Monday, March 8, 2010

What a Lovely Tea Party...

The Tea Party Movement is challenging incumbent Congressman Frank LoBiondo by supporting a candidate who claims LoBiondo votes more like a liberal than a conservative.
LoBiondo was first elected to Congress in 1994 and has remained there, enjoying wide popularity throughout New Jersey’s Second Congressional District. But his vote on the “Cap and Trade” Bill, which places limits on greenhouse gas emissions has provoked ire among his fellow Republicans. LoBiondo voted for the legislation, one of eight Republicans that did so, and as a consequence, the party is fighting back.
This is the first time LoBiondo has been challenged so ferociously from within his own party, and it’s primarily due to the rise of the Tea Party Movement, which advocates fiscal conservatism and limited federal government.

From the New Jersey Tea Party Coalition’s website:

“We use the term ‘tea party’ as an allusion to the Boston Tea Party, when colonists, on December 16, 1773, in a protest to taxation of tea, threw the cargo of three British ships overboard into Boston Harbor.”

There’s a vast difference between those who protested the Tea Act in 1773 and the Republican faction behind the modern Tea Party Movement. The Tea Act was passed to increase the British East India Company’s monopoly on tea to the colonies and to thwart smugglers who sold tax-free tea. The colonists protested being taxed without representation in Parliament. Americans do have representatives in Congress and the Senate and are free to communicate their concerns to them. They might not always like their representative’s response, yet that’s the system we have under the Constitution.

From the New Jersey Tea Party Coalition’s website:

“If you were to listen to the news media, you would hear that we are an organization of rich people who don't want to pay their taxes. We have been called mobsters. We have been called Asto-turf. Nothing could be further from the truth! We are the epitome of a ‘grass roots’ movement made up of citizens who are concerned with the high spending, high taxing path the United States government is on. We feel that this is a road to economic ruin not only for us, but for our children and grandchildren.”

The Tea Party Movement has not been called “Astro-turf.” There were published allegations that the group is an example of “astroturfing,” a technique where an organization hides its origins by inventing grassroots movements that appears to be spontaneous and authentic, when in reality, it’s all bullshit. The published allegations linked the conservative groups FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity as the real catalysts behind the Tea Party Movement.
As far as demographics, at the Tea Party meeting I attended, all of the participants were white, in their 50s or older and conservative. I don’t know that’s the makeup of the group in other parts of the country, but that’s what I saw.
The Tea Party Movement compares themselves to the colonists who rebelled against the British Empire. However, they’re rebelling against a democratic republic, with representatives (including the president) who are elected directly by the people. That’s a far cry from the tyrannical reign of George III.
The way the Tea Party followers talk, you’d think we live in a military dictatorship with armed soldiers who randomly stop citizens, conduct strip searches and issue a steep bill for harassing them.
One Tea Party faction, the Tea Party Patriots, conduct rallies throughout the country where they protest the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (passed under the Obama Administration) and the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (passed under the Bush Administration). While most of the blame should be heaped on the Clinton and Bush administrations, Obama seems to take the brunt of the Tea Party Movement’s anger. Members refer to Obama as a “socialist,” a “Nazi” and a “tyrant.”

From the Tea Party Patriots website:
“Tea Party Patriots, Inc. ("TPP") is a non-partisan, non-profit social welfare organization dedicated to furthering the common good and general welfare of the people of the United States. TPP furthers this goal by educating the public and promoting the principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets. Tea Party Patriots has not endorsed candidates for public office.”

Non-partisan? Really? Here are some of the supporters of the Tea Party Movement: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, former GOP Vice Presidential candidate and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and conservative commentators Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity.
Do they really want to label themselves as a “social welfare” organization? Sounds a bit like socialism, doesn’t it? You know: the very thing they’re fighting against.
According to one hotheaded Tea Party follower, who bitched out a CNN reporter at a tax rally, “Lincoln believed that people had the right to share in the fruits of their own labor and that government should not take it.” In other words, the government should not tax its citizens.
Not according to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution:

“The Congress shall have Power to Lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposes and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States…”

So Congress has the ability to tax its citizens? Surely, we are entitled to the fruits of our labors like the Tea Party activists purport?
The 16th Amendment to the Constitution says different:

