Tea Parties- Pffftt
Without the spectacle of a 1773-style tea-bag dump in the square, the handmade signs became the focus of the event. Though ostensibly an anti-tax protest, it was more of an anti-Obama festival. Among the messages: “The Audacity of the Dope,” “O Crap” and Obama as an acronym for “One Big Awful Mistake America.” Some messages were ugly (“Napolitano — Obama’s Gestapo Queen,” “Hang ‘Em High Traitors,” and a sign held by a young girl saying “Victim of Child Tax Abuse”). Others were funny (“Don’t Talk to Me! I Forgot My Teleprompter”). Certain ones had sinister overtones (“Tax Slavery Sucks,” and “Obama bin Lyin”). Then there was the guy holding a Cabbage Patch doll by its hair with the message: “My kid’s growth stunted by your stimulus.”
And this, in a nutshell, is why I wouldn’t worry about these “spontaneous” gatherings. I imagine that there is a constituency for people uneasy with the present volume of government spending. That these people largely kept their mouth shut when our previous president spent like a drunken sailor, well, seems to be forgotten, but let’s just say that a certain segment of the population is unhappy with Obama’s economic plan.
But just when these tea parties are beginning to get press, they’ve already been exposed as a broad, disorganized batch of people whose only unifying feature is their general dislike of Obama. Some, as the Post reports, are still bringing up the “Un-American” angle, for instance. I imagine before long the anti-immigrant, anti-choice, and good old-fashioned racist groups will make an appearance at these rallies.
In some ways, these gatherings remind me of the Bush-era anti-war protests organized by the left earlier in the decade. Like the tea parties, many of these anti-war protests began with a very specific policy goal (preventing and then ending the war) and devolved into a potpourri of left-wing grievances, ranging from freeing Tibet to raising the minimum wage to prison reform. As a result, the anti-war protests never had the effect their organizers wanted.
Then again, let’s consider the implications. Anti-war protestors were rallying against the biggest foreign-policy blunder in a generation, a decision by the president that directly led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and countless more Iraqis. These “tea party” people are arguing against the possible restoration of Reagan-era tax rates and fairly standard-issue government spending in a recession by an elected official.
These tea parties, I’d say, are an indication of the right’s current weakness, not its growing strength.