How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by hermit, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. It's taken three trips to Kentucky, but I'm finally getting my Tea Party epiphany exactly where you'd expect: at a Sarah Palin rally. The red-hot mama of American exceptionalism has flown in to speak at something called the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, a gospel-music hoedown in a giant convention center filled with thousands of elderly white Southerners. Palin — who earlier this morning held a closed-door fundraiser for Rand Paul, the Tea Party champion running for the U.S. Senate — is railing against a GOP establishment that has just seen Tea Partiers oust entrenched Republican hacks in Delaware and New York. The dingbat revolution, it seems, is nigh.

    "We're shaking up the good ol' boys," Palin chortles, to the best applause her aging crowd can muster. She then issues an oft-repeated warning (her speeches are usually a tired succession of half-coherent one-liners dumped on ravenous audiences like chum to sharks) to Republican insiders who underestimated the power of the Tea Party Death Star. "Buck up," she says, "or stay in the truck."

    Stay in what truck? I wonder. What the hell does that even mean?

    Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

    "The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."

    A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.

    After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.

    "I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."

    "OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"

    "Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."

    I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"

    Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

    "Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

    "Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

    "But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

    "Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much." Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.

    Early in his campaign, Dr. Paul, the son of the uncompromising libertarian hero Ron Paul, denounced Medicare as "socialized medicine." But this spring, when confronted with the idea of reducing Medicare payments to doctors like himself — half of his patients are on Medicare — he balked. This candidate, a man ostensibly so against government power in all its forms that he wants to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act and abolish the departments of Education and Energy, was unwilling to reduce his own government compensation, for a very logical reason. "Physicians," he said, "should be allowed to make a comfortable living."

    Those of us who might have expected Paul's purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke's on you. That's because the Tea Party doesn't really care about issues — it's about something deep down and psychological, something that can't be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are ("radical leftists" is the term they prefer), and they're coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.

    In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will "take our country back" from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren't yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it's only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP's campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

    The rest of it — the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade — will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives. It's all on display here in Kentucky, the unofficial capital of the Tea Party movement, where, ha, ha, the joke turns out to be on them: Rand Paul, their hero, is a fake.

    The original Tea Party was launched by a real opponent of the political establishment — Rand Paul's father, Ron, whose grass-roots rallies for his 2008 presidential run were called by that name. The elder Paul will object to this characterization, but what he represents is something of a sacred role in American culture: the principled crackpot. He's a libertarian, but he means it. Sure, he takes typical, if exaggerated, Republican stances against taxes and regulation, but he also opposes federal drug laws ("The War on Drugs is totally out of control" and "All drugs should be decriminalized"), Bush's interventionist wars in the Middle East ("We cannot spread our greatness and our goodness through the barrel of a gun") and the Patriot Act; he even called for legalized prostitution and online gambling.

    Paul had a surprisingly good showing as a fringe candidate in 2008, and he may run again, but he'll never get any further than the million primary votes he got last time for one simple reason, which happens to be the same reason many campaign-trail reporters like me liked him: He's honest. An anti- war, pro-legalization Republican won't ever play in Peoria, which is why in 2008 Paul's supporters were literally outside the tent at most GOP events, their candidate pissed on by a party hierarchy that preferred Wall Street-friendly phonies like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Paul returned the favor, blasting both parties as indistinguishable "Republicrats" in his presciently titled book, The Revolution. The pre-Obama "Tea Parties" were therefore peopled by young anti-war types and libertarian intellectuals who were as turned off by George W. Bush and Karl Rove as they were by liberals and Democrats.

    The failure of the Republican Party to invite the elder Paul into the tent of power did not mean, however, that it didn't see the utility of borrowing his insurgent rhetoric and parts of his platform for Tea Party 2.0.


    Full 4 page article here - http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/210904
     
  2. 377OHMS

    377OHMS

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  3. Your wasting your time, most Americans are not interested in what is happening as evidenced in the reply above. It is business as usual.
     
  4. Ricter

    Ricter

    This essay is a perfect example of liberal condescension. Imho, tea partiers are largely the 50 and 60-something cohort that has watched their real income stagnate, or worse, since their 30's. They are labor, dispossessed, but with their ire misdirected. I refuse to criticise them for that, as powerful groups are working at self protection, and deflection as a tactic is rather subtle. I do not care that some of their ire is aimed at other dogs scrapping under the table, the racists, etc., that's just more misdirection. The tea partiers need to be brought into the fold--they are us [as we could be]: ordinary people after a reversal of fortune.
     
  5. "A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it."

    morons. the whole lot of them. we have a tea party woman running for congress in my state. in every commercial she rails against government spending. when we look at her finances we find that she has recieved almost 3 million in farm subsidies in the last 10 years.
     
  6. Very well stated!
     
  7. +100

    Wouldn't be hard to turn it into an episode of South Park.


     
  8. Funny you should say so...

    The creators of South Park are both strong libertarians..

    In 2005 Stone said "I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals.


     
  9. Eight

    Eight

    I'm catching this thing from far lefty bastards I know.. they tell me if I'm conservative I should prove it by not collecting on my Social Security and Medicare... after being forced to pay into it for my entire working life... I say fuck those bastards, conservatives should elbow their way to the front of the line and collect all they can get and apologize to nobody as well...
     
  10. There is an episode of south park where red necks say "they took our jobs"

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    sums up tea party perfectly
     
    #10     Sep 29, 2010