTUS interpreted the provisions of The Clean Air Act passed in 1970. Under their interpretation of that bill, the EPA can and must act.
    Once again: INAL. Still,   I’m pretty sure that your explanation is a bit muddled. SCOTUS didn’t rule ” since Congress won’t act, then the only recourse is for the organization that deals with controlling pollution (the EPA) to deal with CO2.” The court interpreted provisions of  The Clean Air Act passed by Congress way back in 1970 . I’m not going to write more because… INAL. But Wikipedia seems to have a pretty good discussion of the case:

    Now, returning to firmer “high school constitution test” grounds: 

    Congress can modify acts. If they modify the The Clean Air act to take away the EPA’s power and obligation to investigate whether CO2 is a pollutant and to act if they find is a pollutant, the EPA will no longer be required or able to regulate CO2.  In this “do nothing” circumstance, Supreme Court could not instruct the EPA to regulate CO2.
    For the most part, power to regulate CO2 ultimately  lies with Congress. (Note: the President does get involved on the way. The President could veto a bill passed by Congress, and then Congress can override bills. ) 

    I think your understanding is a bit muddled, but the matter is in the hands of the legislature, ultimately by virtue of the US Constitution.  If they chose to do so, Congress could agree CO2 is a pollutant but still leave it unregulated. The constitution permits this and the Supreme Court couldn’t change this.  Congress could also regulate CO2 differently from other pollutants. They have many options.
    The current bill is intended to take the power and responsibility away form the EPA.

  20. Keith Grubb says:

    Sligh way of calling the Tea Party racists there Keith. Are you seriously comparing the Bush Deficit to Obama’s?

  21. kdk33 says:

    Yes, KK has indeed described the Tea Party as a rascist reaction to a president-of-color (mostly red, from a budgetary perspective). 

    I’m not aware of any scientific basis for the notion that racism breeds climate denial.  But I strongly suspect that racism is in part the result of climate change.

  22. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    Keith Grubb, I don’t see anything in Keith Kloor’s comments which implies the Tea Party is racist.
    That said, his position is obviously fallacious.  He suggests the Tea Party is propelled by an anti-Obama fever because it didn’t come about during Bush’s presidency.  There are hundreds of differences which would confound such a comparison, and he doesn’t address any.  One of the simplest explanations is momentum.  People may have been frustrated during Bush’s presidency over these very issues.  They may have gotten more frustrated as his presidency went on.  Their frustration may then have reached a “breaking point” during Obama’s presidency because his actions were even more distressing.  This would be completely contrary to Kloor’s claims, and it would make perfect sense.
    As far as I can tell, Kloor hasn’t called the Tea Party racist.  He just has called the Tea Party a monster which has hampered a rational debate which never actually existed.

  23. kdk33 says:

    I do not have a link to the CaS thread, as it is quite old.  But it was certainly my understanding that KK considered the Tea Party Racists.

    However, I will defer to any clarification he cares to post today.

  24. NewYorkJ says:

    No serious knowledgeable scientist would reject this statement:

    “Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate changes is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.”

    Republican politicians are either incredibly ignorant, or are puppets of a fanatical base, or both.  Since there isn’t much sign from their actions that the tea party influence has waned, I’m not sure I agree with Keith.  Nate Silver reaches a similar conclusion, but also notes some increasing unpopularity of the tea party.

    I wonder how a government shutdown might play out.

  25. Keith Kloor says:

    Racist? Jeez, I get accused of everything around here.

    I think I’ve made it perfectly clear that the fringe element of the Tea Party, which seems sizable to me (at least they’re the loudest) are just plain frothy bonkers. Beck was their Godhead.

    Where were these tea partiers when Bush expanded medicare, created a a whole new federal agency that is a redundant? jacked up the federal deficit. Where were they when the Congressional Republicans in charge for much of 2000s acted like a rubber stamp to the Bush Administration during his spending craze? If frustration was building over this in the hinterland, as Brandon suggests, I sure never noticed it.

    I mean, none of this is ancient history folks. Were their secret tea parties (with back channels?) that I didn’t know about?


  26. Sashka says:

    @ NYJ

    The quoted statement is not subject to scientific assessment. For one thing, the EPA has no independent ability to perform scientific investigations. EPA is a bunch of bureaucrats who could at best read what scientists have to say. (In reality, this ability is doubtful.)

    Only a complete bonehead would reject the notion that the climate change is occurring. Because it does all the time for various reasons. That it is caused by human activity is an unproven hypothesis based mostly on crappy GCMs. The risks certainly exist but they have never been quantified. Therefore calling them significant is meaningless.

    Since the choices were to accept this statement as a whole or reject it as  a whole I’d rather reject. There is about 50% of truth there but half-lie is in some ways worse than a whole lie. For an ignorant reader it sounds like something true while it isn’t. In one word – misleading.

