It was an unusually warm day last week at my local state fair. I was busy helping staff the Democratic Party's booth there when a hot-headed working class woman angrily marched up and started yelling at my face. She was a tea partier, and she was as mad as hell. She yelled at me about President Obama. She yelled at me about Jeffrey Immelt. She yelled at me about the new health care reform bill. She yelled at me about nearly everything in our current government, every program, and only left Tea Party Republicans unscathed. At times it seemed as if she would violently react at my attempts to calm her down. Finally, after nearly 20 minutes of ranting at me, she finally left after we threatened to call the security service.
There are parts of her story that she told me which almost make me feel sorry for her. She is currently unemployed, and her husband is a minimum wage truck driver. Together, they live in poverty along with an orphan they adopted from Russia. They survive paycheck to paycheck and constantly worry about whether or not they will have enough food to put on their table for their next meal.
This woman serves as the perfect picture for the dangerous ignorance which has captured a large portion of the Tea Party. Many liberals make a mistake by dismissing the movement as an astoturf organization made up primarily of the wealthy. The Tea Party, by and large, is a movement made of the poor and working middle class who, through their ignorance, serve primarily the interests of the wealthy. A New York Times Poll shows 88% of Tea Party supporters make less than $250,000 a year in family income; however, 100% of Tea Party supporters are fighting for the benefits of those who make over $250,000 a year.
The problem is they just don't see it. The Tea Party worldview is one that views government and big business as one entity. Many see government as serving nobody but the super-rich, and thus they see any government at all as the ultimate evil. On one hand they see corporate bailouts, and on the other they see a 9.1% unemployment rate. They have been spoon fed lies that government workers having good wages and great job security (though public workers are facing similar economic hardships -- just ask the over 400,000 who have gotten pink slips since the recession), while seeing their private sector friends being laid off. They believe big government as only helping a select few, and the rest are left to suffer. This right wing populism leads to an interesting caldron of paradoxical ideological views. To stop big government helping big business, the Tea Party wants to stop.... regulations that prevent corporate abuse(?). To end government spending which keeps the elite in power .... let's completely demolish our social safety net (?). The list goes on and on, and demonstrates the ignorant beliefs of an extremists organization which refuses to believe that government can ever do good.
Let's just look at this quote that Sarah Palin gave at a Tea Party rally:
"Today, one in five working-age men are out of work. One in seven Americans are on food stamps. Thirty percent of our mortgages are underwater. In parts of Michigan and California, they’re suffering from unemployment numbers that are greater than during the depths of the Great Depression."
... "Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners – the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it’s you who own these small businesses, you’re the economic engine, but you don’t grease the wheels of government power." Sarah Palin
That's hardly something I would call as a conservative rallying cry. In fact, I'd go as far to say I agree with most of the things she said. Not only does she bash corporations, she manages to do it in language similar to that of Ralph Nader. The Tea Party's ignorant faithful sees itself the sole entity fighting corporate power; and they believe the only way to fight corporate power is to fight the government's power, because the two are endlessly intertwined. They see everything from the government, every policy, every dollar, every employee, every regulation, as nothing more than something used to prop up the corporate elite. Therefore, since the Tea Party believes any government policy must help the elite, nearly every government policy must be eliminated. In essence, the entire Tea Party ideology is nothing more than a crackpot conspiracy theory. This is the Tea Party worldview.
So, because the Tea Party assumes the government is corrupted by the elite and is therefore completely bad and incapable of any good policy, you get the following policy paradoxes is their beliefs:
The corporate elite has bought our politicians, so therefore let's stop any campaign financing regulations.
The wealthy elite have all of the power and are destroying the country, so let's not give government power by raising taxes on the wealthy.
Because of the elite, unemployment is high right now and food stamps are being used like never before, so let's stop our social safety net.
The big corporations have too much power, so let's lift regulations on them.
There is too much corporate welfare in this country, so let's make it easier for them to abuse workers while we dismantle welfare for the poor.
And how, you might ask, do any of these statements make any sense? And, the answer is they just don't. Herein lies the ignorance, the idiocy, and the delusional nature of the Tea Party.
Stay tuned. This diary is the first one in a series about the Tea Party.