Friday, May 28, 2010

The Meaning of the Tea Party

What are the questions about the Tea Party movement that remain open for debate? Those would include...everything else. Depending on which analyst you favor, the movement is either "part of a very big wave" or already starting to burn itself out. The Tea Party activists are either reviving the nation's founding principles, or the anti-intellectualism, extremism, and paranoia said to be constantly latent in American politics. Its members are either the direct descendants of the Ross Perot voters from the 1992 presidential campaign, or have little in common with them. It is a spontaneous grassroots phenomenon, or an example of political "Astroturf." It poses grave dangers for the Republican Party, or is the GOP's salvation. The Tea Party movement has lost interest in the culture wars and social issues that energized conservative politics for the past 45 years, or is composed of people who haven't yielded an inch on those questions...The Tea Party mission can be described in another way. What's at stake in the war conservatives have declared on Obamacare is not only 18% of our economy, but 100% of our polity. If the anger over what the Democrats enacted, and the way they passed it, is replaced by acquiescence, America will have taken a big step toward having not only policies but political processes that are indistinguishable from Europe's. If the people who brought you Obamacare are not rebuked in the elections of 2010 and 2012, they, emboldened, will pursue further social transformations, regardless of popular opposition. Our ruling elites will eagerly adopt their European counterparts' posture toward the people: You are wrong. We know better. We will do this, and you will like it. To permit Obamacare to stand is to permit such an assertion to go unchallenged, and guarantee that it will become routine. By their passivity, the people will be complicit in their own disempowerment. As Frederick Douglass said in 1857, "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."...more

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