There are plenty of labels people hang on the Tea Party: patriots, idiots, people who want to stop the insanity, people who are insane, rednecks, and racists–just for starters. Then there was an anonymous comment I read online: “Tea Party is just a nice way of saying KKK.”
Would that it were so simple. The KKK made no bones about their public hatred of Blacks. They were founded and acted on tenets of white supremacy, and weren’t the least bit shy about using terrorism to make their beliefs crystal clear.
But from where I sit, the Tea Party’s brand of racism is, in some ways, far more insidious because its followers are unable (or unwilling) to perceive that much of the underpinnings of their philosophy is indeed racist. That is, their demands to obliterate safety nets that have been in place since Roosevelt and Johnson in the name of small government–non progressive tax programs (flat tax), limitations on growth in federal spending, etc–would result in worsening the already lousy living conditions for countless people of color and the poor of every hue. The TPers’ obliviousness, their refusal to even acknowledge the logical consequences of their programs and philosophy, trades racist rhetoric for racist policy results, real lynchings for slowly twisting in the wind.
Worse, The Tea Party movement is a natural outgrowth of our domestic policies and ideologies. And Progressives miss the point when they froth at the mouth about the Palins, Rands, and Bachmans-as foolish and detestable as their thinking might be. The Tea Party is simply a naked distillation of historical and modern political thinking about race, poverty, taxes, and government.
LET’S START WITH RACE:
It’s not surprising the TPers landed where they are. How many decades have Republicans and “New Democrats” objected to Affirmative Action, citing time after time that we now live in a country that has a “level playing field.” Or, both parties raising the specter of Welfare Queens, which conjures up big Black women living high on the hog without a care in the world.
This wasn’t begun by TPers but from the Reagan Revolution that Bill Clinton did nothing to stop or undo. In fact, he encouraged the myths through his program “to end welfare as we know it. (Which in reality meant a huge jump in the prison population of women between the ages of 18-25 for non-violent crimes. With or without welfare, people need to survive). And if Democrats are honest about it, Clinton was more than willing to suspend civil liberties to invade Cabrini Green, a non-white housing project in Chicago.
So please let’s drop the pretense that somehow the TPers are more racist than traditional politicians who, in the face of institutional and individual racism, call our society’s opportunities equal for all. If anything, the TPers are more sincere in their mistaken beliefs than the regular pols, who actually know the truth but pander to the make-believe for political gain.
Another Tea Party inheritance. Prop This, Prop That, and trickle-down economics have been a mainstay of the Republican Party and, in their own way, post Reagan Democrats who act as if taxes have no relationship whatsoever to the betterment of people’s lives. I’m not suggesting there isn’t government waste. And I certainly have no truck with where a significant portion of our taxes go. But to eviscerate the idea of taxes, to turn the word into an obscenity has its roots much farther back than the TPers, who have come by this “no taxes” mantra via decades of politically professed hatred of government.
It’s time for Progressives to champion the belief that government has the potential to enhance people’s lives. That government is a social compact between all that live here, and the definition of that compact needs relentless work. Something we haven’t done effectively for decades. We seemed to take too many of our truths for granted, above discussion. But we were the only ones who stopped talking, stopped acting, and look what’s happened with issues like a woman’s right to choose, institutional racism, social responsibility-hell, even evolution. We need to recapture lost ground-ground that has allowed the TPers to plant their flag.
We need to trumpet that race is not irrelevant, that poverty exists beyond most American’s wildest dreams, and that it existsbecause of our social structure, not because of an individual’s own doing. We need to fight about how taxes are spent, not whether they should exist.
Our lack of organization, our inability to reach out and connect with people who don’t share our beliefs, our preference to react rather than act, our waste of time ad homonym name calling of people with whom we disagree, and especially our blindness to the real effects of the Reagan Revolution helped create space for the Tea Party.
As much as I hate to say it, most of them are pretty genuine in what they believe. And getting rid of their political ideology is gonna be much more difficult than comparing them to the KKK or deriding their “stupidity.”
We live in a political and cultural crossfire. Some call it Red versus Blue. Some call it North versus South. Some call it Conservative versus Liberal.
I call it Truth versus Myth. Our war isn’t against the Tea Party, but against the propagation of the myths that have infected our entire society. For it is these myths which aided and abetted the Tea Party’s creation.
A government of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%.