Why, you might ask, have the Tea Parties been so successful? Simple: for most people most of the time, emotion trumps reason.
September 24, 2010 In case you haven’t been following recent events, Tea Party candidates have done well in state primaries this month. And if you’ve been turned-off by all the ugliness in the campaign rhetoric and have therefore tuned-out, you might not know that there isn’t just one Tea Party; there’s no national committee or “official” Pledge to America. Members of different groups tend to be ultra-conservative and most excited, angry might be a better word, about different things — things like high unemployment, immigration, taxes, government spending, “Obama” Care, gay rights, Islam in America. There’s something for everybody. But there are at least two things they all seem to agree upon: hatred of their arch-villain, Barack Hussein Obama, and the strangle-hold that career politicians seem have on Washington.
The overall Tea Party strategy, if there ever was one, has been brilliant, i.e., using the blogosphere and forwarded emails to organize and rally local groups and demonstrations, playing to regional anxieties and fears, giving the people someone and/or something to blame for their fears, then whipping their fears into focused anger and bringing them together as a force for the establishment to be reckoned with. If in fact, as Tea Party spokespersons claim, it did start spontaneously as a grass-roots movement, it has since been exploited by charismatic, opportunistic individuals like Dick Armey, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.
“Take Back America!” is a phrase often used by Tea Party key-note speakers. Their claim is that Government of, by, and for the people has been hijacked by the elite. And Barack Hussein Obama fits the description of an American elite perfectly. He is smart, he articulate, he is well-educated, he is well-connected, and, most of all, he is a self-made man having not descended from the privileged class. But he’s black, and some (though admittedly not all) Tea Partiers, though they disdain from acknowledging it, just can’t accept the fact that this historically WASP (White Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) nation now has a black president. It’s been made obvious to me by many of the signs and slogans showing up at Tea Party rallies.
The elite (from the Latin meaning “the elected”) is a hypothetical group of relatively small size that is dominant within society. Consequently, the elite are perceived to have privileged status and are envied by others who judge themselves to be less worthy. Those at the top of the social strata are almost always put into positions of leadership, whether by force or by choice of the people. Once in-power, the holders of elite status are often pressured to maintain their status. This gives rise to counter-elite movements. Ironically, leaders of these movements inevitably become the new elite.
No, it isn’t the elite that Tea Partiers aim to topple. After all, the Founders themselves were the elite of their day, and doesn’t it just make sense that the best and brightest among us should be chosen to lead? No, they aim to topple anyone in-power who isn’t conservative enough to back extremist objectives such as:
- Forcing literal compliance with specific provisions of the Constitution in every new law passed (Gee… according the Article Three of the Constitution, ruling on the Constitutionality of laws and Executive Orders is the responsibility of The Supreme Court).
- Congressional term limits.
- Repealing the new Health Care Reform law.
- Stopping “cap and trade” economic incentives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
- Limiting annual growth in federal spending.
- Demanding a balanced federal budget with a two-thirds majority in Congress needed for any tax modification.
- Authorizing the exploration of additional energy reserves to reduce American dependence on foreign energy sources and reducing regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, e.g., nuclear energy.
- Simplifying the tax system with a single rate for everyone and dismantling the IRS.
- Eliminating all earmarks in legislation.
Some of these objectives are appealing, even to a Social Democrat like me, but they are simple in concept and dangerously radical in application. Rather than returning power to the people and helping to restore the middle class, some would serve only the ensure the propagation of government of, by, and for special interests, i.e., corporations. Others would benefit only the wealthiest of Americans. Some are downright mean-spirited. Accordingly, the objective of the Tea Parties is to obstruct and repeal, turning back the clock on President Obama’s agenda of change — from the economy, to health care, to the environment, to education, to immigration and to social justice. In short, Tea Party candidates are the most extreme candidates the GOP has to offer, and, should they be elected to Congress, they will make it all the more difficult for conservatives, moderates and liberals to find good faith, common-ground solutions. I liked John McCain a whole lot more when he was still a maverick.
Take Christine O’Donnell, the Sarah Palin-backed Tea Party Senate candidate in Delaware. She’s so far out of the mainstream that even the Delaware Republican Party has called her “reckless,” “hypocritical” and “dishonest.”
Why, you might ask, have the Tea Parties been so successful? Simple: for most people most of the time, emotion trumps reason. This is the reason the Founders included the Electoral College in the Second Article of the Constitution and why the twelfth and twenty-third Amendments have been added for the indirect election of President and Vice President. They feared the electorate being swayed by powerful, charismatic influences.
Perhaps state electoral colleges for Congressional candidates and a single, eight-year term would be a good amendment for the Constitution. This would help to ensure that legislators are truly qualified to serve. It would serve to free legislators to vote their conscience on difficult issues and would limit the influence of special interests. It would also save a lot of money from being spent on reelection campaigns.
Yes, according to recent polls, Democratic candidates for Congress are in danger. Obama’s agenda for change, especially his goal of changing the way government works, is in danger. And rank-and-file Americans — middle class Americans — are in danger too. Personally, I would hope for an evolutionary change in the way we Americans govern ourselves rather than a retrograde, dangerous, revolutionary change like this.
Feel free to post a comment whether you agree with me or not.