Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: Crashing the Tea Party

  I’m always down for creating a stink. As a teenager I crashed a George H. W. Bush rally, and playing off his broken promise, “Read my lips: No new taxes,” I donned a cute yellow hat with a red feather and a Pinnochio nose. In college I took on the governor of Alabama concerning his proposed cuts to higher education to the point where he threatened to shut down the college newspaper which employed me.

  But there’s a definitive difference between the rabble-rousing I engaged in back in the day and the current groundswell of venom emanating from the “tea parties.” We believed in something. We advocated issues. Sadly the tea-baggers just want to hurl threats and insults, belittle the president of the United States and essentially slash and burn every politician, effort and idea they encounter. It’s the Attilla the Hun approach to politics, and it serves no purpose other than to vent misguided, uninformed anger.

  Beginning with the tea party protests mere months into Barack Obama’s presidency, we were given a glimpse of what many of these people are about: anger and ignorance. They lambasted the president and Congress over taxes while forgetting that many of them had already received a tax cut under the present government. They skewered the same sitting government for so-called “excessive spending” while ignoring that much of said spending was a desperate attempt to preserve jobs - THEIR jobs - prevent an economic collapse and nip a potential depression in the bud. But what is more revealing about the tea baggers is that with all the zealousness, fear and loathing they employed against the current levels of spending, none of them had a damn word to say when George W. Bush was president, for several years working with a Republican-controlled Congress and spending like Paris Hilton on a drunken shopping spree. So is it really about spending, or are tea-baggers selectively angry only when it’s someone they didn’t vote for who is engaging in that spending?

  Another hallmark of the tea-bagging movement has been its prevalent use of veiled threats against the current government, allusions to revolution and violent overthrow of the government, as well as truly petty and malicious personal attacks on the president and leading members of Congress. Folks, no matter how you slice it, this isn’t acceptable in terms of political discourse. It achieves nothing. It enlightens no one. It’s simply an avenue to fan the flames of anger and to incite the rabble. Aside from the tea baggers spewing their epithets in English, their approach is no different and is no more commendable than the violence-prone, riot-inciting mobs we see in less-developed countries with less-stable governments.

  A humorous - yet alarming - characteristic of the tea partiers has been their propensity to dismiss everything proposed by Congress and/or the president as “socialist.” And strangely enough, the tea baggers will flippantly interchange ‘socialism’ and ‘communism,’ two clearly defined and different forms of government. Granted, when asked, many of these offending individuals cannot define either ‘socialism’ or ‘communism.’ Go figure. And what is truly giggle-inspiring by these individuals is that as they bemoan any form of government program, do you see any of them putting their money where their mouth is and sending back their Social Security check, or refusing Medicaid or Medicare, VA benefits, or any other assistance/benefit program offered by the federal government? Of course not. Hypocrisy is an ugly mistress, y’all!

  The tea party mob also seems to have some strange figure heads. Speaking to the tea-bagging convention last week, Sarah Palin rattled on endlessly without saying much of anything aside from grade school level taunts of the president. Funny how the people who complain the loudest never seem to have any of their own solutions to offer, isn’t it? And revealing more of her true character, she trashed Obama for using a teleprompter. (What does she have against technology anyway?) If the use of a teleprompter is a great concern for the former governor when it comes to the nation’s governance, she apparently hasn’t been watching the news. But to provide an unintentional punch line, Palin was caught using a cheat sheet scrawled on her hand. Not only is it hypocritical, but it raises the question again: Does Sarah Palin have a clue what’s going on in this country? After all, if you have to scribble on your hand to remind yourself what you believe in, are you that serious about and knowledgeable of what you’re saying? It’s like having to tattoo the names of your children on your arm so you don’t forget who they are.

  Less humorous though equally alarming in his remarks was former Republican House member Tom Tancredo, who after making thinly-veiled xenophobic remarks, advocated a return to literacy tests in this country. For those of you who slept through American history classes, those were the illegal and immoral mechanisms for denying black citizens the right to vote, particularly in the South during the era of Jim Crow. Racist much? It should also be noted that the overwhelming makeup of the tea party convention crowd was white. Coincidence?

  Laughably, a spokesperson for the Klan… er…. I mean tea party convention, tripped all over himself to excuse the kind of remarks given by Tancredo, vainly attempting to argue that such remarks do not represent the movement. Then why were such comments so common during the speeches, and why were the comments so lustily cheered throughout the event?

  So how viable is the tea party movement? Not at all. In order to form a political party or an effective movement, there has to be a set of guiding principles, goals and legislative priorities. And yet, all the tea partiers seem to offer is anger and ignorance. They don’t appear to stand for anything - except their unbridled hatred of the president - they simply stand AGAINST everything. FYI: It’s easy to throw bricks, but it takes a constructive and productive mind to use those bricks to build something. And until the tea baggers figure out that hatred and misinformation are not healthy attributes and contribute nothing to our political landscape, they will simply remain a mob of angry, misguided people shouting for the sake of shouting.

  About the author: Joseph O. Patton is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Capital City Free Press.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press


  1. Not for one second do I buy the Tea Party arguments that they are equally opposed to both the Republican and Democratic parties. Any discussion with them or casual glance at their agenda reveals them to be staunchly racist, homophobic, anti-government, religiously dogmatic, pro-big business, militaristic and generally opposed to things like "scientific evidence." Correct me if I am wrong, but don't the Tea Partiers sound an awful lot like Republicans to you? Could it be that their professed dislike of the Republican party is due to a feeling that the modern Republican party simply isn't conservative enough? Or could it be that Tea Party anger against the Republican party establishment is simply frustration at Republicans for having lost power in Washington?

  2. This nearly reminds me of the rise of the Religious Right and its repeated attempts to take over the Republican Party... only now this particular group doesn't seem concerned if it splits the whole GOP in the process. They seem so hung up on creating a pure "conservative" party that they're failing to realize splitting the existing party will only insure that Democrats remain in power.