Tea party, a hardy party, or hot air?

There’s a huge article about the Tea Party movement in today’s NYTimes that’s gathering a lot of comment — more than 1,300 and counting as I write this. It’s a good read, and you can do so here (click!)

I have a two-fold reaction, one snarky, one serious.

Snarky: Why the heck are all these people violating the US Flag Code? An early picture with the story showed a guy wearing a shirt that was one giant American flag. Does he not love America?

OK Serious: What do these people want? Specifically? Very specifically?

No, seriously, I’ve asked this before regarding Sarah Palin, and I’m asking it again because I never get an answer.  We know what they don’t like — pretty much everything related to national government, for starters  – but what do they want to do  about that?

What actions on the ground, today, do they want to see? You’re dictator for a day — what do you do to restore America?

I actually went to Sarah Palin’s web site looking for answers but all I could find in an admittedly not massively rigorous search (I DO have a life) was links to more web sites with more links, usually ending up in some opinion piece that repeated what Ms. Palin said, which was nothing specific.

Anyone can talk circles. Action means actually doing something. So far, nobody is saying what they will do beyond some amorphous “We’ll stick it to those so-and-sos!” sort of sentiment, not that far removed from the ”Up against the wall, M-F’kr!” of my own generation.

OK, how?

For example, this story said a lot of these Tea Party people want to do away with the Federal Reserve Bank. Fine, what’s your mechanism for doing that?

Like it or not, whether it’s in the Constitution or not, the Fed is a reality, a central part of the way the national economy works. Do away with it, and among many other things you do away with the institution that keeps your neighborhood bank from going bust at the first whiff of instability.

Ponder banking 150 years ago. Banks were all local. They were set up by local businessmen, made loans local, depended on money from local sources. They also went out of business at furious paces — The panic of 1873 was just one. And since there was no FDIC back then, and presumably the dislike of federal banking agencies extends to those, we can expect a repeat of the fallout of such a bank failure — massive runs on banks, millions of people discovering their savings are gone, and so on.

So, how do you get rid of the fed and not put yourself at risk of that again? Are you saying we should go back to the gold standard? Essentially become a barter economy again?  That’s what a gold-based economy is, you know. Your ability to finance your house, let alone your lifestyle, with borrowed money will pretty much evaporate.

Tea Party people don’t want health care reform. They don’t want socialized medicine. They don’t even like Medicare which, you may recall, Ronald Reagan said would destroy all freedom.

OK, fine, get rid of them. What next? Who pays the bills — private insurance? But private insurance is in a death spiral because people who are, yes, free, are cancelling their policies as economic hard times hit. Most of those cancelling are the healthy people, taking away the money that really pays the bills for all the elderly and sick who are still using those policies.

How many times must I say this: Insurance is socialized medicine. You don’t want socialized medicine, you don’t want the system that enables you to go to the doctor at all. Like it or not, socializing risk by spreading out payment of medical bills is the underpinning of the entire medical infrastructure of this country.

And, yes, if you do away with federal health care such as Medicare, that includes federal health insurance for federal employees. Why should my taxes pay your medical bills? You need that heart valve replacement, start saving up, my friend. 

And, of course, all these people who hate Medicare are going to burn their Medicare cards this week, right? Yeah, sure.

But you see, that’s my problem with all this: Nobody says what it means, how it will be implemented, what it will look like on the ground. It’s as if they have some weird vision of America as it looked like in 1950s sit-coms on TV, and they want that back again.

But they won’t say how that’s going to happen.

It is telling that, at the end of that very long Times story, a woman is kind of asking that very thing. Where can she take the revolution next, she asks. She’s signed her on-line petitions, she’s sent money to this person or that, she’s got Glenn Beck programmed into her TiVo . What else can she do? “Who will lead us,” she wails.

This screaming lack of an answer will, in the not-too-long-run, mean the death of this little party. As at every party, eventually, someone says “OK now what?” and if you don’t have an answer, party’s over.

Either that or they will find a leader, someone willing to spout simplistic platitudes against all the things they hate, promise them sunshine and light, and then get put into power and really play dictator for a day.

That’s what these folk really want — someone to do it for them. They don’t want to do the hard work of actual governing and they don’t want to hear that their anger is misguided.

They just want. Want what? I have no clue and, I suspect, neither do they.

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8 Responses to Tea party, a hardy party, or hot air?

  1. KP says:

    If you would educate yourself directly, by asking the leaders of the movement, attending a meeting, and listening to other than select media outlets that are just outlets for the administration, you would have the answer to your question. If you’ve not done this, no wonder you’re in the dark as to what it’s about. They surely have strong, clear goals. Don’t be so ignorant .

  2. Charles Trentelman says:

    Take all the space you want, KP — what’s the answer? How about you just tell us how doing away with the Federal Reserve will work?

