If you were at the Tea Party protest today, you witnessed a tragedy.
No, they weren’t any overt racists in the LOVE Park audience. The crowd was mostly white, but not all caucasian by any means. Protestors held grammatically-correct signs about socialism, communism, etc. There was only one recognizable presumably crazy protestor (who stayed back on the fringe, close to the fountain) who held a sign that read “G-d will curse Obama” but he was by himself and no one talked to him.
So, despite what you’ll be reading at places like Think Progress, Daily Kos or watch on Keith Olbermann tonight, the Tea Party protestors – at least in Philadelphia – weren’t mouth breathers. In spite of what you’ll inevitably read on Fox News, there weren’t thousands of people there (I’d estimate about 200, though many were onlookers and the crowd grew and shrank several times) and Barack Obama’s poll numbers won’t be sent into the upper 20s because of the work these people are doing.
The protest was led by Diane Reimer, the 67-year-old leader of the Philadelphia Tea Party Patriots. Reimer grew up in Tioga and attended West Philadelphia High. She began protesting and Tea Partying in 2009, after Obama came into office, whom she blames for the bank bailout and several other sources of anguish among Tea Partiers.
The protest, which went on from noon-2 p.m. featured several speakers, including a UPenn student fed up with healthcare and his own generation, a Philadelphia physician and Katie O’Malley, a New Jersey-based writer for Human Events, who claimed in her speech she’d never been to Philadelphia (say what?). They all spoke of the taxing, the health care, the teacher’s unions, the etcetera.
It was clear many in the audience and perhaps most of those – especially Reimer – were passionate about their cause. That's admirable, but that’s where tragedy strikes.
Every time, in our now-2-party system, when one side gains too much power, the other side’s supporters lose it. You saw it happen over the Bush years, when anti-war protestors often stormed Washington by the hundreds of thousands and the rest of the world by the millions. Later in Bush’s presidency, when the public had overwhelmingly turned against the war, Dick Cheney saw that fact that asked, “So?”
So too, will President Obama take the Tea Patriots' pleas with a “So?” even if he doesn’t say it out loud like an asshole. Those in power do what they want, when they want, and we can’t do anything about it until we vote. But history shows those we vote for have a habit of misleading our ballot box opinion. Right now, the powerful are doing more of what people like me want than they were five years ago, but not by much.
What really grinded me about the Tea Patriots is that (like the anti-war protestors of yester-year), for the most part, they seem to have taken the Rumsfeldian line about going to war with “the army you have, not the army you might want,” in the voting booth. No speaker came out and said “vote Republican,” but with a wink and a nod, it was clear what the vast majority and the woman whose sign read “We Shall Overcome/Vote For Freedom Nov 2, 2010” meant when discussing America’s next collective chance to make our voices heard in the ballot box.
What is voting Republican going to do, people? Balance things out a little? Make government smaller? Because for the first nine years of the century, George Bush bloated our government to its largest size up to that time with the full backing of Republicans, who owned congress until 2006.
And let’s look at 2006. Liberals were the Tea Patriots of another name, and they’d spent years protesting the war in Iraq, then put their faith in people like Nancy Pelosi and a new generation of Blue Dog “moderate” Democrats to take seats they had no business representing in blood-red sections of the country, all because Republicans had hit an all-time high in unpopularity. Many of these Democrats ran on the promise to end the war. Yet it goes on.
Now things are beginning to shift back to 50-50, as they always do. But the Tea Parties, while they may help pile a few more Rs onto the Washington garbage heap, those same Rs will inevitably go the way they always do – toward the ridiculous talking points of the day funded by the highest bidder. Republican politicians will come and speak at the Tea Patriot protests today, just as the Democrats spoke at candle light vigils and anti-war gatherings back when the wars were issues people still felt compelled to talk about, and it’s likely nothing will be done. Think the health care bill is going to be repealed? Fat chance.
And the ultimate tragedy is this. Despite all the rhetoric of smaller government, less taxes, etc., it doesn’t matter what these Tea Parties do, because the Republicans who fall into power because of them will find themselves owned by the same lobbyists, the same corporate interests and vote the same line as thousands of un-representatives before them. Politicians will use these people for votes just as news entertainment networks will use them for ratings. Until any of these groups openly condemn both parties without a “but such-and-such is the lesser of the two evils” and put their faith in someone whose own faith isn’t solely in their own corporate-funded bank account, the gatherings will mean nothing.
Sad to say, but the tea parties were one of the biggest displays of sore loserdom seen in recent U.S. history. Ostensibly the parties protested the massive expansion of government, the accompanying growth of the federal budget and, not least, the use of taxpayer money to bail out private individuals and businesses in danger of financial [...]
If some skinny white kid can dress up like a pimp and bring down ACORN, at the very least I can pretend to be all Fox-News-in-the-head for a few hours to crash a Tea Party and find out what these people are so darn mad about.
We here at Philadelphia Weekly have taken a little heat for this week’s Jonathan Valania cover story that, more than a few times, asserts that the roots of the Tea Party movement have more than a little to do with white folks’ discomfort with a black president. I’m no fan of the Tea Party movement, [...]