Now, I’m not trying to make the case that Teddy Roosevelt was the best President we’ve had. As far as I know, he ranks in the top ten—got his face on a mountain, after all—but I’ve always been a bit antsy when thinking about that mad charge he led in the Spanish-American War. Balancing that out, you’ve got the sense that here was a man who believed in the ability of the population to know what’s right, and the government’s facility to be an agent to ensure that what’s right gets done. After all, he led the Progressive Party—the only third party since the Whigs to get near to winning the Presidency.
He was an outstanding man in every sense of the word. He spoke out for what he believed, acted as if he believed it, and, even after a failed assassination attempt on his life, did everything he could to get his message across. Of course, anyone with the most basic knowledge of the history of American government will be able to tell you that, after leaving the Republican Party, he didn’t succeed in regaining the Presidency; this was due to the main stain of American politics: the political party. Roosevelt counted on his former allies to back him, even though he no longer held the banner.
They let him down, and Roosevelt lost in the elections. (Of course, he still led a pretty damn cool life of adventuring around wherever he could.)
But the thing about this latter part of his political career that we should recognize is that, when the system didn’t jive with what he believed, Roosevelt took the initiative and formed his own party separate from the Republicans and Democrats. He didn’t just talk about the detrimental effects of graft and ineptitude, he did something about it—or, at any rate, tried to.
When I read the news online over here in what some dub Enlightened Europe (the expulsion of Roma in France, as well as some xenophobic policies towards that same group in Italy make me doubt the veracity of that nickname—as do plenty of the policies of the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition in England), I can’t help but be infuriated by what I see about the Tea Party. The media is quick to make the point that a “Tea Party candidate” won this post or that post from an incumbent, that this is the new, grassroots organization. And, yes, I must concede that these people have been elected because they were riding the waves of the “Tea Party.” But, come on, how many people are actually fooled by that name?
Have you noticed that, whenever these guys get elected, the tag next to their name doesn’t read (I) or (TP), but (R) or, in some cases (GOP). These guys are Republicans. They’re not the Tea Party, they’re not some radical new party formed of American sentiment against big government spending pushing health care (God forbid), or help for those without employment (God forbid), or increased education spending (God forbid), or new energy solutions like wind or solar farms (God forbid). It’s incredibly curious, I think, that all of these candidates claim to be the solution to the problem when, in fact, they’re still a part of the problem.
In a recent article in The New Yorker about the Senate, veteran Senators spoke about how freshman Senators would, by and large, grow incredibly disillusioned about the way the system works even within their first year of office. That’s exactly what we have now; a bunch of newbies going into the Senate or House who insist that they’re the new solution. They’re not. There are not italics strong enough to express my disgust at this charade. These. Guys. Are. Not. Who. They. Say. They. Are. That’s all there is to it.
What’s being sold to Americans as a grassroots, wholesome solution to government corruption is complete bullshit in every sense of the word.
One could make the case that they’re still attached to the GOP because doing so ensures them fundraising for their campaigns or support from the party. Sarah Palin has made a multi-million dollar book deal with a major publisher. In her appearance in Nashville at the Tea Party Convention a year or so ago, she netted somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000 for an hour of speaking. I’m going to tout this around, because it’s my favorite statistic in the entire world: The President of the United States of America has a salary of $250,000. Palin, for stepping up to a podium at Gaylord Opryland Hotel, made more than that in an hour.
My point in all of this is that there is no shortage of potential funds for something that claims to be as powerful as the Tea Party. Let us assume that the leaders of this organization (if, indeed, there are any leaders) actually stepped up to what they said and separated themselves from the GOP. (Remember, kids, the Republicans are still just as much the incumbents as the spend-crazy, Muslim-loving, terrorist-harboring Democrats, so they’re fair game.) If those public figures who are the de facto leaders of this party wanted to, if they actually gave a damn about what they were saying, they could easily fund the party in its first few years of existence. And if, as they say, the American popular sentiment is on their side, they’d have no problems at all getting funding. Hell, the Democrats and Republicans have been doing it for decades, and everyone hates them.
But have they separated themselves from the GOP? Have they started declaring themselves a new party in any official sense of the word? No. They have, however, made protest signs. And, as we all know from hippies, gay pride parades, environmentalists, PETA, and everyone else, protest signs are the most effective method of political discourse. They wave these protest signs high in the air, shouting “Nobama!” and “Send Obama back to Kenya!” and “Kick ‘em out!” but then, when election time comes around, they still march into the voting booths like sheeple and tick the box with (R) right next to it.
One of the oldest debates in American politics is the issue of political parties. The first few Presidents wrote about how they were a bad idea, and yet—yet—we’ve marched right along and created them. The political party, in recent years, has become a speed bump in the road of progress. I consider myself a liberal person, and thus, I should be a Democrat, however, the Democrats disgust me. The Republicans make me want to throw up and then renounce my citizenship, but the Dems still disgust me. The two major parties do nothing but toe the party line, behaving the way that will keep them in office, or prepare the next guys to have a warm welcome.
As far as I can tell, the paragraph above is the same sort of thing the Tea Party builds itself on—this idea that there is something horribly wrong with the system, and those involved need to stop acting like petulant children who really, really want to go to the zoo, and the only way to do that is to get their friends to go along with them. Then why, oh why, doesn’t the Tea Party actually do anything about it? Why do they keep endorsing Republican candidates? At the very least, they could reach across the spectrum and choose a few independent progressives, but that’s out of the question. Anyone who’s heard Palin speak—or anyone who’s attended one of these rallies—can figure that out.
I think it’s greed. Bottom line: The people who endorse the TP as much as they do do it because it nets them money. Think back to Palin’s speaking fee. $350,000 for an hour’s work. Not even work, really. No politician writes their own speech—that’s too time-consuming. She stood up in front of a bunch of screaming people with President Obama’s face tacked onto poster board (probably with horns or something drawn on) and read someone else’s words for over a third of a million dollars. She’s got a multi-million book deal and will probably be a commentator for FOX News. She does this Tea Party stuff because it’s good publicity. They all do it because it’s good publicity.
If you actually care about the political process in the United States, you form your own opinions. If it so happens that you determine that those in power need to be taken out of power, then you act in such a way. If your rhetoric is such that you claim the political system in the United States is broken, then you act in a way that reflects that and form a new entity in the system. You do not, you should not, continue to act in line with the system and strengthen a party’s power when you find it flawed. What we have now is a radical wing of the GOP claiming they’re not Republicans, yet just knocking moderates out and replacing them with uneducated, bigoted individuals who make insane claims and then, when their handlers determine that they’re swinging into the danger zone, go back and clumsily rescind their statements.
I don’t care if you’re a conservative or a liberal, a fascist or a socialist. When you hear these people, and you agree with them, how does it not make you think twice when, at the end of the day, this Tea Party candidate will stand up in Congress, cast a vote, and, on C-SPAN, the nameplate of this candidate will read: Schmucky the Clown (R), instead of Schmucky the Clown (TP)? Please, someone explain this to me, because I don’t see any reason why I, or anyone else, should take the Tea Party seriously when they don’t pull a Roosevelt and form their own version of the Progressives.
(Image source: <http://www.brandykarl.com/?page_id=14>, found via Google Image search for “tea party”.)