News Americas

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Tea Party's popularity sparks rise in 'extreme legislation'

Alex Spillius in Washington

THE rise of the Tea Party has sparked an increase in extreme legislation across the US, ranging from a bill in Montana saying global warming is good for the state, to a suggestion in Missouri to end restrictions on child labour.

Utah's state legislature has approved a bill that would recognise gold and silver as legal tender as alternatives to more foldable forms of currency. It needs only the governor's signature to become law.

Similar moves are under consideration in a dozen other states, where legislators are outraged by soaring deficits and the federal government's promiscuous dollar-printing.

Many proposals will never become law, and state legislators have a tradition of eccentricity, which is regarded with a measure of pride by politicians of all stripes as representative of the nation.

But taken collectively, the plans reveal an anxiety among grassroots conservatives about the direction of the US under Mr Obama, a fierce devotion to single issues, and a yearning for a rose-tinted past.

Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said some bills were drafted to make a point, and some were offered by "lunatics who really think we ought to do these things".

John Feehery, a Republican consultant, said: "The great thing about democracy is not the quality of all of the ideas, but the quality of the process. If Tea Party Republicans want to have a real impact on the process, they have to learn the difference between ideas that make a difference and ideas that make us laugh."

Karl Rove, the chief strategist behind George W Bush's two election victories, has warned Republicans against supporting the "birther" theory, which holds that Mr Obama was born outside the US and is therefore not entitled to be president. He said it would make the party seem less serious to voters.

Matt Bennett, whose role in the Bill Clinton administration involved liaising with state governments, remembered states launching bids for secession in response to the president's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

State houses and senates contained "a crazy quilt of people", he said. "Some are well-qualified, some are total wackos." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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