Playing on the frustration and ignorance of some Americans, self-serving politicians and media personalities are creating a pseudo-populist “revolt” tied to the income tax filing deadline. This particular revolt takes the form of “tea parties” (photo at right), where protesters throw tea bags into a lake or the sea. They are apparently persuaded that this silliness is similar to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, which helped trigger the American Revolution.
In the Boston Tea Party incident, a group of men, calling themselves the “Sons of Liberty” and dressed as Mohawk Indians, boarded three British ships and dumped forty-five tons of tea into the Boston Harbor. They were protesting taxation by the British Government in which the then-colonists had no representation. Obviously, the current tea parties have nothing in common with the original event. If there is one thing Americans have today it is representation in government. From the local level to Washington, elected representatives abound, and they don’t come cheap. So it’s ironic that people protesting the cost of government would adopt a theme implying a need for more representation.
The protesters so far have been a motley collection of malcontents – conservatives sore about the beating they took in November’s elections, small-government ideologues who oppose President Obama’s budget and stimulus plan, irritated taxpayers who resent having to file returns, white supremacists, gun nuts, and evangelicals who hate abortion, want prayer in the schools and think Obama is a Muslim.
As you might expect, Fox News is the cheerleader for the tea party “revolt,” giving it unwarranted prominence and claiming it is “a grassroots movement.” And as you might also expect, there’s nothing “grassroots” about it. Fox agitators have relentlessly promoted the events, and the Republican Party has been organizing them.
Draw back the curtain and you will see some familiar personalities pulling the strings – Newt Gingrich (left) and Dick Armey (right), for example. These two old war horses were once influential members of Congress and are trying to make a comeback. Gingrich, 66, was Speaker of the House and made a career out of opposing everything Bill Clinton tried to do as President. His less-than-admirable personal life and the Republican Party’s reversal of fortune in the mid-Nineties plunged him into obscurity.
Armey, 68, is a former House majority leader who joined Gingrich in drafting the Contract with America. A lifelong crusader for lower taxes and less government, he is a fervent proponent of Social Security privatization and a “flat tax.” He endorsed Rush Limbaugh’s declaration that he hopes President Obama fails.
Armey is chairman of a propaganda mill called “FreedomWorks,” and Gingrich founded a conservative “think tank” called “American Solutions.” I am sure you can figure out where they get their funding. So much for the “grassroots” thing. But I wouldn’t dismiss these tea party events too quickly. Whenever you get a crowd of disgruntled people together to air their grievances, violence is never far away – especially when the assembled people are frustrated and ignorant.