Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bridge to the Tea Party

Since it became a political force in the 2010 Mid-term Elections, the tea party has remained something of a mystery to the mainstream media and the typical progressive/liberal, including both everyday citizens and elected politicians. I've encountered oodles of people--both online and in real life--who simply cannot come to terms with the movement, its genesis, and how it can be properly characterized as it--like all movements--changed over time.

So, allow me to provide some background on these things. The tea party movement is rooted not in opposition to Barack Obama--something so many otherwise intelligent people just cannot accept--but in the last months of the Bush Administration and the Bailout bill, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. It wasn't called the tea party movement yet, but the people "riled up" by this bill are the same ones that showed up at the earliest tea party-style protests on tax day in 2009. Rick Santelli, of course, is the one who thrust the idea of a tea party into the national conscience with his off-the-cuff remarks a few months earlier--February 19, 2009--live on CNBC (of all places) at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. With the election around the corner, it's worth watching again, as his points remain quite valid:

Some of the "Rant of the year" (my boldface):
The government is promoting bad behavior... 
How about this, President and new administration? Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages; or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water?... 
You know, Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective. Now, they're driving '54 Chevys, maybe the last great car to come out of Detroit... 
We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm gonna start organizing...
Note the part in bold: people who carry the water instead of people who just drink the water. That's the core point right there, that's the foundation of the movement, the idea that people who do the work day in and day out should not have to pay for everyone else, should not have to eat shit while the government bails out all of the people who acted foolishly, from big banks to private citizens.

In the beginning, that's all there was for the tea party movement, a basic ideological framework that hearkened back to the Founding, rooted as it was in the tenets of limited government, individual responsibility, and a freedom to choose one's own path in life.

The movement, as we all know, gained steam and led to the historic mid-terms of 2010, with many so-called "tea party candidates" emerging victorious first in primary contests against Republican incumbents, then in the elections proper. True, the tea party ran almost entirely from the side of the GOP, but that's because it was a movement rooted in a platform like that of past Republicans, when it came to the economy, taxes, and the scope of government. But there was still a great deal of animosity in the movement for most current Republican office-holders. Most. Because aside from a few exceptions, they were viewed as a part of the problem.

In fact, many people associated with the tea party movement early on were none too happy identifying as Republicans, even if they had been Republicans for quite some time. Here are some numbers on party identification, going back to 2004. The first column represents the percentage of the population that self-identifies as Republican. Look at the percentages just prior to elections: around 37% towards the end of 2004, around 32% towards the end of 2006, around 33% towards the end of 2008, and around 36% towards the end of 2010. And now? The latest number is almost 38%, the highest it has ever been, since 2004.

In reference to the political climate, the explanation is obvious: people on the right were still happy with Bush in 2004. After all, he had staved off an economic downturn that began to take shape just before 9-11 and had--in a real sense--kept the nation safe after 9-11. But in his second term, Bush made a lot of people on the right unhappy, largely because of the financial crisis and Bush's handling of the same. Through most of 2009--the time when the tea party movement really took shape--the number stayed low, usually below 33%. But come 2010 and election time, the number rose, partly because the tea party crowd took the only path open, as I explained above.

During the months of this season's primaries--as it became apparent Romney would be the nominee--there was much angst in parts of tea party land, egged on by simple-minded fools, some of whom I have discussed previously. The percentage self-identifying as Republicans dropped accordingly, with some claiming they would never support Romney, that he was no different than Obama, politically. But now, as election day nears, the number is on the rise.

Part of that is simple pragmatism, once again. But I think there is a larger reason: a more general acceptance among many--though certainly not all--in tea party land that Romney is a workable choice. And I think the Ryan selection played a role here. But so too did Marco Rubio, via his speech and his unquestioning support of Romney. Rubio basically handed Romney Florida by taking it away from Gingrich in the space of a couple of hours. And Rubio remains one of the rarest of breeds: someone who can reach between the two worlds of the tea party and the traditional Republican party. Rubio did not run as a member of the tea party movement in 2010, but he enjoyed full tea party support, nonetheless. And I think between the Ryan selection and the prominent role given to Rubio in the Convention, tea party members are becoming more willing to call themselves Republicans once again.

To me, this suggests that no significant votes will go to a third candidate--like Gary Johnson--and that's good news for Romney, bad news for Obama.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. "...the idea that people who do the work day in and day out should not have to pay for everyone else, should not have to eat shit while the government bails out all of the people who acted foolishly, from big banks to private citizens."

    Well said, but we can go further.

    Last night our family watched Dinesh D'Souza's film, 2016. To put it succinctly, he paints Obama as an anti-colonialist. That is saying far too little, let me not discourage anyone from seeing the whole thing. But it is enough to refer to. Obama thinks of "rich" as compared to third world culture, and we are ALL rich. At best, he will not be satisfied until everyone is living in conditions similar to his half brother, George.

    Everyone except the ruling elite.

    Observe: We are evil because they live in squalor, so he is righteous to take all our liberty and all our wealth until it's "fair".

    Except, what has he done for the Cherokee?
    Ever seen him visit an Indian reservation?
    ( these last - my own thoughts )

    Good read Robert, thanks. But please, go see 2016.