Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Rise Of Tea Party Activism

The Movement

by Ben McGrath - January 30th, 2010 - The New Yorker

By most accounts, the Paul Revere figure of this Second American Revolution is an excitable cable-news reporter named Rick Santelli, a former futures trader and Drexel Burnham Lambert vice-president who stood on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last February and sounded the alarm on CNBC about the new Administration’s planned assistance for homeowners facing foreclosure. He proposed a nationwide referendum, via the Internet, on the matter of subsidizing “the losers’ mortgages,” winning both the attention and the vocal support of the working traders in his midst. “President Obama, are you listening?” he shouted, and then said that he’d been thinking of organizing a Chicago Tea Party in July, urging “all you capitalists” to come join him on Lake Michigan, where “we’re going to be dumping in some derivative securities.” It was a delicate pose—financial professionals more or less laughing at debtors while disavowing the lending techniques that had occasioned the crisis—but within a matter of hours a Web site,, had gone live, and by the end of the following week dozens of small protests were occurring simultaneously around the country, invoking the legacy of early New England colonists in their revolt against King George.

Santelli’s rant was delivered at 7:10 A.M., Chicago time, but it was highly YouTube-able, and all the more effective to the alienated masses—“the rabble,” as some have taken to calling themselves—because Santelli was not a known conservative mouthpiece like Rush Limbaugh or Beck or Sean Hannity. The primal narrative of any insurrection benefits from the appearance of unlikely spontaneity. Another early agitator who merits a retrospective footnote is Keli Carender, a.k.a. the Liberty Belle, a blogger and “random woman,” as one admirer says, “from Seattle, of all places.” Carender was a week ahead of Santelli in voicing her dissent; her mistake was choosing the wrong animating metaphor. Borrowing terminology from Limbaugh, she organized a Porkulus Protest in response to the economic-stimulus bill, and tried tagging Democratic leaders with epithets like Porky and Piggy and Porker. (Not the least of tea’s advantages is the ease with which it can be converted into a handy acronym: Taxed Enough Already.) But Carender identified a tactic that would prove invaluable in the months of raucous town-hall meetings and demonstrations to follow: adopting the idealistic energy of liberal college students. “Unlike the melodramatic lefties, I do not want to get arrested,” she wrote. “I do, however, want to take a page from their playbook and be loud, obnoxious, and in their faces.”

Spring brought the founding of the
Tea Party Patriots , a centralized Web destination for decentralized malcontents, and the start of Glenn Beck’s side gig as a social organizer, through his 9.12 Project . The numbers nine and twelve referred to a checklist of principles and values, but their greater significance lay in the allusion to September 11th. “The day after America was attacked, we were not obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties,” the project’s mission statement read. “We want to get everyone thinking like it is September 12, 2001, again.” The chosen values were inarguable: things like honesty and hope and courage. Only two of the principles (“I believe in God and He is the center of my life”; “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable”) indicated any kind of political agenda. Inclusiveness was the point.

As spring passed into summer, the scores at local Tea Party gatherings turned to hundreds, and then thousands, collecting along the way footloose Ron Paul supporters, goldbugs, evangelicals, Atlas Shruggers, militiamen, strict Constitutionalists, swine-flu skeptics, scattered 9/11 “truthers,” neo-“Birchers,” and, of course, “birthers”—those who remained convinced that the President was a Muslim double agent born in Kenya. “We’ll meet back here in six months,” Beck had said in March, and when September 12th arrived even the truest of believers were surprised by the apparent strength of the new movement, as measured by the throngs who made the pilgrimage to the Capitol for a Taxpayer March on Washington, swarming the Mall with signs reading “ ‘1984’ Is Not an Instruction Manual” and “The Zoo Has an African Lion and the White House Has a Lyin’ African!”

The starting point for understanding the TEA Party is your belief about the number of attendees at the huge rally on 9/12. To this day the liberals of the Democrat Party and the elitists of the Republican Party refuse to accept a rational estimate of the crowd size. It was at least a million people and probably closer to one and a half million. The naysayers involved in political control of our nation believe it was less than 100,000. If you want to understand why America is losing the ability to talk, you need no more amazing example that the rejection of another's reality from these three forces. Liberal Democrats and elitist Republicans have little in common except their frenzied hope that they can belittle and destroy the TEA Party movement. Doesn't that bizarre partnership itself raise an incredible set of questions about how we are currently governed?

This article, like many on the TEA Party, has some interesting elements of truth. Yet it still misses the point. The point is freedom. Each of these groups are angry because they fear their right to believe something as long as they leave others alone is being compromised by a Utopian minded government determined to tell them what to think and how to act. What has always energized our nation is freedom, and the TEA Party is a group of malcontents who demand that government leave them alone and let them succeed.

That will not sit well with the elitist element of the Republican Party.

That will not sit well with the progressive element of the Democrat Party.

It fits perfectly with the George Washington legacy of our founders. Washington was an impressive man who worked hard, had a brilliant mind, and was a passionate patriot, yet no man small or large ever feared he wanted to tell them how to live. That is what the TEA Party rejects. Anyone who wants to tell us how to live.


Post a Comment

<< Home