There is a huge amount of anger, dissatisfaction, and fear out in the country these days. Much of it is justified. But a large amount of it is misdirected and unjustified. That has become increasingly apparent with the rise of the socially and economically ultra-conservative Tea Party movement which started this summer and culminated this past weekend in a convention in Nashville, TN.
Like fire-and-brimstone preachers of yesteryear, various speakers and participants aggressively voiced their discontent at the current state of the country. But much of what they had to say was hateful, ignorant, irrational, and actually destructive to American values.
Many of these people feel great uncertainty about this country's future. They see our government as wasteful, too big, inefficient, and attempting to exert too much control over our businesses and personal lives. These are legitimate concerns to a degree, but certainly not to the degree this crowd is concerned with. Government IS big, and it IS wasteful. Especially the roughly 219 congressional Republicans who have been doing nothing productive for needy citizens over the past year and have instead filibustered, stonewalled, and blocked legislation while still collecting their hefty $174,000 salaries and benefit packages at our expense. Nice work if you can get it: sit around and waste time and still get paid nicely for it. But aside from that, government bureaus and agencies DO have areas of logjam and overlap, and this does need to be corrected. Government has also ventured into business affairs to an unprecedented degree this past year. But I maintain this "intrusion" was overdue, done responsibly, and wholly justified. For our government took the unprecedented step of bailing out our largest banks and two of our largest automakers with billions of taxpayer dollars. This intervention was wholly necessary and saved our economy from total collapse. There are loud voices in this movement which proclaim that President Obama is a socialist or a communist and that he and his Democratic Party have implemented socialism into our government and economy. That is patent nonsense. After years and years of deregulatory moves pressed for and implemented by conservative Republicans and peaking during the preceding Bush-Cheney years, our financial markets got way off track and descended into a practice of speculation which caused our severe recession. This practice also brought about the rip-off of $4 per gallon gasoline we all suffered through in 2008. Had Obama and his party not used the government to clean house and make some much-needed regulatory changes, we would have slipped into a second Great Depression for certain. Yes, Obama demanded the resignation of the CEO of General Motors. So what? It was a good and necessary move which, along with bailout money, helped save the company! At no point has the President put all of the banking or automotive industries' executives and employees on the public payroll or attempted to micro-manage their individual affairs. Instead, like any good investor, the President invested OUR cash in these enterprises and simply demanded a return on that investment. That's CAPITALISM, tea-partiers, NOT socialism. So this claim of his being a socialist agenda is thoroughly inaccurate and insane. As for the oft-voiced Tea Party complaint that Obama is burying us in debt, that taxes should be cut across the board, and that government spending must be slashed NOW, that is a dangerously impractical demand at this time. In 1937, after 4 years of increased government spending on jobs and public improvements during the Great Depression, liberal then-President FDR heeded conservative Republican advice and cut government spending on these social programs. The effect was instantaneous and disastrous. The economy slid backward for two years and only began to climb again when government-funded arms programs for warring European nations started. YOU CANNOT REDUCE GOVERNMENT SPENDING ON JOBS AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEVERE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN. AT TIMES LIKE THAT (NOW), GOVERNMENT SPENDING MUST INCREASE!
