September 24, 2011 Politics Grassroots and Tea Parties Dang those pesky grass roots. They take hold in your yard and spread like there’s no tomorrow, crowding out your beautiful plants and stubbornly refusing to die even with all sorts of poisons and weeding by hand. Before you know it, grass roots are joined by wild onions, then by pennywort, and then dandelions pop out with millions of tiny seeds to spread in the wind. What is a gardener to do? Metaphorically speaking, Barack Obama’s 2008 election was also primarily the result of a grassroots campaign that spread like Bermuda grass roots across social networking sites, allowing people to gather, mobilize support, and wage a proverbial fight largely without leaving the comfort of homes. A new generation of voters, including college students and twenty-something-year-old graduates, took the initiative in ways the older generation had to scramble to understand and master themselves. Did the other side take heed? You might think another round of grassroots politicking started for the GOP with the rise of the Tea Party movement. On Fox News, Tea Partiers are proclaimed to be spontaneous grassroots activists who represent middle class folks gathering to show their outrage and protest taxes. But are they really? Despite attempts to make the movement appear organic, the actual organizers of Tea Party events are lobbyist-led think tanks Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. They also provide most of the funding. In a New York Times OpEd, Paul Krugman notes, their money comes from the Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Olin and other reliable funders of right wing infrastructure including Exxon Mobil. What are their goals and the goals of the Tea Partiers in general? In other words, what are they so riled up about and what do they want? In an OpEd entitled “State of the Unions” in the Democrat Union, Bill O’Reilly states that “…the Tea folks simply want financial responsibility and fairness in the public sector.” Really? Isn’t that what both sides say? Somehow it is hard to believe that the Tea activists who bring guns to rallies have quite these benign objectives. Rick Unger, in a True/Slant post, quotes a CBS/New York Times poll: • 52% of Tea Party supporters believe the amount they pay in taxes is fair. • The majority of the Tea Party believes that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. • The majority support the amount of money spent by the federal government on defense. Via CBS News But, Tea Party leaders tout a different story. They do not want the government to be a caretaker for its citizens, advocating eliminating Social Security and other federal entitlements. A minority of Tea Party activists obviously agree with their leaders’ viewpoints. The other seventy percent? What is their beef if they believe tax amounts are fair, that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers, and they support current spending amounts on defense? In the same poll nine of ten participants say that they “just don’t like Barack Obama.” Eleven percent said he is turning the country towards Socialism, ten percent disagreed with his health care reform, and nine percent said he is dishonest. (If you agree with the above eleven percent who believe Obama is leading our country into Socialism, please see my blog “Heil Who?” for a little lesson in political science.) For people to declare that they do not like someone just because they don’t like him or her is very sad. It reminds me of when one of my daughters was in high school. Her freshman year two seniors were always outwardly rude to her. When asked why they didn’t like her by a mutual friend, each replied, “I don’t know. I just don’t like her.” Never mind that neither girl had never even had a conversation with her. Unlike my daughter, who is a private citizen, you do not have to have a conversation with Barack Obama to know him. He is the author of two books and has been in the public eye for many years. He is a politician who espouses tenets of the Democratic Party. Perhaps that is all it takes to garner hatred from people on the Right. Rick Unger wonders, “Could it be that 63% of those who support the Tea party get the majority of their current events and political news from the Fox News Channel? Or that the overwhelming majority have a favorable opinion of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin?” After all, Fox News trumpeted person after person who questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, his Christianity, and his ties to American extremism. Talk radio stations daily spew hatred towards the President. They repeat his name over and over, as if he is the only person who can make laws and establish policies. Unger continues, “This poll confirms what so many of us have known all along. The Tea Party is not a revolt against a federal government that has grown too large. Nor is it an allergic reaction to taxes being too high. The Tea Party is largely about hating Barack Obama.” Sounds like high school. How sad indeed. Go to http://trueslant.com/rickungar/2010/04/15/what-does-the-tea-party-really-want/ to read Unger’s entire post.