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It’s a Sweet Tea Party

February 6, 2010
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John Avlon has a piece up at The Daily Beast that gets more things right about the Tea Party movement than I’ve seen on the Internets since the debate on the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (It’s apt, too, considering the National Tea Party Convention is tonight in Nashville.  Am I going?  Of course not.)  One of my favorite “myths” that he debunks is the idea that Tea Partiers are all “Wingnuts”:

Their ranks are full of folks who’ve never attended a protest before, small businesses owners who were angry at the way they were struggling to pay their bills while big business and big government could rack up debts and pass the buck onto taxpayers in backroom deals. There is common-sense anger at unsustainable deficits that are seen as generational theft. Reagan’s rhetoric won Americans’ hearts and minds when it came to Keynesian spending. Unified Democratic control of Congress and the White House also provokes in many a distrust that is consistent with a Madisonian desire for checks and balances. Extremists are always ultimately their own side’s worst enemy, and I’ve seen plenty of people with ugly cases of Obama Derangement Syndrome at Tea Party protests. But it is by no means the whole crowd.

And that the movement is “Astroturf”:

True, groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks helped fund organizational costs while Fox News helped make the protests a national conservative happening by airing more than 100 commercial promotions for the protests in the ten days before Tax Day. But these were the equivalent of conservative public service announcements. For all the “astroturf” asides, the crowds were homegrown. They may have been pumped up by partisan interests, but they were not purchased. There is real grassroots anger going on, based in deep policy debates over the proper role of government as well as shallow partisan politics.

The Tea Party movement started during the debate over the $787 billion stimulus package that Congress enacted during a terrible recession, which left vast amounts of small business owners “angry at the way they were struggling to pay their bills while big business and big government could rack up debts and pass the buck onto taxpayers in backroom deals”.  It did not start with the election or inauguration of the 44th POTUS.  It is reactionary in its revulsion to big government racking up big debt, generational theft, and unscrupulous politicians.  It is not reactionary in its disdain for a certain political party having a majority in Congress.  It is a constitutional movement and a republican movement.  Not a Republican one.

That, of course, is why it’s so disorganized.  Anybody who doubts the grassroots-iness of the movement needs to read these two paragraphs from today’s NYT:

The convention reflected some of the fractiousness of the Tea Party movement. It was sponsored chiefly by Tea Party Nation, a for-profit social networking site, something like Facebook for Tea Partiers. Other sponsors and participants had pulled out as recently as two days ago, citing concerns about profiteering, and sending organizers scrambling to fill positions on some discussion panels.

Tea Party Patriots, another social networking site with ties to FreedomWorks, the Washington advocacy powerhouse led by a former House majority leader, Dick Armey, had sent its members a note last month saying that it would not support the convention because of the high ticket prices. It recommended “thoroughly researching the convention before purchasing a ticket.”

Tea Partiers are having trouble organizing themselves specifically because they are Tea Partiers.  They’re not explicitly fer or agin any particular policy (sure, they’re against these particular health-care reform bills, but they’ll be here after that issue is dead), and they are not people who typically protest and go to political conventions.  That’s the purpose behind Glenn Beck’s “The Plan”—he knows that there isn’t really a platform from which he and his ilk can advocate their views other than The Glenn Beck Program.  As Mark Skoda, leader of the Memphis Tea Party, said, “The notion of holding up signs does not get people elected.”

Tea Partiers want to infiltrate the Republican Party in order to transform it from just another big government advocacy group into something that has reverence for the constitutional values upon which this nation was founded.  They don’t want the President to be assassinated.  This knowledge will not reach those who find the movement extreme and silly.  It’d be nice if they at least tried.

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