Thursday, April 15, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: The Tea Party movement: All over but the shoutin’

  It’s all over but the shoutin.’

  The Tea Party, replete with its arguable parallels to the days of this nation’s Founding Fathers and their brave actions, soaked in red, white and blue, and driven by a virulent strain of misguided anger, is about to take its last breath. We can quibble over motives, party affiliations and the nuances of public policy, but ultimately there is only emptiness and no direction hiding behind the angry yelling, firearm waving and the incendiary condemnation of public officials.

  The hallmark of any effective grassroots movement - whether it be for the advocacy of civil rights, to correct economic inequalities, or to even weigh in on matters of war and defense - is that it has a clearly defined, practical goal, something to achieve, and most importantly the means and feasible plans to achieve its goal. The Tea Party movement is woefully lacking all of these things.

  Consider unofficial Tea Party standard-bearer Sarah Palin’s constant refrain, spurring on the excited crowds, arguing that our government should lower our taxes. Only Palin offers nothing when it comes to determining which taxes should be lowered or eliminated, pinpointing who will receive a tax cut and how, what the rate of the cut will be or how it will be determined, or more importantly, how the resulting loss in revenue will be dealt with. It’s the equivalent of arguing that our planet can remedy global warming simply by erecting a giant umbrella to shade us all. Or avoiding violent conflicts around the world by instructing world leaders to share a cookie and “play nice” with each other.

  Or consider the outrage pouring forth from Tea Party activists concerning government spending. Never mind that countless individuals among them are direct beneficiaries of government spending - whether it be the interstates they drive on each day, the food they feed their families each day which is being inspected by the government to protect them from all manners of diseases and infections, or even items such as government-subsidized student loans, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid… just to name a few - but where were these individuals when the previous president spent our tax dollars uncontrollably and without conscience and with no regard to our national debt? Our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prescription drug benefit, Bush’s tax cuts - none of these items were paid for and yet those who associate themselves with the Tea Party movement were inexplicably silent and not to be seen during this period. But let’s assume for a moment these individuals were simply busy with other matters or not paying attention - we must ask, what government programs or types of spending do you propose we cut or eliminate? Are the Tea Party activists willing to cut their own grandmothers’ Social Security payments, or perhaps cut funding to the Veterans Administration which is treating their brother for combat wounds sustained in the service of his country?

  Or consider the recent theatrics involving health care reform. Aside from the over-heated rhetoric and parade of false information - death panels, socialism, grandma-killing - there was an ugly void in the arguments and outrage among Tea Party activists. For all the bluster and borderline-violent opposition to the health care reform proposals, there was one thing sadly missing from their words and actions - a viable, alternative solution. Countless polls underscore the fact that nearly every American believes something needs to be done in regards to reforming our health care system, so what is the honest purpose in utilizing every avenue to kill an attempt at reform and yet offer nothing of your own to tackle the problem? Perhaps the most applicable and effective advice I’ve ever received is: If you don’t have a better idea, sit down and shut up. Or if you prefer more of a bitter pill form of this admonition, here goes: If you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem.

  The Bible certainly got it right on this one: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” So goes the Tea Party movement, and appropriately enough we can start drafting its obituary as the sun sets on Tax Day. It’s all over but the shoutin,‘ because when the yelling subsides and the misguided anger is quelled, there will be nothing left of the Tea Party.

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

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