The TEA Party: Enough is Enough
I appreciate a good movement as much as the next guy. I love a grassroots swell and a freshly formed band wagon with enough room for even the most armchair of supports and fair weather of fans to hop aboard before the central transfer to the next “big thing.” Give me a bunch of halfcocked concepts and a catchy jingle and I’ll kick back and watch that rickety bucket run itself all the way in to oblivion, joining it’s trendy forefathers in the meme stream graveyard. Couple this with my overt and unabashed distaste for political circus performing and the attention grabbing, politically incorrect if not unapologetic sound bite machines in the Republican parties screaming “fire” in a meat locker, and you’ve got the makings for one of the greatest shows on Earth outside of a back alley snuff film peep show at 50 cents a minute. Unfortunately, the TEA Party, an epitome that gets me literally (No, I did not mean literally) harder than Georgia Pine, is still rolling on down the road despite itself, and again finds itself parked out on street corners and in front of government buildings screaming for…something, anything, if not everything and still nothing.
The Tea Party started in late 2009, but really burst on to the scene in 2010 with Tax Day protests outside anything resembling a government building, including one unfortunate misunderstanding that led 150 people to protest the unfair taxation in this country in front of a Denny’s in Topeka, KS. After some real movement in the pubic eye, and the appearance of the pseudo-homely, folksy tundra wisdom of one near vice president turned reality star, Sarah Palin, the party began to gain political ground. Whatever ground they have been able to grab in the political arenas has been helped as much as it’s been hampered by the very party itself and it’s elected officials and unfortunate choice in public mouthpieces.
It’s all in the campaigning they do as a “party.” If you go to the Tea Party Patriots website, one faction of the now fractured party, you find some of their ideals and what they stand for. Their slogan, or mantra, or whatever you might call it, is as follows:
“A community committed to standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to protect our country and the Constitution upon which we were founded!”
The exclamation point is theirs, not mine. So they are united, they are committed to the Constitution, and they are excited. Ok, maybe they aren’t Tebow excited, but they are pumped enough to outline their mission statement with an implied pounding of fists on desks invented for the purpose of this punchline.
What I have also gathered from my direct contact with these people, is that they are basically Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh fanboys and girls that would give Glenn Beck a blowjob behind the aforementioned Denny’s if given half a chance. They are fairly fundamentalist, Christian, founding father/log cabin Republican racists, homophobes, and fairly hateful of liberals. Compromise is not an option. If politics was war, these people would happily exercise their God-given right to refuse quarter to liberal soldiers in a second. They think the US is their home, and liberals can fuck off and die. So…I guess they are open to compromise and fresh ideas then? Shoulder to shoulder, I gather, is with like-minded, old white people who are afraid of everything that doesn’t attend their local Evangelical church potluck with casserole in hand every third Sunday after sermon.
Now, before you go thinking that this is just some unsubstantiated claim form some liberal in every derogatory sense of the word, I implore you to shut up and read. This is a library, and you need not be muttering to yourself like an idiot in the stacks. If you’re reading this in a Starbucks, though, then go ahead and laugh you pretentious Berkley trust fund baby because you’re not my demographic either. Grab your summer scarf and your Birkenstocks and walk around the Hashbury with an unearned sense of belonging.
This is some Kung Fu grip G.I. Joe action figure stuff. Facts are included. Fifty-nine percent of all Tea Partiers are male. Only twenty-three percent are under 45, while nearly thirty percent are over 65. Eighty-nine percent are white. Ninety-five percent are either Republican or Independent, while seventy-three percent describe themselves as conservative. Eighty-three percent are either Protestant or Catholic, but oddly (and not surprisingly enough) only thirty-eight percent attend weekly church services. Oh, and fifty-eight percent of them are armed. It’s a passing point, but I felt that with all that other white Christian BS, I needed to complete the cliché trifecta with a reference to being well armed…for protection. Riiiiiiggghhht, “protection.”
I often get a laugh from how non-Tea Party Republicans talk about this fractured faction of exceptionally right leaning Suzie and Stan Homemakers. It’s like they are talking about an alcoholic brother or a cousin that hasn’t been right after getting kicked by that mule two summers back. They’ve got some great ideas. They have a lot of passion, something we need more of in the Republican party today. They are fired up. They are just decent, hard-working Americans that think this country is on the wrong path. (side note: Why is it that I always feel like I’m being inherently insulted when this is said? These Republicans are decent and hard-working? What about me? Do I maybe think we need to be on a different path as a country? Well, I guess I don’t get any love because I’m liberal and am not inclined to put a Hitler mustache on a picture of Obama and fill in the white spaced with poorly spelled, vague statements about taxes and cap and trade. OK, got that out. Let’s continue.)
I always like to think of the Tea Party as a person. Whenever I can, I like to personify nouns and ideas. I’m able to better get a handle on a problem if it’s got a face. When I think of the Tea Party, I see a sweet old Grandmother. You know, the kind of woman who is beloved on the neighborhood block. She is at every social gathering, and is never in short supply of fresh lemonade and cookies. The kind of woman who every kid in the neighborhood calls Grandma. Her husband passed long ago, her kids all moved away. She has a cute, meandering story for every occasion from when she was a child. Nothing gets her down, and a smile is always just hook and loop away as she knits on her porch in the summer evenings. Then you talk to her after a couple of Manhattans and she lets slip the N-word with a venomous spit and a scowl when you bring up the Johnsons one street over and you realize she’s a racist old bat who reminds you suddenly more of the wench from Hansel and Gretel even though the unassuming smile is back and she’s knitting away as if nothing was amiss.
You can package it any way you want, but hate is hate. It can be screaming on a city street holding a sign splashed with heinous references to the most evil men that our President apparently is just one missing razor away from resembling, or it can be hidden under a hand-made afghan in a rocking chair in a small, midwest town and it’s all the same. The Tea Party may have itself a Michelle Bachmann, a Sarah Palin, and some national recognition as a perfect opportunity in April to rail against the “obamination” this country has become, but it will never be anything but b-roll during televised debates on MSNBC and FOX. Same video, different adjectives.
I do have to give credit where credit is due, though. They are still around. They have people, followers, an out dated website (a political party “must have” in 2012), and a PR team that can spin anything in to a crisis and an all-out attack on the nation’s values and Constitution. I just don’t think that people of this angry and closed-minded position will ever understand that this is a diverse nation.
I know that from the inside of a local Tea Party community organization meeting it may look like a very united if not pasty, homogenized country, but unfortunately this is a place so damned diverse you need a genealogist with a Geiger counter to figure out what most of us are made of. I’ve met these people, tried to make sense of their signs, and I’ve looked in to their faces, and there is little there that I can understand.
I get it, some of the angst and frustration, I feel it for them and Republicans after all–Oh hell, for shitty Democrats, too–but the further division of this country and the resistance to possibility and development of new ideas since the good old days of the late 1700’s is a little obtuse and fearful for my liking. Thanks, but I’ll let necessity be my mother, and with change comes the necessity to adapt or die. That’s not me talking, that’s science. Then again, nearly ninety percent of you are religious…so that’s probably falling on ears deaf to anything that’s not from scripture. So, protest on my nostalgic homophobes and middle class anarchists. The Republican party might be a bit embarrassed of you in public since that mule kicked you and you aren’t acting right in front of people, but in private they love you, because your crazy Christian fear-votes count just as much as anyone’s that hasn’t lost a couple of marbles.