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Tea Party by the Bay

April 15, 2010

I generally prefer not to pay too much attention to the Tea Party movement, although that has become relatively difficult (especially today). From what I do know, they seem to be an amorphous group of conservatives, which have always existed in our country, that have gotten behind a single phrase with little actually consistency of purpose or aim. While they are not all racist, xenophobic or otherwise bigoted, bigots, racists, xenophobes are found in greater concentrations among their ranks than the general populace. If they are to have any effect in our politics, the most likely one is the further radicalization of the Republican Party or the emergence of a third party that competes with the Republican Party for voters. Either of this outcomes would benefit Democrats and the progressive causes I believe. That is my general understanding, taken from my (liberally-tilted) reading, and I therefore don’t really mind much.

However, when they start publishing op-eds in my hometown paper, I can be silent no longer. Today, the Chronicle published an op-ed by the founder of the Bay Area Patriots and coordinator of the San Francisco Tea Party. Let’s take a look at it to see if there’s anything worth paying attention to.

The first sentence claims that the movement is grassroots, that it’s not artificially created and funded by Fox News and other right-wing groups. Of course, the Bay Area Patriots site links to the national GOP and the Tea Party Patriots, a group closely affiliated with FreedomWorks (funded by? I can’t find out for sure), a non-profit run by Republican former Speaker of the House Dick Armey. Aside from other Tea Parties, their calendar only links to Republican events. So, is their organization grassroots in that it doesn’t receive funds from national establishment groups? Perhaps. Does it represent something markedly different or separate from the standard GOP? Doubtful.

The next sentence is great:

San Francisco’s Tea Party started a year ago in reaction to excessive spending in Washington, the bailouts, stimulus plans, pork and earmarks that compromised healthy, sustainable economic growth and replaced it with liberty-squelching, job-killing taxes.

Excessive spending, you say? Bush added $5 trillion to the national debt and left us on the hook for more in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where were the Tea Parties then? At least he didn’t squelch our liberties, aside from those granted to us by the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments. The problem with the American electorate in general is that, while it hates the national debt, there’s no spending they really want to cut, as this Economist poll shows.

The author says she wants the government out of the private sector. Less regulation! More collapsed coal mines! Less government oversight! More risky trading of derivatives! Less taxes! More potholes!

The piece really doesn’t say anything specific enough to be argued with, except that “less than 35 percent of Americans approved of the health care reform bill.” As I remember, that wasn’t exactly the case.

Upon further reflection, the Tea Party movement, or at least the op-ed in the Chronicle, was not worth paying attention to. If you want to pay more attention, though, here’s an in-depth piece from the lamestream media, with the following cherry at the end:

Nearly three-quarters of [Tea Party supporters] who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.” Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits. Others could not explain the contradiction.

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