By Don Klein
Tea Party rhetoric rings in my ears daily and for long time I have resisted writing about them because I felt they were inconsequential. I thought of them as a bunch of wacks who were roused by harum-scarum fears and madcap folly from their nesting deep in the underbrush to blow off steam. They were not worthy of comment.
Then I recalled that people also thought the National Socialist Party of Germany was made up of a bunch of crackpots and if no one gave them much attention they would dissolve into thin air and things would go back to normal. We all know that led to the most horrible of all consequences in the last century.
I am not equating the Tea Party with the Nazi Party -- yet, primarily because the former has not yet tasted real power. But there are many similarities. The Tea Party is so out of line with the rest of America it is shameful that they get so much national attention. They are mostly stingy older people who are very comfortable in life and want to protect their cushy existence at the cost of others.
Their motto should be "Me, me, me." I call them the party of shrill and no sympathy. Their ostensible leader and national icon, the ex-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who has proved herself to be a shade less well-informed than a simpleton, speaks in a shrieking voice as an authority on whatever subject she thinks will rally her phobic, racially bigoted and gun-toting followers.
They fear a self-concocted creeping socialism, they hate the thought of a black president and will do whatever is necessary to derail his programs, they love their second amendment rights and their bibles.
Naturally, Palin’s biggest target is President Barack Obama and her major objective is to save America from what she calls encroaching "big government." In Palin’s view, by pushing through the health care legislation Obama was robbing the citizenry of their freedom.
Not sure what freedom is being denied us poor souls, as Palin contends. She never explains anything. It doesn’t fit into her sound-bite delivery from the various podiums. In-depth interviews are out of question for her. She is still licking wounds from her disastrous interview with Katie Couric on national television a year and a half back.
Palin doesn’t like what she terms "gotcha" journalism and claims that asking a candidate which newspapers she reads was a gotcha moment, especially when the candidate didn’t know how to respond to such an evil query. She prefers fiery short to-the-point statements in battling health care – "don’t retreat, just reload."
The TP goes way beyond the inanities of Palin. They carry signs depicting Obama as a fascist, a socialist and a communist all wrapped up in one, thinking that will discredit him when it has the exact opposite effect. They forget he was elected by an overwhelming majority of voters to do just what he is doing. It shows how out of step they are, not him.
They also lie by the hour. They say the economy is worsening when in fact the recession has leveled off and the stock market is back over 11,000 for the first time in years. Also joblessness is slowly diminishing.
They were the ones that propounded the death panel talk and questioned whether Obama indeed was an American citizen. They continued that nonsense in the face of factual evidence to the contrary. They feel overtaxed and demand relief while being so ill-informed they don’t realize that taxes for most people last year was less than its been in years.
To the TP, the answer to all questions is to cut taxes and cut spending, except for the military.
The TP is made up of mostly older, white males who seem to fear that their privileges and status will be harmed by new social and economic programs. They are full of contradictions. They all speak of smaller government but none want to give up their Social Security or Medicare.
Their biggest fear is wrapped around what they call the tendency towards socialism in this country. I doubt if many of them can define socialism, but it is the bugaboo they dread will eventually take away their rights. Although almost all of them have adequate health care for themselves and their families they resent the program to provide health care for the uninsured.
Their political nemesis is Obama and the Democrats, even though most say they don’t like either major party and do not seek a third party. The overwhelming majority of TP members are extremely conservative and are unhappy Republicans.
They like to describe themselves as a grass roots movement but I see the TP as the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, on par with the evangelicals. That’s why you never hear a GOP hotshot challenging anything the TPs say. Fortunately, the TP is a small percentage of the country and has no current leader.
This is where Sarah Palin, and such outlandish purveyors of screwball ideas, Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, pose a danger. If either of these oddballs manage to latch on as a TP leader, watch out.
The sad truth about Palin and Bachmann is that they are unfit to hold any public office, but despite their ignorance and lack of curiosity about the world around them, they are potent figures by virtue of their charisma, their political cheerleading and their good looks. They are attractive candidates to a certain misinformed and disenchanted element of the electorate.
It would be a tragedy if either of them became national decision-makers. I can’t image either one in a seat of power here or anywhere, but it has happened before. Remember George W. Bush? One Bush in one lifetime is more than enough.