America is throwing another Tea party.
For those of you not aware of it, there is a grass-roots movement in America called the Tea party that in its two scant years of existence has become significantly influential. It is not as such a political party but rather a loose collection of diverse individuals. It seems to me that they represent a growing proportion of the electorate who don’t feel properly represented by the traditional political templates of the ‘Left’ or the ‘Right’.
Exactly when and where it started are hard to determine but initially it appears to have been a protest movement about the level of taxation on the ordinary person. The name harks back to the Boston Tea Party and is sometimes interpreted as an acronym for Taxed Enough Already but this looks to be a piece of reverse engineering. It’s no longer just about tax though.
It goes further than that. The majority of them think there is no discernible difference between the official policies on offer from either of the mainstream parties who supposedly represent these two political traditions. These are people drawn from both of those ideologies who are sick to death of being ignored and feel increasingly that their lives and liberty are being curtailed, inch by creeping inch, by a smug coterie of professional politicians whom they feel are only in the business of representing themselves and a delusional politically correct view of reality that they assume is somehow going to be good for ordinary people, even if it has to be imposed upon them against their will.
Mainstream policies seem irrelevant or in some cases, positively detrimental to their lives. Too many of these policies are directed at vanishingly small minorities and not the ordinary person.
They’ve got the same sort of detached and unresponsive professional politicians we have in Europe. In the UK, nearly all the leading politicians either come from very wealthy backgrounds or are millionaires in their own right. They’ve all had expensive private educations, finished off with more often than not, a spell at Oxbridge to make all the right social contacts. None of them appear to have held down meaningful jobs. Why should they? They’ve never needed the money. This retro demographic is a throwback to the nineteenth century, so if you needed the final proof that social mobility in the UK has ground to a halt in the last decade, that’s it. What the hell do people like that really know about people like us?
Having talked to some people active in the Tea party movement, their politics are really quite diverse but it seems to me the common message from them to politicians of any stripe is really quite simple – “Listen to me, just for once, listen to me”. Added to this, is their frustration that their concerns and views are not being represented by the main stream media (MSM) and are wilfully misrepresented on too many occasions.
The Tea party itself has been the target of smear after smear by a liberal MSM but as happens, it’s helped their numbers grow too.
In a high unemployment down swing in the economic cycle, a working man trying to support his family and seeing jobs disappearing to cheap immigrant labour, is entitled to raise his concerns about immigration levels without immediately being branded a racist and therefore smugly marginalised but that’s what’s happening. He feels he has no representation or a voice who will speak for him.
A parent has the reasonable expectation of sending their child to school to receive an education, not to be politically indoctrinated. Above all, they don’t want their children being taught that the culture they sprung from and are a part of, should somehow feel guilty for providing the decent standard of living to its people that other countries signally fail to do. Too much hard work and sacrifice has been rendered by previous generations to put their children and descendants in this better position in the world and that should be acknowledged and respected. It isn’t happening.
They tend to be people who work for a living, with their hands and with their heads and it’s all getting harder and harder for smaller and smaller returns. They’re the working stiffs who’re paying higher and higher taxes and not only adjusting to a lower standard of living but seeing those tax dollars wasted on madcap schemes or a permanent shiftless welfare class who in some cases, haven’t held down a job in five generations.
They’re people who have never before taken an active role in politics but are starting to see how things really work. It’s all low volume stuff; local meetings of a hundred or so attendees, persuading their friends and co-workers to turn out for the demo, getting a story into the local paper, dealing with a hostile MSM, setting up their own websites and getting people to actively express their dissatisfaction with the current politicians.
They’re the men and women who make those juggling decisions every month between mortgage payments, rent, utility, heating bills, clothing and food. They’re the working mothers who really scrutinise the deals on food in their local mart and clip every one of those damn coupons. That little bit of rainy day money or the college fund for the promising kid just never gets bigger; it just gets dipped into to tide them over. It’s not that they want help from the government; it’s that they want the government and its petty officialdom off their backs and out of their lives.
They’re the ones who know how high crime really is in the streets and they also know if it happens to them, it’ll be the criminal who gets all the attention and free services, not them. They get to lose money they can’t afford because they’ll be off work recovering from injuries received. They don’t think there’s a debate over whether prison works or not because they know it keeps violent and criminal people off the streets for years at a time and that’s good enough for them. In their dumb and unenlightened way, it really “works” for them.
They no longer trust politicians in the mainstream. It’s a new sort of pluralism. If nobody will represent them, then they’ll do it for themselves. No party, Republican or Democrat, can be sure of their support because they aren’t endorsing either since they feel betrayed by both of them. What they’re doing is beginning to run their own candidates or on rare occasions, endorsing the campaigns of particular mainstream candidates who’re really listening to them.
Contrary to the way they’re portrayed by the MSM, they’re not gun-toting, white supremacist, Aryan Nation, born-again creationists of the extreme right-wing. There are elements of that stuff in the mix but it’s neither large nor significant. The disillusioned left is well represented as is the racial diversity of America. Working people all across America are hurting, irrespective of the colour of their ass. The biggest influx of people the movement got was about a year after Obama’s inauguration. All those first time voters and activists swept up in the heady enthusiasm of the “we can do it” campaign, realised at about that time how badly they’d been taken and what an empty vessel Obama truly was. A good slogan can get you elected but it’s what you do from then on that matters and he’s under delivered every time.