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

Taxes and the Constitution go together like tea and scones. Or tea and crumpets. Or whatever you eat with tea. The point is, the taxation system is ingrained into our laws as a way of funding the government. We, the people, pay for our government. The Tea Partiers are complaining because the government wants more money to run its bloated, unwieldy self.
The Tea Party Movement claims less government can be effective, yet they don’t cite examples of which departments could be reduced and how exactly this would work efficiently overall. Most of their rhetoric is against the federal government, lamenting about “too much government” in our lives. They make no bones about their loathing for government, except the military. They really sport massive hard-ons for the troops while bashing the Commander in Chief and the government those troops serve.
That’s like a colonial saying, “I really hate King George and the British Empire, but I support the redcoats.”
Participants of the Tea Party Movement are disparagingly referred to as “teabaggers” because members mailed teabags to the House and Senate as part of the 2009 Tax Day protests.
After listening to the speeches and reading some of their propaganda, I think they should be called teabaggers for another reason: if they actually manage to ascend to power, it would be like dragging a scrotum across the face of America.
The Tea Party Movement uses the purest, most cherished principles from a chapter of American history (the fight for liberty and self-governance) and perverts them for their own purposes.
Though they are free to assemble and form their own political movement, the teabaggers aren’t examining the whole picture. The federal government is full of career politicians (like LoBiondo) and does implement cumbersome programs that result in waste. If we didn’t have bloviating, ineffective politicians more interested with partisan one-upsmanship instead of actual bipartisan attempts at governance, maybe the Tea Party Movement wouldn’t exist.
The Tea Party Movement are a pissed off rabble who ignore the biggest problem with American politics: the corporate donors who buy and own representatives lock, stock and barrel. Corporate donors and lobbyists are the scum of the system and apply pressure on lawmakers to either vote for or kill legislation based on their special interests.
The lobbyist’s plentiful donations steer Congress. If you want to talk about who’s doing more damage to the process, it’s not Obama’s “socialist” agenda, but the entrenched corporate and lobbying interests.
Look, America is a capitalist country where free enterprise and industry reign supreme. In order for business to thrive, sometimes businesses need tax breaks or lax anti-pollution laws or land to strip-mine. They woo members of Congress, who in turn propose legislation or vote the way their corporate masters want them to.
It’s the way things have been done in this country since the beginning.
The teabaggers should direct their outrage to the root of corruption: corporate campaign contributions and lobbyist groups.
Maybe these “patriots” remain silent because they’re side is heavily invested in the system more than they care to admit. Maybe all of this posturing and evoking the sacrifices of our colonial ancestors is a way to capitalize on the discontent and frustration they feel and to give their movement a higher and worthier purpose.
The problem with the Tea Party Movement is that it’s too cynical to be effective. Their entire argument revolves around bashing the federal government and claiming that the federal government is somehow going to control every aspect of our lives like Stalinist Russia, that people would be part of the system from the cradle to the grave and America would be a dystopia the likes of Orwell’s 1984.
The Sons of Liberty were successful in uniting the disenfranchised colonists against the British Empire because their cause had an intellectual ideal: a people’s self-determination of their own destiny. This was a radical, 18th century idea, the fact that leaders were elected and not born and that the people govern themselves.
Yet in their zealousness to quote from and evoke history, the teabaggers fail to learn its most important lessons. So afraid are they of phantom socialists suppressing their freedoms that they don’t realize the ones manipulating them into outrage are the ones who would like to see the Democrats gone, namely the Republicans.
The Tea Party Movement is a petulant, angry mob devoid of any cohesive message and an articulate way of expressing their grievances. Instead, we get Photoshopped images of Obama with a Hitler mustache.
The teabaggers claim the Democrats will turn America into a socialist dictatorship. Hey, we're talking Democrats here. This party is so disorganized and can't pass meaningful legislation, yet somehow it will undo over 200 years of American democracy?
Presidencies are temporary things and laws can be amended and repealed. Yet the rancorous messages spouted from these fearful people are dreadful warnings regarding the rise of socialism and the death of Constitutional freedoms.
The movement fails to adopt the long view of history, preferring to mythologize the Boston Tea Party and American Revolution as bold examples of citizen defiance against an entrenched world power. However, unlike the Sons of Liberty or the founding fathers, the teabaggers are not advocating an armed rebellion and a new national system. Their property, jobs and lives aren’t threatened because of their activism.
Before signing the Declaration of Independence, which would forever brand him a traitor to the British Empire, Dr. Benjamin Franklin said, “We must, indeed, hang all together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The Tea Party Movement is nothing like the American Revolution, where to ally oneself with the rebellion meant death.
It is, at its best, a gathering of citizens upset with politics as usual and burdensome federal taxes that are affecting the quality of their lives during an economic crisis.
At worst, it’s a paranoid faction of the Republican Party, Independents and Libertarians pissed off and insane with rage against the United States government. If Obama really was a socialist and their freedoms were in jeopardy, don’t you think these teabaggers would be censored or jailed?
They have under the First Amendment, freedom of speech and freedom to protest their dissatisfaction with the government, which means wearing tri-cornered hats, holding up teabags and calling the president a Muslim terrorist.
I also, under the same Constitution have the freedom to write about how ridiculous they are.
God bless America.

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