Tea Party movement lights fuse for right
Activists discover set of ideas long seen as preserve of conspiracy theorists
SANDPOINT, Idaho - Pam Stout has not always lived in fear of her government. She remembers her years working in federal housing programs, watching government lift struggling families with job training and education. She beams at the memory of helping a Vietnamese woman get into junior college.
Welcome to the fold Pam Stout. What the New York Times portrays as tin foil hat nut jobs are just average people who have figured out the government is not here to help us. Tax us, suppress our rights, heard us like cattle to the slaughter (metaphoric slaughter, not literal Ms. Huffington) and to control us; but definitely not help us.
But all that was before the Great Recession and the bank bailouts, before Barack Obama took the White House by promising sweeping change on multiple fronts, before her son lost his job and his house. Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated — even manufactured — by both parties to grab power.
Worried about hyperinflation, social unrest or even martial law, she and her Tea Party members joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement.Of course the obligatory reference to the "resurgent militia movement". What hit piece would be complete without likening honestly concerned citizens with radical abortion clinic bombers. Proof positive that something worthwhile is brewing within these movements. If it were not so the media would not try so hard to marginalize the members as extremists and conspiracy theorists.
The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.
These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the Tea Party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement, a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.I do believe the Times just lumped every conservative movement into one homogeneous, if not entirely inaccurate, bundle. To do so discounts the broad spectrum of individuals who identify with the "Tea Party" movement. The movement crosses political, socioeconomic and racial boundaries. Far from being homogeneous the party is the very definition of diverse.
Urged on by conservative commentators, waves of newly minted activists are turning to once-obscure books and Web sites and discovering a set of ideas long dismissed as the preserve of conspiracy theorists, interviews conducted across the country over several months show. In this view, Mr. Obama and many of his predecessors (including George W. Bush) have deliberately undermined the Constitution and free enterprise for the benefit of a shadowy international network of wealthy elites.It reminds me of a saying I saw once: "Just because your paranoid doesn't mean we aren't out to get you". The Times piece completely dismisses the fact that, for the most part, the last two administrations have made great strides in diminishing our individual rights. Were it not for dissent among his own party President Obama would have us all bound by the chains of health care and cap and trade.
Loose alliances like Friends for Liberty are popping up in many cities, forming hybrid entities of Tea Parties and groups rooted in the Patriot ethos. These coalitions are not content with simply making the Republican Party more conservative. They have a larger goal — a political reordering that would drastically shrink the federal government and sweep away not just Mr. Obama, but much of the Republican establishment, starting with Senator John McCain.
I know that according to the Times and the left this would be a terrible, catastrophic thing but I fail to see any error of logic. Shrinking the federal government and retaking the Republican Party for the conservatives seems a lofty and worthy goal.
In many regions, including here in the inland Northwest, tense struggles have erupted over whether the Republican apparatus will co-opt these new coalitions or vice versa. Tea Party supporters are already singling out Republican candidates who they claim have “aided and abetted” what they call the slide to tyranny: Mark Steven Kirk, a candidate for the Senate from Illinois, for supporting global warming legislation; Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is seeking a Senate seat, for supporting stimulus spending; and Meg Whitman, a candidate for governor in California, for saying she was a “big fan” of Van Jones, once Mr. Obama’s “green jobs czar.”All true. So what? This article seems more a defense of the status quo than an indictment of the supposed radical and subversive "Tea Party" movement. How out of touch has the Times become? How irrelevant do they intend to become?
“The fact of the matter is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party,” Mr. Obama said. “You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, ‘This guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that is going to destroy America.’”Since when has telling the truth been an anathema to freedom? President Obama is indeed doing "all kinds of crazy stuff that is going to destroy America." If we cede to his version of bipartisanship it is tantamount to rubber stamping his radical agenda. No thanks.
The ebbs and flows of the Tea Party ferment are hardly uniform. It is an amorphous, factionalized uprising with no clear leadership and no centralized structure. Not everyone flocking to the Tea Party movement is worried about dictatorship. Some have a basic aversion to big government, or Mr. Obama, or progressives in general. What’s more, some Tea Party groups are essentially appendages of the local Republican Party....and yet the times has devoted a five page diatribe in refutation of the movement. Me thinks they do protest too much.
Awakened by the recessionLet me translate for the Times since it is clear they are missing the point. People like Beck are advocating that Americans educate themselves; not subscribe to any ideology that is not well researched and true to their core beliefs. For that talk radio, conservative blogs and "Tea Party" adherents have earned the derision, scorn and ire of the left. Good; it must be working.
But most are not. They are frequently led by political neophytes who prize independence and tell strikingly similar stories of having been awakened by the recession. Their families upended by lost jobs, foreclosed homes and depleted retirement funds, they said they wanted to know why it happened and whom to blame.
That is often the point when Tea Party supporters say they began listening to Glenn Beck. With his guidance, they explored the Federalist Papers, exposés on the Federal Reserve, the work of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Some went to constitutional seminars. Online, they discovered radical critiques of Washington on Web sites like ResistNet.com (“Home of the Patriotic Resistance”) and Infowars.com (“Because there is a war on for your mind.”).
Many describe emerging from their research as if reborn to a new reality. Some have gone so far as to stock up on ammunition, gold and survival food in anticipation of the worst. For others, though, transformation seems to amount to trying on a new ideological outfit — embracing the rhetoric and buying the books.
Tea Party leaders say they know their complaints about shredded constitutional principles and excessive spending ring hollow to some, given their relative passivity through the Bush years. In some ways, though, their main answer — strict adherence to the Constitution — would comfort every card-carrying A.C.L.U. member.The same "Tea Party" leaders that just a few paragraphs ago the Times claimed didn't exist? Most conservatives were not silent during the Bush administration they were simply buried beneath the din of the left and their anti-war protests. I sincerely doubt the A.C.L.U. would find any comfort in a return to strict constitutional adherence.
The article continues for another four pages along the same lines. I would encourage readers to click the link at the top and read for themselves. Nothing can portray the irrelevency of the New York Times as well as its own editorializing.
But their vision of the federal government is frequently at odds with the one that both parties have constructed. Tea Party gatherings are full of people who say they would do away with the Federal Reserve, the federal income tax and countless agencies, not to mention bailouts and stimulus packages. Nor is it unusual to hear calls to eliminate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A remarkable number say this despite having recently lost jobs or health coverage. Some of the prescriptions they are debating — secession, tax boycotts, states “nullifying” federal laws, forming citizen militias — are outside the mainstream, too.
The "Tea Party" movement is unique in that it has not yet been commercialized or politicized to the benefit of any major party. It is a movement of the citizens, by the citizens and for the citizens. The "Tea Party" movement represents a disdain with the political status quo and a refutation of all that we find despicable in our government. I sincerely hope the Times, and the left, continue to attempt to marginalize a majority of the population. It would be the surest way to ensure they themselves are relegated to little more than a footnoted in history.