  27. It’s my impression that I got a better education in US government and history (albeit only in 10th grade) than high school students do here. I went to a very good school, and what’s more, Canadians can be much more frank about US history than Americans in high school classrooms. (I am sure the same can be said about Canadian history as taught in US schools…) (smirk)
    Of course, convoluted solutions are not unconstitutional. But they are only necessary in this case because one party is not participating in actually governing, which I believe was not foreseen at the time the constitution was drafted.

  28. Keith Grubb says:


    I for one, hated the Medicare expansion, not for the idea, Bush did run on drug plan, but because the democrats wouldn’t allow means testing. For wealthy people to have their drugs paid for through Medicare is ridiculous. They’re were plenty of conservatives that objected loudly. Here’s one, if you want more examples, let me know.

    I still don’t understand how you equate Bush’s deficit with Obama’s. They’re not even in the same ballpark.

  29. Keith Grubb says:

    “Canadians can be much more frank about US History than Americans in High School classrooms.” Tobis…please expound.

  30. JD Ohio says:

    Tobis “But they are only necessary in this case because one party is not participating in actually governing, which I believe was not foreseen at the time the constitution was drafted.”
    Review your history.  Parties were not considered a necessary part of governance when the Constitution was drafted.  In fact George Washington strenuously opposed them during his time as President.

  31. lucia says:

    It’s my impression that I got a better education in US government and history (albeit only in 10th grade) than high school students do here.
    Whatever your own impression about the efficacy of your childhood education, your comment suggests you harbor misconceptions about what SCOTUS does.
    But they are only necessary in this case because one party is not participating in actually governing, which I believe was not foreseen at the time the constitution was drafted.
    This statement suggests your grasp of the US Constitution and history is extremely limited particularly for someone with an undergraduate degree from a American University.   Didn’t they require some history or political science at Northwestern?

  32. Jeff Norris says:
  33. Jeff Norris says:

    Error: please type a comment.

  34. Jeff Norris says:

    I don’t think you are considering how much the economic downturn effected the 2008 and 2010 elections.  Biden in 2008 campaign often used kitchen table discussions when describing how voters think.  The Tea Party is just an example of that writ large.  A second idea is one I use when leading and managing people.  “Everybody supports change unless it affects them.”  You have to admit that we voters often have a fast food mentality when it comes to politics.  Politicians don’t do themselves many favors by making broad promises of what they will do, or top priorities while campaigning.  Governoring is a lot tougher than campaigning.  
                              Was having a Compatbility issue

  35. Keith Kloor says:

    Jeff, good point. Dana Milbank in his WaPo column on Glenn Beck (which i just read), makes mention of this. He also echoes what I said:

    “Fox has made an important distinction: It’s one thing to promote partisan journalism, but it’s entirely different to engage in race baiting and fringe conspiracy claims. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity may have their excesses, but their mainstream conservatism is in an entirely different category from Beck.”

  36. Pascvaks says:

    “Will the Tea Party’s influence on the climate debate be a passing phenomenon..?”

    Yes and No.  The climate debate is like a very small scone or tea-biscuit.  Tea parties simply must have so much more on the table than just one small scone or biscuit.  Americans like tea parties.  I expect they always will.  As long as there are little girls there will be tea parties; be they calm or violent is the big question.  (Little boys like to dress up like Indians at tea parties 😉 )

  37. jeffn says:

    KK- The Tea Party did, in fact, complain about the bailouts under Bush. Journalists delighted in covering primaries last year where Tea Party candidates challenged GOP members. Did you miss all that coverage of the Nevada and Delaware campaigns.

    As for the “frothing extremists” – both parties have them. Monbiot slammed one from the green movement in his latest column. 9-11 “truthers” are far loonier and more prevalent in the Democratic Party than birthers and their over-hyped GOP connection.

    You did dodge the real problem here tho- this notion that we could have everything the greens want passed by Congress if it weren’t for the Tea Party! Bullocks. The excuse before that (Jan. 2009-Nov. 2010) was the importance of the health bill. Before that, you just couldn’t do it because the GOP had close to 50% of the Senate and before that it was Bush and before that it was Clinton sex scandals, and before that it was the 1994 GOP revolution and before that it was…

  38. NewYorkJ says:

    Sashka (#26),

    Like most Republican politicians, your personal opinions on climate science are willfully ignorant and ideologically-driven.  On the human driver of climate change, for example…

    You’re correct that the EPA is not doing original scientific research.  They shouldn’t invent their own scientific reality as you have done, or as they were pressured to do under the Bush Administration.  Their assessment on greenhouse gases clearly follows the assessments of our scientific bodies.

