Friday, April 16, 2010

Thoughts on the Tax Day/Tea Party Protests

Yesterday the Tea Party rallies culminated in a countrywide protests surrounding “tax day” in symbolic protest against all things federal government. I must say, my hopes have waxed and waned quite a lot in regards to this movement. On the one hand it has given me hope for the future of American politics, and the republic in general.

When I hear a man say, “five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something like this; but now I feel it is my duty,” I take heart. I certainly have never seen anything like this in my lifetime, where the otherwise “button down” people of America have taken to the streets. And I must also say it has been bitter/sweet watching how begrudgingly the media has covered this. If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear the anguish in their voices.

But what a joke. A few years ago the media followed Cyndy Sheehan and her one-woman crusade around the country like she had her own reality tv show, yet here where there is an actual widespread political movement being undertaken by a part of the population which has never engaged in such activity before, the media is scarce to be found. And when the media does cover it, by and large, the information you are given has been mashed through their giant strainer of editorialization. The media is truly doing their best to do their job of "objective reporting" while not actually doing their job of objective reporting. But we must keep appearances right?

Why is this? Because it’s not a movement they can romanticize like they did with the Civil Rights protests of the 60’s, the Vietnam protests of the 70’s, the anti-nuclear war rallies of the 80’s, the anti war and pro immigration demonstrations of the early 2000’s, and the pro gay marriage rallies in California and other places over the last couple of years. No, because these rallies don’t involve a minority group or a minority cause, they simply aren’t nearly as “news worthy.” But are you telling me that a movement that has managed to pull middle and upper class people away from their career and family obligations, senior citizens out of their retirement, and moms away from children, to do something they would never have dreamed of doing is not "news worthy"? I mean, this is the first such movement that isn't based almost entirely on college aged individuals.

But that the media despises the Tea Party movement gives me hope. When the media refuses to cover something adequately it is usually important. That is a rule of thumb you can take to the bank (wow two clich├ęs in one sentence).

I am also encouraged by the recent “blue print” of the top 10 concerns which were recently voted on by Tea Partiers. First on their list is first on my list: (1) Require each bill to identify its constitutional authorization. There is no more pressing concern than the need to place the “shackles of the constitution”, as Jefferson called them, back on the hands and feet of our government. I would love to see a bill requiring, henceforth, that each piece of legislation proposed by Congress give a introductory statement as to which portion of Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution Congress it is deriving its authority to act. There could be no greater need at this time in our country than a resounding reminder that government may only act, IF AT ALL, if the constitution allows it to do so.

The rest of the Tea party concerns are as follows:

(2) Defund, repeal, and replace government-run health care

(3) Demand a balanced budget

(4) End runaway government spending by imposing a statutory cap limiting growth in federal spending

(5) Enact fundamental reform to simplify and lower taxes

(6)Create a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs

(7) Reject cap-and-trade

(8) Pass an “all of the above” energy policy

(9) Stop the 2011 tax hikes

(10) Stop the pork.

Most of the list is somewhat vague, but then again, the movement is a coalition of varying shades of conservative, and even includes some self avowed liberals. But by and large I believe the list is a good start.

For all of these reasons I have hope in what the Tea Party movement is doing. But I also have my doubts. My greatest fear is still that this movement will simply become co-opted by the Republican Party and that the movement will simply be smothered and destroyed. Why would it be destroyed? Because the Republican Party is nothing more than the slow train to ruin, whereas the Democrats are the fast train to ruin. Both parties have been leading our country down towards a cliff for the better part of 20 years.

My other concerns about the Tea Party is its affiliation with Sarah Palin, who I do not believe possesses a principled platform of ideas or any where near the qualities needed for leadership, let alone the lofty status of statesmanship. Yet with all of this, my current feeling is to support the Tea Party movement and see where it leads to. If it can lead us to the promised land of a rejection and dismantling of big federal government, I am on board. Yet, I will keep my seat near the back of the train and reserve my right to jump off at any time that I feel the movement is loosing its small government roots.