  3. Doug Gibson says:

    What movements like these groups do is usually sweep out the party in power, and then cosmetically get embraced by the party that benefits. … and the process repeats … Charlie, your points are valid but they also underscore how frustrated people are by the system. I think if the political class of both parties would even attempt to feel empathy with the Tea Party people, or the more liberal Brownbaggers that have begun to demonstrate, that would be a positive.

  4. Charles Trentelman says:

    You’re absolutely right, they are frustrated. I’m frustrated. But this yelling and demanding without asking where it will all lead, this unending negativity, is worse than useless.

    These people need to get off their lazy asses and get involved in the system, not spend days screaming and ranting and waiting for Glenn Beck to tell them what to do. They’re making Beck rich, which is his goal, but does the country no good.

    If they’d spend a day a week volunteering at a local medical clinic for the poor (Ogden Rescue Mission is a good place to start) they’d learn a LOT more about socialized medicine than they ever want to.

  5. Michael Trujillo says:


    On one of Doug’s blogs a few weeks ago about Healthcare, I specifically went point by point through one “Conservative” poster’s comments and asked anyone to answer my questions regarding the statements. I honestly would like to know what the writer meant by the statements so that I could understand them and be clear on what was wanted.

    I’m still waiting for the answers.

    Too many people spout sentences that raise more questions than they answer. As you said, what the hell does “Smaller Government” mean? In a nuts and bolts view.

    If KP is like the rest, he/she will never answer your questions.

  6. Hyrum says:

    I have an idea about a Government that is of the people… for the people. I have an idea that polititians need to tell me a new RIGHT which they as a representative of the people have fought for and won… I haven’t heard of a new right that was fought for since I was born in the mid ’50’s. I have an idea that will end wars, not propagate them. I have ideas to bring us together as a nation rather than seperate us by allowing states to introduce their special interests into my American rights. I have an idea of foreigners standing in straight lines waiting their turns to gain admission into this great country like our ancestors did. I have an idea that foreigners that butt in line should be let loose to be punished for doing so by those that are standing in straight lines and waiting their turns. They too have hardships yet are willing to follow rules and learn the traditions of a great America. I have an idea that neighbors should take care of neighbors without regard to religion, color, national origin (based upon legal entry), or sexual orientation. I have an idea that people with alternate sexual orientations should not be locked in any closet, but should keep their sex out of peoples faces and in the bedroom where most people believe it should be. I have an idea that when neighbors are not able to take care of their neighbors that there should be a lawful government place where these hungry and/or sick people can go to be taken care of (if they have entered the country legally). I have an idea that our representatives in Government should not accept money from ANY special interest groups except American citizens whom they represent, lest they become tainted by that special interest money and no longer heartfully represent us. I have an idea that all aspects of our Government should return to being civil servants and strive to help the legal population, instead of work against them. I have idea’s. But do I have representation? Anyone can drink tea. I do everyday. It’s a good idea. How can we influence the ones that are suppoze to represent us… to do so? I’m out of ideas.

  7. Dovie says:

    One reasonable theory is that they want to get elected & grab what they can before we go under. We don’t need a “hero”. We need our system back.


    Former Vice President Dick Cheney took issue on Sunday with Sarah Palin’s recent suggestion that President Obama could win re-election by starting a war with Iran.
    In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney said that Palin’s argument that Obama might have a clearer path to a second term if he “played the war card” was faulty.
    “I don’t think a president can make a judgment like that on the basis of politics,” Cheney said. “The stakes are too high, the consequences too significant to be treating those as simple political calculations.”

    Is this the flag post? I was waiting with baited breath to ask “What about using the flag to make fun of those who wear flags?” I assume te flag-panted karate guy in Napoleon Dynamite was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. The muppet show had “Sam the American Eagle”. My theory is that people who are all wrapped up in “respecting” symbols are ususally missing the point. The symbol means more than the concepts it stands for (because they can’t think that hard). But, then, that is why we need symbols in the first place. The flag is a piece of cloth.

  8. Dovie says:

    CACHED VERSION – I do not recommend opening this link.

    Thinking of Sam the Eagle, I googled Jim Henson & the Religious Right. Remember how he was evil for having minorities on his show? If I have to pick the best Americans, I will stick with the Jim Hensons of the world. Sam was his answer to all their crap.

    Sarah Palin is James Dobson’s pick – the Neocon movement was all about incorporating religion into government. Sarah is the continuing Neocon. People who found the last 10 years productive (these like to fight over their ideals more than accomplish anything) like Palin. As long as Palin is queen of it, the Tea Party movement is the ultimate in “let’s keep doing the same thing”.

    ……. Turns out this film was directed in 1969 by JIM HENSON. That’s right: the Muppets guy.

    Which can only make us wonder whether there are threads of this dark existential despair in Sesame Street, winding their way through the psyche of, well, pretty much everybody…

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