Mad Hatter's Tea Party
About 1,000 angry Austinites showed up for our town’s version of the nationwide ‘tea party movement” yesterday. These are people, many of them libertarians who supported Ron Paul in the last election, are angry at the spending policies of the new administration. However, a good number of them were what you would call “just a little out of the main stream Republicans”, guys like my friend Klein who always believes that every dime the government spends, which does not go toward his farm subsidy, is money down the drain. But the primary thing that unites all these folks is anger. That anger is being tapped by the current Governor of Texas, who sees it as his only way to hold onto his job in 2010. It is also being tapped by talk radio and Fox News “commentators” who like keeping the faith during this period of Democratic ascendency. The local paper likes it too, because it gives them something to write about.
The fascinating thing about this movement is how much alike it is to the liberal movement that was some part of the core of the Obama support. That movement intentionally sowed seeds of discord between rich and poor. This movement is attempting to do the same thing between groups it labels “the people” and the “elites”. Both movements are aimed at a small, but very visible parts of the other side’s coalition. It seems (at the time) good politics. Anytime you can fan the flame of hatred against a minority of voters by energizing a majority, you have a good chance to win. There are more poor than rich, more folks than elites. It is also bad policy and I believe unpatriotic for Democrats or Republicans to do it. But its use is literally as old as the ratification fight over our Constitution and will never go away as long as we vote (which I hope is a long time).
Ultimately the anger never works. That is because there are a disproportionate number of people in this country who are incapable of getting that mad. These people know that it is not a very good way to start your morning. The anger vote (in the United States that is) may prevail for a time, and usually only when the non-anger vote is too sleepy to notice it, but it always goes away. It has never elected a President. One of the reasons some people get mad is because they are in the minority, consistently out voted on the issues and grow frustrated with their impotence. We had a whole section of the country leave the United Sates for four years for that very reason. The further away you are from believing in either liberty or justice (depending on your bent) the more likely you are to be part of the mob. It feels good to march with your own kind. Just ask those who succumbed to National Socialism in Germany or participated in Russia’s October Revolution. Those are countries that have greater traditions of anger and frustration than we do. Here in America, we sublimate a lot of our political anger into rooting for sports teams. As Rome once showed, there’s nothing like a good circus to calm the vulgar. Always clams me down.
So let us watch this current temper tantrum of the right wing play out. Maybe it can get strong enough to change Congress. I doubt it, but then again, I doubted it in 1994 when the Democrats got thrown out. But take my word for it, it won’t last long enough to do anything but stir up things a bit by 2012. We are nice folks here in this country. We just can’t stay that mad for that long.