The Problem With The Tea Party As I See It
I’d kind of like to side with some anti-government sentiment at times; especially when the government is going about finding new ways to restrict the civil rights of American citizens in the name of security or the drug war. I see these things as the tentacles of fascism winding around American democracy, using any excuse – drugs, terrorists, family values, the gay agenda – to get a further grip on society.
The Tea Party could be the lone group standing against this wave of oppression – it certainly isn’t the Republicans or the Democrats! But while the Tea Party people may prefer to think of themselves as Constitutionalists and freedom-loving citizens, the truth is far sadder and more predictable.
The tea party people have, as I see it, at least two problems.
The first problem is one that they share with the Libertarians: The idea that government is evil and corporations are good. Like Libertarians, most Tea Party people seem to want a government that doesn’t do anything for the people.
Defense and police. That’s it. Which of course leaves a power vacuum into which steps the giant corporations – who will have no problem telling you how to live your life in minute detail. Don’t think so?
Paying attention to news, you regularly see stories about someone being evicted from a mall for wearing the wrong kind of t-shirt or saying the wrong thing. That’s because you have no civil rights when on someone else’s private property. But in the Libertarian/Tea Party ideal world EVERY INCH of ground is someone else’s private property. Ergo, no rights for anyone.
Libertarians (and now by extension Tea Partiers) seem to live in a fantasy world where corporations are so concerned with good public relations that they would never impose anything grievous on the people – only evil government would do that. No corporation would ever cut corners and destroy the environment – or force you, in their relentless pursuit of profits, to take services you didn’t want in order to get something you really need.
Except, have you dealt with a corporation lately? Have you ever called Comcast (now Xfinity) customer service? Giant corporations don’t give a shit what you think of them; they are only interested in profits. And they don’t need your good will for that, they just need an effective monopoly.
The second problem with the Tea Party people is that they have been co-opted by astroturf “grass roots” front groups that are funded by big corporations such as Wellpoint (healthcare) and GE (war profiteers). The local Tea Party rally was organized by outsiders from The Lewin Group, a fake grassroots organization that is actually owned and operated by a giant healthcare company. They’re the ones who brainwash granny into going out there and screaming “Keep government out of my Medicare” (literally).
If there is any reader who doesn’t know this, Medicare is “government run” healthcare (as the insurance companies define it).
Unfortunately the healthcare bill that finally passed was more of a Tea Party bill than anything else: It mandates the purchase of private health insurance whether you can afford it or not. The only “give back” is that the health insurance companies won’t be able to exclude pre-existing conditions anymore and they won’t be able to cut you off in the middle of lifesaving treatment (a very common practice). It’s not a very good deal but you can thank the Tea Partiers for that.
We should not leave this subject without mentioning their biggest problem: Hypocrisy.
Tea Partiers proudly call themselves “PATRIOTS” who want to “take back their government.” This is a message shouted at every meeting to loud applause. They yell and demand (and sometimes threaten). Really? Take back “our” government from whom? Well, they would be “taking it back” from the majority of American citizens that elected the government we have.
It would be hard to argue that the Tea Party movement represents anything close to a majority in America. Instead, they are the farthest right-wing fringe of the American political landscape. Yet they feel entitled to control the government anyway, democracy be damned.
It is hard to imagine a philosophy less patriotic.. well, for an American. This would be a patriotic ideal in the old Soviet Union, but in this country with its tradition of democracy it is …well, anti-American.
Tea Partiers say government is too big. I mostly agree. The majority of federal spending, however, is on the military – something a Tea Party person would never want to cut. They also want government “hands off” their Medicare, which is another big chunk. If they mean other kinds of social spending (and that’s the “big government” they keep mentioning), that is something like three percent of the federal budget.
Tea Partiers say the national debt is too great. I agree. The vast majority of that debt was run up FIRST by Ronald Reagan and then by George W. Bush. These two men are heroes to the Tea Party movement. So naturally the Tea Party people were silent during the reign of these reckless spenders. Also, once again, almost all of that debt was run up with military spending. Something most Tea Party people are for.
What they really mean by all of this anti-government rhetoric is that they don’t want services that benefit anyone else – but they DO want lots and lots of military spending (because they are afraid of everything) and they want their Medicare because that helps them. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.
I guess this brings me to my final point, which is that the tea party movement is a magnet for low information people who are easily swayed by emotional arguments AND who lack compassion for their fellow human beings. They’ve got theirs and the hell with everyone else. It is a movement based entirely on the twin pillars of fear and selfishness.
With that knowledge in mind, I’m very glad that the Tea Party people are a small minority but sad that they get attention so out of proportion to their numbers – and that politicians listen to them.