My Final Thoughts (Until I Have More) On The Tea Party

My correspondence with Cathy, my anonymous critic, and another correspondent who prefers that I not publicly post her comments have kept me busy, busy, busy — and I love it.

It’s clear, though, that my readers disagree strenuously with my take on the Tea Party, whose leaders I see, as I wrote to a friend a month ago, as a hopelessly craven, blasphemously grasping bunch determined to shepherd a movement of people who are appropriately angry, but angry at the very institutions that could render them aid. Further, they’re entirely unthinking, I believe, in their alliance with those who applaud the very systems and policies that keep them suffering. Their anger at Big Government and Big Corporations seems curiously unilateral, perhaps because Big Corporations fund and benefit from the Tea Party’s efforts.

If lower-middle-class people believe they are taxed too much, it makes little sense to rail against those who would like to roll back the ridiculous Bush tax cuts and distribute the load more evenly. “Anonymous” believes that taxing the richest Americans will result in fewer jobs — which sounds simple enough, but isn’t borne out by facts or by economic history. The proportionately untaxed super-rich have allowed the tax burden to be shifted to those in the middle or below — and they’re not re-investing their profits into more jobs, and their lobbyists drive Congress to actually cut unemployment and other benefits for the lower-middle-class unemployed, the very people so angry with Government.

The Tea Party howls about the interference of Big Government, yet was silent during the Bush-era implementation of the Patriot Act. It rails against enormous national debt, but only found its debt-anger when Barack Obama was elected to manage the enormity of debt George W. Bush piled up. And instead of working within the system to solve the nation’s debt problem — and there IS a debt problem — they hold Congress hostage by refusing a debt-reduction measure crafted not just by Democrats, but by the Speaker who represents their own GOP.

It doesn’t define the whole Tea Party, but there’s some truth that for a part of the movement, the problem isn’t the national debt, but that it’s, in their eyes, a Black man’s debt. Can that be denied so easily when so much of the Tea Party’s inception involved questioning Obama’s citizenship, Americanism, religion, and “socialist tendencies”? I don’t recall anyone, really, questioning the citizenship of John McCain, who WAS born outside of the U.S., and, some reports say, not in a military hospital. It’s disingenuous to ignore the racist underpinnings of much of the movement’s inception, and I commend those in the Tea Party who pointedly condemn the racism of some of their allies.

The recent debacle over the debt ceiling was an embarrassing look at how the perpetually misinformed can very nearly shipwreck a nation’s economy. Can we honestly call the chaos that resulted in an anemic, impotent “compromise” any sort of statesman-like behavior on behalf of the country? Doesn’t it say something when Tea Party politicos, mostly freshmen, confidently state that an August 2 federal default wouldn’t have been such a big deal — when every intelligent, reasonable member of Congress, the GOP leadership, the head of the Federal Reserve, and virtually every economist consulted insisted that a default would have been an unprecedented disaster not just for the U.S., but for the rest of the world? Senator John Kerry and Obama adviser David Axelrod are correct in terming the S & P downgrade as a “Tea Party downgrade,” because S & P gave the loose and reckless language demonstrated by those who spoke so insouciantly about the consequences of default as a primary reason for its lowering of the U.S. credit rating. Those weren’t Democrats, and they weren’t mainstream Republicans. Words have consequence; this was a big one, even if S & P’s math was sketchy. Do we trust people who are seemingly unable to grasp basic economic policy, appear proud of that fact, and speak recklessly to a watching world about the integrity of their country’s debt obligations?

The Tea Party bigwig roster is full of buffoons, and I frankly think I’m speaking generously here. It’s one thing when Michelle Bachmann churns out a gaffe a day — mixing up Elvis’ birthday with the day of his death, for example — but it’s dangerous when Senator Tom Coburn laments, in opposition of Barack Obama and his Senate opponents, that he can’t carry a weapon on the Senate floor. How funny is that in light of the January shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? Presidential candidate Rick Perry suggests that Ben Bernanke would be acting “treasonously” if the Fed prints more money, and then veers off into how evolution is “just a theory.” Sigh. And Herman Cain, speaking at the Iowa Straw Poll and addressing a room full of people in a nation with unemployment hovering at about ten percent, snarks that his folks “made it” the “old-fashioned way — they worked.” Is it possible that Cain can’t imagine that he was speaking to people who would LOVE to “do it the old-fashioned way” — if only they had the opportunity?

Besides their Tea Party gusto, Cain, Bachmann, Perry, and Coburn, as well as Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Louie Gohmert, all proclaim their evangelical faith at every turn — and the largely evangelical crowd expects them to. Wouldn’t it be nice if their faith guided them toward a reasoned, reconciliation-oriented, and responsible approach to government? Does any conservative Christian really believe that the best of the best evangelical minds can be found on a Tea Party dais? As evangelical thinker Jim Wallis says, the Left doesn’t get it, and the Right gets it wrong. Wouldn’t a commitment to something other than rousing crowds to more anger help the Right veer onto the correct path, and show those Christian-ish folks on the Left how to live in Christ while in the public square? The Religious Right Tea Party has the microphone, with little or no idea of how to use it to benefit their nation, much less their Kingdom. It’s better to speak not at all than to represent Christ in the public square by acting like boarish newcomers to a solemn convocation.

Why the Tea Party NOW, anyway? Is it possible that these people see Barack Obama as so irredeemably evil — not just wrong in his politics, but utterly lacking in morals and character — that any and all attacks are warranted, even the most vicious, racist, and irresponsible? How in God’s name — and I mean that literally — is Obama’s continuation of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as bad as that is, anywhere near the evil of the Bush duplicity and manipulation that got us there in the first place? Do pro-life activists consider, even for a moment, the loss of life of 5,000 American soldiers and many more thousands of Iraqis? Does Bush’s anti-abortion rhetoric somehow excuse the slaughter he unleashed in Iraq? Is the “pro-life” movement brave enough to simply acknowledge that its devotion to life is almost solely focused on the unborn? How is Barack Obama anywhere near as bad, his administration anywhere near as dubiously “Christian,” as the blissfully and boldly evangelical George W. Bush?

It’s easy to define the Tea Party by signs like “Hands Off My Medicare, Washington!” — but isn’t it more than a little odd that the Tea Party elderly who benefit from Medicare, the government-sponsored program that guarantees medical care until natural death for people older than 65, are so vehemently opposed to “Obamacare”? Would any of the Tea Party candidates, nationally and locally, refuse their Medicare benefits upon turning 65?

I’ve written more on this during the week than I have on any other topic, and you all know where I stand. I believe I’ve answered the questions posed to me by my correspondents, and my intent is to switch direction to address other topics, like the Douglas Wilson/Mark Driscoll conference here in Moscow next month. Mark Driscoll attracts controversy like a chicken farmer attracts shit — but the farmer is doing honorable work. Driscoll isn’t, and it’s time for me to move on to him and other things.

2 Responses to “My Final Thoughts (Until I Have More) On The Tea Party”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was absolutely NOT silent on the Patriot Act under Bush. I very clearly told you (by email) that I deplored it, and still do…


    PS I will finish reading your post now.

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