They didn’t all walk away, bitterly writing off any further involvement in politics as a waste of time; a lot of them migrated to the Tea party. They now have a taste for activist politics and they’re wising up fast.
Every man and his dog on Capitol Hill know that the Obama administration has been an unmitigated disaster. It’s become a classic dead man walking situation headed up by a one administration president who seems to be universally disliked or despised in equal measure. To be fair to the man, he’s been asked to handle a systemic banking crisis but with it, as with so many issues he’s supposed to have been tackling, the response has been abysmal. He talks the talk but he doesn’t rise to the challenges and he’s been found out.
The problem for the Democratic Party is not winning next year’s presidential election, because barring divine intervention, that’s already lost and they know it. It’s the one after that which will be a nightmare to win. Four years of a Republican administration will give lots of time for the economy to recover. They’ll be up against an incumbent Republican president with control of both houses of congress and a simple campaign message. I saved America from the damage caused by an incompetent Obama and steered you back to prosperity. For any political strategist, that’s a hell of a tough nut to crack but that’s the one they’re working on.
For the Republican Party, next year’s election presents more subtle problems but they’re potentially just as dangerous as the Democrat’s ones. What if their traditional knee-jerk vote, whom they know already feel alienated from the party, migrates to the Tea party?
Will America go the UK route, where a sure-fire electoral victory, crippled by the dumbest electoral strategy in living memory, deteriorated into a stalemate. The voters would be damned if they’d cross the floor to vote for the opposition but at the same time they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the party they felt historically represented them because the policies were so alien to any reality outside the chic dinner party circuit of London? They stayed away and abstained; after all, there were seemingly no other acceptable choices.
For once, maybe they won’t abstain and may start voting for a third way; for the independents of the Tea party who’ll represent them. For career politicians and the established parties, this is the real danger the Tea party represents. No more abstaining if your natural party of choice seems to be ignoring you, you can go Tea party because despite the picture painted of it by the MSM, there are a lot of rooms in that mansion.
There are two key questions; are they having an impact and will they continue growing?
Without a doubt, they are certainly having an effect on the new generation of politicians. Last year’s midterm election demonstrated that for all to see. The Republican Party’s new candidates all expressed their skepticism forcefully on global warming orthodoxy among other things and picked up a lot of votes because of it. The Democrats hardly mentioned global warming, even though their president was trying to push cap-and-trade through at the time. They knew it would lose votes. Interestingly, they hardly mentioned their leader in their campaigns either. It reminded me of actors who superstitiously never refer to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth by name because it’s tempting fate and bad luck, choosing instead to call it “the Scottish play”.
As to whether they’ll keep growing, I think that depends in part on the answer to the first question. If mainstream politics continues to ignore the concerns that are the raison d’etre for the movement in the first place, then it’ll inevitably get bigger and bigger. America has a long tradition of secession and I can’t see why the political arena would be somehow immune. There’s a chance we might see the birth of a third mainstream party in America but the political diversity within the movement would take some managing; difficult but not impossible.
That very diversity has shaped the selection of the issues being campaigned for on a state by state basis, pushing local ones to the fore. This is potentially a party that could be very responsive to local concerns while still retaining enough commonality to assemble agreed policies at a national level.
The other factor that will unquestionably contribute to its growth is the post-Obama administration’s necessity to get national debt back under control. This will involve savage cutbacks in federal funding, higher taxes and the flotation of a lot of government debt. For at least two years, the effects of these measures will make times hard for the ordinary person, so I think it will inevitably swell the Tea party numbers.
If, on the other hand, the mainstream parties of either persuasion start running with Tea party ideas, then while I can see it hanging around for a while, I don’t see it developing into a permanent feature of the political landscape. Bear in mind, that a shift towards Tea party policies by either the Republicans or the Democrats would be acceptable. So far, it seems to be the former party who are doing just that while the latter are hamstrung by party loyalty to a very unpopular president and his increasingly outdated policies. They have to hang on in and take it on the chin this side of the presidential election but after that, you can expect to see them jettisoning a lot of policies, green or otherwise, with abandon.
We’ll know in about two year’s time what will happen with the Tea party. Protest movements can morph into political parties or at least significant advocacy groups. Such initiatives have occurred in America before, notably with Ralph Nader and Ross Perrault. Both of these proto-parties died out; Nader’s because it was a single issue group that was eventually reabsorbed back into the Democrat Party and Perrault’s because it was really just a rich man’s attempt to do some back seat driving of the Republican Party. Both of these movements split the vote of the mainstream parties and Nader is still blamed by some Democrats for causing them to lose at least one presidential election.
America is an innovative culture and new ideas springing up there tend to start being echoed around the world after a spell of time. There are first signs of the equivalents to the Tea party idea appearing in other industrialised nations, most notably Australia.
There, on the other side of the Pacific, a popular protest movement is emerging over the Gillard administration’s proposal to introduce a Carbon tax despite her having promised not to do so in the recent election. Given how universal the revolt appears to be and the totally mixed demographics of its protesters, it’s beginning to look a bit like the start of an Australian Tea party with a touch of local Eureka Stockade anger over taxation.
When I read reports of unionised workers jeering Shop Stewards trying to convince them of the merits of a Carbon tax, I know some politicians are already beginning to see that curious little red blinking light just on the periphery of their vision; it’s called the career dissipation warning. We’ll see how that movement pans out too but rather sooner I think.
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