I feel sorry for some of the Tea Party enthusiasts I have seen. A large number of them are good, average, everyday citizens who have never before become involved in any type of political activity. The pity I feel for them is that they have been moved to demonstrate because of clever manipulation and fear by truly sinister forces in today's far right ultra-conservative Republican Party. This is no longer the party of Eisenhower's, Nixon's, or Reagan's era. Today's GOP came to fruition in 1994, with Newt Gingrich's gimmicky "Contract ON America" (sic). It is uncompromising, unyielding, and dedicated to total control of all branches of our government. It is obsessed with gaining and maintaining this control by any means necessary. Everything it does is done strictly for its own perceived political gain. It can and does lie, cheat, and steal in its pursuit of power. It lies to get us into an unnecessary war for profit and plunder (Iraq). It steals elections (2000 and, arguably, 2004). It manufactures blatant lies about political opponents (John Kerry's THREE Purple Hearts having been unwarranted; President Obama is "different" because he was raised for a time outside this country, had a Muslim father [making him immediately suspect] and an "odd" Arabic middle name of Hussein [reinforcing that suspect aura]; therefore the President's agenda is radical, dangerous, and, well, "socialist." That is why we see posters of Obama with communist hammer and sickle, and other posters comparing him to Hitler. This campaign of lies was abundant last summer during the GOP-backed-and-encouraged town hall shoutdowns of Democratic congresspersons regarding health care reform, where many innocent seniors were scared into believing that the President had "death panels" which would spell out their doom, that grandma would be "thrown under the bus" if government-run health care were enacted, and on and on and on. The President has been under steady, constant assault on all aspects of his presidency since day one. He has been accused of "palling around with terrorists" and his very handling of national security and foreign policy matters has been repeatedly characterized as weak and ineffectual. Those of us in the know, of course, have seen that exactly the opposite has been the case. The example of the "underwear bomber" sits as a perfect example. Using proven FBI interrogation methods instead of Bush-Cheney era torture techniques, this current would-be prisoner has yielded an unprecedented amount of actionable intelligence. But the liz and Dick Cheneys, Kit Bonds, and Mitch McConnells of the GOP still publicly lie in trying to cultivate this false image of Obama being weak on national security and terrorism. It is, plain and simple, treasonous fostering of insurrection fostered by repeated lies. To the under and badly informed, is it any wonder that they are terrified and honestly believe that the President's policies are not working and are harmful to the nation?
Former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) both spoke at this Tea Party event, and both did their best to perpetrate the big conservative Republican lie about the President being weak and his agenda being out of touch with and dangerous to everyday people. In Tancredo's case, he appealed to paranoidal nativist instincts by repeating the utterly ridiculous GOP "Birther" claim that Obama was not even born in this country and is therefore unqualified for the office he holds. Tancredo also made the equally preposterous and racist claim that Obama gained office on the strength of votes from "people who could not even spell the word 'vote' or say it in English." He then called for the implementation of a literacy test for elections, even though such tests were banned by the Voting Rights Act of 1964 in response to old literacy tests having been used to keep blacks from voting in the South. The fact that Sarah Palin even was asked to address the convention at all is a great example of how dishonest and lacking in credibility these conservatives have become. For Sarah Palin has little in common with fiscally-responsible, cash-strapped average ordinary Americans, even though she loves to portray herself as one. First of all, she and her family live high off the hog up in Alaska, not modestly. Secondly, 3000 newly-released pages of emails during her governorship reveal her attempt to disguise the installation and use of a tanning bed as something to be paid for with state funds, and her attempt to have the state pay for her daughter Willow's flight to be present at a bill-signing. Hardly the actions of a concerned, fiscally-responsible public servant. Realistically, the actions of a deceitful, hypocritical, self-obsessed, vain publicity-seeker whose only real agenda is herself. In short, as a supposed spokesperson for this movement, Sarah Palin is an out and out fraud.
Yes, while this weekend's Tea Party convention was designed to appear as though it were of, for, and by ordinary fed-up and concerned citizens, it was actually a for-profit event staged by and for the benefit of corrupt, corporate America and the equally corrupt, corporate, conservative Republican Party. Tea Party Nation, a for-profit venture, was the main instigator, with help from Tea Party Patriots, who has ties to ultra-conservative former Republican congressman Dick Armey's huge advertising/lobbying group Freedom Works. Rather than a gathering of legitimate, concerned citizens, this was a festival of fanatical rage: hate for the President, hate for immigrants, hate for liberals and progressives, and hate for our government itself. But this is a seriously misdirected rage. Instead of hating the President and our government, which are both attempting to provide jobs, market safeguards, fairer taxation, and needed benefits and services for our population, these Tea Party enthusiasts should rightfully be turning their rage and action toward the ultra-conservative Republican Party and its corporate backers who are using and manipulating the tea partiers like a two-bit whore, for the benefit of the GOP and concentrated capital alone. It is our job as progressives to expose this sordid and cynical Republican effort for what it is: a gigantic hoax. For these Republicans and corporatists, through employing obstructionism and stirring up anti-government groups like the Tea Party movement with unfounded lies, are destroying our democracy.