The Tea Party Movement: From Authentic Grass Roots to Dangerous Fraud
Now that the racist and hate-filled glow of the Tea Party Convention has faded, it seems appropriate to review how we got to a point where we have what is essentially a “terrorist cell” in our midst that will stop at nothing to win. And to do that, we have to understand the genesis for the movement and how it has evolved.
Recently on Twitter I referenced what many are calling the spark that started the movement, Rick Santelli’s idiotic rant on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, complaining it was anything but spontaneous as people seemed to believe. The result was a flurry of indignant tweets about the origins of the movement actually pre-dating Santelli, which led me to check it out.
Sure enough they were correct. Legend has it that the current movement really started back in 2007 and was originally called the Ron Paul Revolution, driven by supporters of Paul’s Libertarian candidacy for President. The ‘Tea Party’ part of it came in when they planned to fly a blimp over Boston and drop boxes of tea into the harbor. However, the blimp never made it there.
Nevertheless, the original movement that grew out of the failed stunt was relatively pure, driven by people with an honest belief in Libertarian values expressing frustration with a Government that under Bush, was tone-deaf and on the way to a $1.3 trillion deficit and leading us to the brink of financial ruin.
Then, shortly after Obama took office, came the so-called spontaneous rant by Santelli, a rich Wall Street fat cat, blaming everyone from Obama to the Congress for being irresponsible, promoting bad behavior, and screwing the average person, and in the process suggesting that perhaps people should do what the Patriots did in Boston to protest taxes and have a Chicago Tea Party. Of course, he conveniently neglected to mention the real culprits that had brought us to the brink; the financial sector of which he is a part. His rant and the absurdity of who was doing it was beautifully mocked by John Stewart of the Daily Show, calling out CNBC and other unabashed cheerleaders of Wall Street excess who were now attacking everyone else for the mess they had gotten us into.
(it is also important to remember that the fiery Santelli, who was so willing to take on all comers to save the common man, cancelled a scheduled appearance on The Daily Show to defend his righteous rant…can you say disingenuous coward?)
After Santelli’s charade the Tea Party Movement went viral. People who for 8 years could have cared less about a Republican Administration that drove the country deep into debt, waged two wars we could not afford, endangered our civil liberties with a Justice Department bent on prosecuting political enemies ahead of criminals, and lied to the public on a regular basis, were suddenly enraged by an Obama Administration that was but 60 days old. Go figure.
The rest is history, culminating with the first ever Tea Party Convention in Nashville, where we heard an ugly call for a return to the segregationist south, had ‘birther’ claims given new life, and endured the shrill sarcasm of a quitter who could not even remember what her own core beliefs were, requiring her to write them on her hand.
So is calling this a fraudulent movement out of line? Is claiming they are less about government spending and frustration with ineffective government, and more about racism and white anger at losing power and preference, unfair? Is it unreasonable to say that the movement is yet another example of rich, educated and powerful forces manipulating populist anger and fears so average Americans do their dirty work, even if it is contrary to their own self-interests? Well, you decide.
On the issue of what caused Santelli’s outburst, consider this; shortly after it occurred, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine reported in a Playboy article (that has since been mysteriously pulled from the Playboy site) that Santelli’s rant was not off the cuff “but rather it was a carefully planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign.” In other words, a carefully organized and sophisticated campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for a cabal of right-wing interests including the infamous Koch family, multibillionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of right-wing think-tanks and advocacy groups. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was also a co-founder of the notoriously extreme, right-wing John Birch Society.”
They further reported that “Big Business is pouring tens of millions of dollars into their media machines in order to destroy just about every economic campaign promise Obama has made,” and that what is at stake “isn’t the little guy’s fight against big government, as Santelli and his bot-supporters claim, but rather the “upper 2 percent”’s war to protect their wealth from the Obama Adminstration’s economic plans.” To support this notion of a coördinated attack by Big Business on the new Administration, there was also an article in the Wall Street Journal, titled Lobbyists Line Up Torpedo Speech Proposals, which states “businesses from health care to agribusiness to mining that stand to lose under President Barack Obama’s policy agenda are ramping up lobbying campaigns to derail or modify his plans.”
And is this plan working? You bet it is. And the racist, anti-socialist undertones are attracting an audience that is overwhelmingly white, older and concentrated in Southern and rural states, which is most closely aligned with the Republican Party. However, the hidden and powerful forces behind the movement are much more concerned with holding wealth and power, and politics be damned. And despite the cautionary words of conservatives, like David Frum in a recent Time Magazine piece titled Republicans Must Embrace the Vital Center, it seems the GOP is hell bent on latcing onto the movement’s dark energy for better or for worse.
Sadly, recent developments suggest that “worse’ will be the likely outcome. Just this week, a very scary story came out of Boston regarding a man, Gregory Girard, who was stockpiling weapons
after saying he feared an imminent “Armageddon” and who appears to be an active member of Tea Party movement. What’s even scarier, allegedly he saw Sarah Palin, as being on a “righteous ‘Mission from God'” and the only figure capable of averting the destruction of society. YIKES.
But are we surprised? With extreme cheerleaders like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who place no limits on the vitriol or inflammatory rhetoric they spew, what else can we expect? It is unlikely that this is an isolated incident, and we can be confident that there are many more out there who are taking the Tea Party Movement way to far and are becoming way to dangerous.
So can we say that as a grassroots movement the Tea Party is a fraud? Not initially, but after the charlatan Santelli and the large and powerful forces behind the curtain who put him front and center, and who continue to pull the ropes and levers, it is a resounding yes.
And is it also safe to say that it is a dangerous movement and one that is beginning to look more like a terrorist movement than an honest voice of the frustrated common man? Sadly, yes. And the worst part is, the people who really believe in the core principles of the original movement will be branded as radicals and terrorists along with the extreme elements and individuals who have been so cleverly manipulated by insidious forces much smarter, much richer and much more evil than they are.