  39. Jeff Norris says:

    Comment 34 was more to the origins of the Tea Party.  I had to reread your original post to see what Beck has to do with the Tea Party.  I concede that Beck along with many other conservative commentators stirred up a lot of concern about economic policy/actions by the Obama administration.  Outsiders throwing mud balls are not new.  It was the weakness of the administration and democratic response that actually created the tea party sentiment.   To generalize the response was, We Won, our expert’s say deficits don’t matter in this situation,  I am from the government Trust Me, you don’t really feel that way, and finally if you question us you are probably a racist.
    WRT Beck (not a Fan) did he stoke and ride the movement?  Hell YEAH.  Does his departure from FOX have suggest the TEA Party is on the decline?  Doubtful.  First he was one of many talking heads who supported the movement.  Second the tea party was based on reaction by people of like concerns by the government at the time.  The political balance of power has changed therefore I expect the actions and hopefully the reactions of the government will change.
    Personally I think Beck’s departure shows that personally ideologies are not in lock step with a business that person runs.  Beck’s contract was up; he probably wanted a sizeable increase in money.  Fox had to make a business decision based on actual costs versus revenue.  One cost I am sure they considered was the problems he caused for the Network as a whole.  I can imagine both the “Hard News” side and the “opinion side” complaining <a href=””>BECK BECK BECK</a>

  40. Jeff Norris says:


    Forgive me I am new.

  41. JD #30, yes of course, so naturally the framers never envisioned anything like the current mess.
    LL #31, I graduated from Northwestern’s Technological Institute (it’s named after somebody these days) in electrical engineering. Can you be specific about what I missed in 10th grade?

  42. Sashka says:

    @ NYJ

    Wrong on all counts.

    I am not Republican. I am not a politician. My opinions are not ignorant (unlike yours) and I have no ideology. As far as attribution of warming to human activities “scientific opinion on climate change” aka consensus is based on nothing but models, like I said. The risks are not quantified because the probabilities are unknown. And Knutti won’t help there at all.

  43. lucia says:

    Can you be specific about what I missed in 10th grade?
    Whatever you missed, it is causing you to provide nonesense answer like this:
    JD #30, yes of course, so naturally the framers never envisioned anything like the current mess.
    The framers certainly envisioned that sessions could go on and on, that agreements might not be reached in anything that approaches a timely manner.   I assume that is what you consider to be “the mess”.

  44. JD Ohio says:

    #41 Tobis “JD #30, “yes of course, so naturally the framers never envisioned anything like the current mess.”
    Yes things were all peaches and cream when the government was first formed.  Violent rebellion in the form of the Whiskey Rebellion was trivial, as was the Sedition Act that prosecuted people for their political opinions.  What we are going through now is an unprecedented disaster that has no analogs in previous American history.

  45. lucia says:

    Remember back when the government actually did shut down? Now that was a constitutional crisis of biblical proportions. Worse. Such was the enormity the earth nearly stopped spinning on its axis.
    I lived in Richland Washington at the time.  People at working DOE RL had a brief periods of time off. People at the national lab didn’t. I can’t remember what happened to people employed at the Handford site itself. Like the labs a contractor runs the site, so I suspect they kept right on operating the site for the US government, but I might be mistaken.
    Clearly: the only interpretation of what happens during a looming government shut down that may or may not be averted is that it is an unprecedented  life changing disaster for everyone on the planet. Obviously, a mess of this sort must be due to the framers like Madison (who during Washington’s administration member of one political party ) and Adams (who during Washington’s administration was a member of the other political party) did not forsee what party dynamics might do.
    In fact, Washington refusing to join a party and complaining about all the bickering that arises as a result of parties is proof positive that the framers had absolutely positively no idea what partisan politics might lead to.
    Because describing a problem is always proof one is utterly unaware of the possibility that such a problem might ever exist.

  46. Jon P says:

    Well now we get to test MT’s economic knowledge. He said:
    “The extent to which the country is being mauled and wrecked by people with a grade school understanding of economics is so astonishing and terrifying that the climate fiasco is beside the point. More to the point, if the Republicans are so much under the control of a cultural thread that is juvenile and arrogantly stupid that they really believe a 30 billion dollar cut infederal expenditures in a weak economy is appropriate, the rank stupidity of their approach to climate issues not surprising.”

    So the final agreement is to cut $38.5 billion from the 2011 budget (yeah the one the Dems were to incompetent to pass last year).

    I guess our fragile “recovery” is now over (if it ever existed) and our economy will now spiral into depression because the government is goint to spend $3.56 trillion instead of $3.6 trillion. Not exact numbers, but close enough to understand the proportion of the cut.

    Maybe MT focused on Science while in school or…

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