The Problem with the Tea Parties
Okay, I’m still trying to figure out why these Tea Parties bother me so much. There’s a number of things that just feel wrong, on a sort of intangible level. I’m constantly reminded of the way I always felt so ill at ease watching the Palin rallies. So I thought a list might be handy…
- The Tea Parties are supposed to be grassroots but I’m pretty sure that they’re mostly contrived by moneyed interests and Fox News. Their manifestation was much, much too sudden to be a natural movement; rather, elites disguising themselves as populists have harnessed the confusion and anger of normal Americans and marketed it.
- The Tea Parties have no coherent message, and they progressively feel more like anti-Obama rallies than “pro” anything rallies. Sometimes it just gets old when everything is always the negative message, and the positive is buried so completely. I’d say the positive is what won Obama the Presidency – but I’m not betting on the Tea Parties finding that out unless they find a formidable leader.
- Speaking of which, the Tea Parties are headless. The most apparent leader is Glenn Beck. Now Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are the most prominent conservatives in the country.
- I prefer that every President be given his (or her) fair shake. People cried foul when liberals didn’t give Bush a chance, but in all honesty there was more good will from the Left toward W. by orders of magnitude in his first months as President then the Right is extending to Obama, and that’s with the Florida scandal.
- The Tea Parties didn’t emerge during the Bush years. This illustrates the fact that people don’t really care what atrocities are committed by their government so long as their bellies are full and they’ve got jobs. Domestic spying? Torture? Who cares, we’re employed! The Tea Parties seem more about high unemployment than honest outrage. If all these people were working, I just don’t think they’d be out in such force. You know what they say about idle hands…
- Government expanded mightily under Bush, but Fox News and the larger conservative movement offered only muted criticism. At any point, Fox News could have drummed up the same outrage against Bush that they are against Obama, but they didn’t. This is a sign of partisan hackery, not ideology or principle. They didn’t save the Tea Parties for a rainy day – we had lots of those under Bush – they saved them for this specific rainy day.
- I think what bothers me the most, though, is that the Tea Parties attempt to simplify what is essentially a terribly complex problem (or problems) and they do so unabashedly, as though outrage and anti-government sloganeering are enough. This makes me nervous. We just spent eight years with a President who did just that with pretty much every problem he faced, taking what are essentially complex and nuanced issues and turning them into simplified equations of “us against them” or “good against evil.” I believe in good and evil, I just think both tend to be subtler creatures than we expect them to be. I also believe in cause and effect, and the effects of history and poverty often lead people to do evil things. It’s never quite so comforting to be “us” once we understand “them” better. This flaunting of ignorance troubles me.
- Let me repeat that last point: this flaunting of ignorance troubles me.
I suppose in the end, it’s not the small government or anti-tax or anti-bailout message the bothers me. I have a lot of sympathy with these ideas. It’s the fact that the Tea Parties are basically just movement rallies – and I’m as tired of rallies as I am of the movement. Isn’t anyone else burned out from the election? Have we become such a nation of electioneering media-drenched hacks that only four months into our new President’s first term we’re already embroiled in what is essentially a pre-primary festival? I’m just tired of it. I want serious politics to replace antics. I want a forum to replace the carnival. I want a bloody dialogue and not a shouting match.
Update. I just thought of this, but what this will come down to in terms of real political repurcussions is that in the upcoming primaries in 2010 and again in 2012, the Republican candidate who can best win over the Tea Parties will win. They’ll have a well-organized, grass-roots campaign already laid out for them. Something to think about.