The Tea Party herd has plodded into Washington for a “rally” today, or more likely rolled in riding their Rascals, a movement with a manifestly Caucasian pigmentation and not a little long in the tooth, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Their ostensible reason for grazing near the Capitol is to apply pressure to tea-bagging Republican members of the House of Representatives, urging them to hold their breath and turn blue rather than accept a budget deal that is anything less than a Ten Commandments handed down from your crazy conservative Uncle Albert, who hasn’t been out of his room in seventeen years, reads a lot of Ayn Rand and thinks it’s pretty good, hates almost everybody and everything and has written a budget up intended to get even.
You know I’m only humoring them when I use their self-identifying Tea Party name, since no such thing exists of course. The media, typically, bought the shtick after several seconds, having found themselves another “narrative” that eludes the strenuousness of doing reporting. As we all know, “Tea Party” is merely the re-branding of the ideological base of the Republican Party, a Republican brand muddied beyond viability after Bush and his Republican congress wrapped the country around a telephone pole with their six to eight year stretch of government based upon conservative ideological principles, especially in economics. So let’s just call the Tea Party “movement” what it really is: a witness protection program for the Republican base.
Tea Party dimwittedness needs to be considered from several angles. This isn’t me merely being elitist or condescending (though I’m really good at it). This is me assessing them and their myriad complaints and nebulous prescriptions against available facts. We’ll leave aside their predilections in signage, Obama as Hitler, and “Government, Keep Your Hands off My Medicare” and such, which are just flags bearing the slogan, “Hey look at me, I’m hydrocephalic.”
Let’s start with the name Tea Party, and the wishful connection to protests against unfair and burdensome taxes. Not especially timely was their choice to launch an anti-tax crusade at a moment in history when the amount of taxes Americans pay as a percentage of GDP is at historically low levels. The Congressional Budget Office’s most recent analysis found the percentage the average American family pays the IRS yearly is 9 percent, just barely above the lowest level ever recorded, which occurred in 2003. Top marginal rates for the wealthy likewise are at historical lows, a third of what they were during the postwar economic boom of the Fifties (no, high taxes on the wealthy most certainly and demonstrably do not hinder economic growth). And of course, the Tea Party’s inception occurred only weeks after President Obama lowered taxes for 98% of Americans. This is not merely an unfortunate coincidence: it’s a neon red flag with the luminous intensity of a small sun signaling some combination of fraud, stupidity and hypocrisy.
One rather monumental inconsistency with the original Tea Party to which the current tea-baggers surely are oblivious is that rather than an anti-government protest, in fact the original was a rising up against corporate misbehavior, the East India Company a global corporation enjoying sweetheart treatment and reaming domestic merchants. And of course the tea-baggers love ‘em some corporations. If anything, American corporations, even while riding roughshod over the economic landscape remain iconic for the Tea Party set, beloved symbols of American bullishness; corporate greed, gouging, and disproportionate influence in the halls of power the best of American capitalism, in the Tea Party’s delimited version of American rights, corporate misbehavior just another word for freedom. Historical analogy to an earlier movement? Fail! And if you can’t even get your name right maybe you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Hear that CNN? Is this getting through to you at all Katie Couric?
One entirely gratifying consistency the Tea Party seems to share with its wishful predecessors is that both of them likely were Astro Turfed, the label for movements superficially representing the salt-of-the-earth, though their conception and operation can be traced to wealthy and powerful interests. For the current baggers the moneybags behind the curtain are the likes of the petroleum baron Koch brothers; back in the day, moneyed Boston merchants were behind it all, the tea dumping hardly spontaneous, but hired hands carrying out a plan. One might say that at the time it was American big business that saw its interests threatened, not your ordinary colonist. There are a lot of contrary details behind the mythology, as there usually are.
One might feel a modicum of sympathy for the woefulness, obliviousness and misguidedness of these to some extent abused useful idiots, were there not so many ugly and racial overtones to their gatherings and their rhetoric. As many have pointed out, the Tea Party seems more than anything to be the death rattle of white cultural dominance, of a time when ugly truths were allowed to persist behind a facade of flattering mythology and ideological cant.
Of course, you’d have to have the foolish optimism of the Pope and an aspiring actress combined to expect the media to stop pretending this is some new and genuine populist uprising. But unfortunately, they can be a dumb herd of cattle themselves.