October 21, 2010

In Defense of the Tea Party

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As over-leveraged financial institutions started to fail in September of 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, big business and media commenters from the National Review to the Nation all agreed that some $700 billion had to be given those who created the impending crisis in order to prevent the implosion of America. The American populous disagreed by a four to one margin. I happened to be in eastern Massachusetts the day after the second attempt at the bailout passed the House. Listening to local conservative radio maven Howie Carr, I heard a caller desperately yell, “There has to be a revolution in this country!”

The Tea Party has stemmed from a perfectly timed concoction of events.  To the disappointment of many on this campus, the main driver is not the fact that our president is half Black.

While it may not lead to revolution in the whole sense, it has already reshaped the American political dialogue for the better. The Tea Party has united libertarians and conservatives of all stripes under one mantle based on the idea that something is awry in America. George W. Bush, a man who many of the current Tea Party members trusted, drove the nation to the brink of destruction and gave an obscene amount of public money to America’s plutocracy. After this, Barack Obama, a man who was put into office by the very plutocrats George Bush bailed out (check the donation figures if you think I am full of it), continued the same policy. The chain of events reaffirmed what many already knew: America is no longer a democracy; it is an oligarchy in which the nation’s democratic traditions serve as a façade.

Add to this blatant favoritism for the wealthy this country’s ever-declining world standing and a bleak economic future for many if not most Americans, and you have a recipe for anger and rage.  This combination of factors is what sparked the rise of the Tea Party. It is the primary reason why many who have lived their lives with only moderate political engagement are now getting vocal about their disdain for the government’s policies.

Critics have leveled claims that the Tea Party’s vision for America does not benefit its predominantly working- and middle-class membership. But advocating small government Jeffersonianism is a logical reaction to our current environment. The federal government is ever more transparently using its largesse to help the privileged. Instead of government serving as a neutral in society and letting individuals compete, it is now actively working for wealthy special interests. This did not begin or end at the bank bailout, though that was certainly the breaking point for many who grew up during the Pax Americana.

Therefore, suggesting that government scale back its size would also mean scaling back its support for the Great American Kleptocracy. This is why Tea Party members believe limited government serves their interests. I will add that, contrary to popular depiction, most Tea Partiers are not borderline anarchists. They believe government has a role in a strong society. But that role should not be as large as it is currently, and it certainly should not be one which so transparently picks favorites — especially when those favorites are the wealthy and well-connected members of the ruling class in business and government.

The Tea Party has brought issues into the mainstream that used to be ignored because they were only mentioned by the fringes of the political spectrum. This is why I think it is unfortunate that media displays of the Tea Party are entirely inaccurate. My accusation extends to all outlets.

I have outlined why detractors are wrong. However, the supposed “supporters” within the GOP and at Fox News have not accurately conveyed the Tea Party either. Individuals within both of these entities are also members of the ruling class, and have only expressed support for the Tea Party because it furthers their own interests. That is why they have shown the Tea Party as a group of people who are simply “sick and tired of the big government policies of Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress.” But that is not even close to the entire story. The Tea Party is foremost a mainstream rejection of the entire ruling class and its alliance of big government and big business designed to screw the public. It is long overdue.

Peter Bouris is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be contacted at prb56@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Peter Bouris