Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Questions For the Tea Party

Something that's been bugging me a lot of late ...

Those who consider themselves members of the Tea Party movement are, admittedly, a fascinating lot; they obviously make for good television (why else do their rallies and protests constantly show up on news stations, no matter how nonsensical their arguments?).

But substantively, what drives the Tea Party?

The movement's followers will say they're simply protesting "Big Government," defending their freedoms and liberties from an out-of-touch federal government that, depending on who you talk to, wants to kill Grandma and take away your guns and tax you all the way to the poor house.

Never mind the fact that March's passage of health care reform has not killed a single senior citizen, those who want to own guns still can and taxes have actually gone down for the majority of Americans since President Obama took office.

I can't help but wonder ... if the Tea Party -- a conservative/libertarian movement that has become an unofficial, if awkward, bedfellow to the Republican Party -- is so worried about the federal deficit and massive government spending, where was this movement during the previous administration?

You know, George W. Bush, who took a massive budget surplus from Bill Clinton and turned into a huge deficit before handing things off to Obama? The same President Bush who cut taxes for the super-rich without cutting spending, who created a loophole that left senior citizens on Medicare to pay more in prescriptions and started two wars that have exhausted so much of our nation's financial supply.

Where were the big government protests when Bush sent us into Iraq under false pretenses? Or does the Tea Party consider defense spending to be sacred, since some in the conservative movement apparently thinks arguing against war is unpatriotic?

Think of what we could do with half the money we've poured into Iraq.

Secondly, while the Tea Party will tell anyone that its purpose has nothing to do with race -- and to some degree, that might be true -- why are there so many who carry signs comparing the current President to Hitler, or hoisting signs depicting Obama as a witch doctor, or even implying eventual violence?

If your ire has nothing to do with race, why all the venom toward Obama specifically? Particularly when the facts do not support the movement's arguments.

More specifically ... if the Tea Party is out to protect this country's citizens from the massive overreach of Big Government, then where's the outrage to the new immigration bill in Arizona? As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson put it, the new bill is the very definition of government's vast overreach, so where's the outrage?

Or does the Tea Party only want the government to leave white people alone? Based on the movement's widespread disdain for the president, I'm inclined to think that might be the case. Yet the reality still exists: there is no more dangerous overreach of government than requiring its citizens produce proof of their citizenship based on "reasonable suspicion."

In case you're wondering, darker skin or an accent that sounds anything but American can be fall under "reasonable suspicion." Which is not only horribly hypocritical, given the immigrant history of this country, but it's also dangerously unconstitutional.

But to go by the Tea Party, this bill might be okay; it's giving Americans access to quality, affordable health care is unconstitutional.

Then again, what do you expect from a movement that misrepresents a historical event in acquiring its namesake? The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a revolt against a vast, overreaching government entity, but there are stark differences between that event and what today's movement represents.

The colonists were being taxed by England without having a voice of their own in the government -- you know, the whole "taxation without representation" thing -- but today's Tea Party movement has a voice in government. Not only can these citizens write, call and email their Senators and Representatives -- not to mention the White House, the governors of their respective states and other elected officials on the state and local level -- the Tea Party followers, just like every other American citizen registered to do so, can vote.

In elections.

If you don't like an incumbent, vote them out. If you prefer one candidate over another, you vote for that person. Whoever gets the majority of votes wins. That's how America works.

There is no taxation without representation -- unless you live in D.C. and you want a seat in the House of Representatives. So the Tea Party movement's invocation of Dec. 16, 1773 is historically inaccurate, if not slightly disingenuous.

Then again, what do you expect from a movement who compares the democratically-elected President to the leader of Nazi Germany?

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