Horror and Anxiety Over Tea Party Politics
In 1773, American colonists protesting British-imposed taxes on tea, stormed ships docked in Boston Harbor and dumped a large cache of the staple beverage into the bay. This began a course of events which would help lay the groundwork for the American Revolution.
Nearly 240 years later, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, failed vice-presidential candidate, hockey mom and "rogue" author addressed a raucous crowd at the 2010 Tea Party National Convention in Nashville. Palin spoke to the mostly Republican would-be revolutionaries and delivered a poignant (for Palin) 40-minute speech.
Orating as only she can, Palin delivered up such gems as: "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?" and "If you can't ride two horses at once, you shouldn't be in the circus."
Rallying the troops and calling for a revolution, Palin incited chants of "Run Sarah run." This chorus of Tea Partiers could be the underpinning of a possible Palin presidential campaign in 2012.
We may very well be witnessing the demise of the great American Empire.
I first heard of the Tea Party Movement some time shortly after President Obama took office. I dismissed it as a hardly relevant group of conservatives bitter at losing their control over the federal government. I figured at best they were a radical group of fringers afraid of, or threatened by, the sweeping change taking place inside their country and outside of their control. At worst, I thought, maybe they were the racist gun-nuts and militiamen that the leftist media was calling them.
Whatever the case, I refused to validate their existence by paying any attention and remained unconcerned with the movement. Hope and change were fresh in the hearts and minds of the American public, and so I believed the Tea Party Movement would lose its steam, smolder a little and then extinguish.
It would seem that Obama's masterful public speaking has convinced me and millions of Americans that the country is back on track and on the road to rehabilitation, but just over a year has passed and little positive change is evident.
Unemployment is still staggeringly high. The federal deficit is larger than ever. The stimulus package has stimulated very little. The bogus bailouts merely allowed the millionaire bankers to continue to allocate millions of dollars in bonuses and the poorly-run car companies to continue to produce sub-par vehicles.
Obama recently added fuel to the fire with his comments by saying he admired the banking executives.
"First of all, I know both those guys. They are very saavy businessmen," he said when asked by Bloomberg BusinessWeek for his opinion on Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfeld's $9 million dollar bonus and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's $17 million bonus.
"Of course there are some baseball players that are making more than that and they don't get to the World Series either," he added.
Two problems with this comparison are that athletes and professional sports inspire passion and joy, while bankers and banking incite anger and contempt. More importantly, American tax dollars aren't being used to subsidize the multi-million dollar salaries of athletes.
Considering all this it becomes easy to understand the growing discontent with not only this administration but also the entire democratic process in American politics.
It is in this climate of unrest that the grassroots Tea Party Movement has taken hold, blossoming and growing exponentially. Even without centralized leadership, the Tea Party has begun to affect the outcomes of local elections and actually impact the landscape of American politics. It now appears that the Tea Party Movement is not going away any time soon and so I can no longer happily ignore it.
On the surface the Tea Party Movement seems to represent some very reasonable ideals. They are pushing to lessen the powers of the federal government and increase the powers of local government. They are for no taxation without representation and a return to governance that adheres to the constitution. Essentially the Tea Partiers are looking for limited government and maximum freedom, the American Dream.
While the lack of a centralized leadership makes it difficult to decipher their immediate goals, it seems they are attempting to organize in order to vote out any incumbents, Republican or Democrat, who voted yes to the bailouts and stimulus packages.
The movement is based around the idea that big government no longer represents the American people. On this point, I must wholeheartedly agree. Unions, corporations and big business have hijacked the American political system, subverted the democratic process and are now essentially dictating policy. The American public is not being fairly represented by its government, the system is failing and the people should absolutely be concerned. I am.
The problem is that the Tea Party seems to be mostly comprised of the same people that voted George W. Bush into office for two consecutive terms, demanded that the "french" in fries be renamed "freedom," believe that humans and dinosaurs shared this great earth some 5,000 or so years ago and support Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
I am not afraid of the basic principles of the movement. I am all for change. It is the members themselves that frighten me. These Birthers, Lifers, Truthers, NRA members, militiamen and radical conservatives are pushing to take back their government, quite possibly by whatever means necessary. It is time to take notice of this type of movement, and be afraid.
While Andrew Joseph Stack III, the pilot of the plane who intentionally crashed into a federal building in Texas last week, does not seem to be directly, or indirectly, linked to the movement, he and the Tea Partiers share a common anti-big government ideal. Stack illustrates the lengths to which the disenchanted will go to voice their anger at the system.
While I do not believe we will necessarily see an armed uprising or a rash of domestic terrorism, fundamentally I must fear any group that is both heavily armed and willing to pay hundreds of dollars a head to hear Sarah Palin speak.