Earlier this week, on April 15th, 2009, not coincidentally the day each year when tax returns are due from America’s workers, there were “tea parties” held throughout the United States – approximately 2,000 separate events, some drawing over 10,000 people. It is probably accurate to estimate several hundred thousand people participated.
In Sacramento, California, at what was reputed to be one of the biggest events, there were over 5,000 people in attendance at peak, but given the duration of the event, well over three hours, and the apparent turnover of people arriving and departing, probably closer to 10,000 people actually participated.
|Looks like grass-roots to me.
(Photo: John Gewalt)
Press coverage of these events in mainstream media – apart from Fox News – was somewhat cursory. Part of the reason for this was the dubious fact that Fox News not only covered the event, but actively promoted the event for weeks prior, and sent many of their star correspondants to actually speak at some of the larger events. Is Fox reporting news or creating news? This is a fair question.
In the New York Times on April 16th, in a column entitled “Tea Parties Forever,” Paul Krugman leveled several observations and accusations, including these: Obama is NOT a socialist, these events were NOT grassroots events, and that these “tea parties have been the subject of considerable ridicule, and rightly so.”
Huffington Post commentator Drew Westen, also in an April 16th column entitled “The Five Strands of Conservatism, Why the GOP is Unraveling,” said “When you get caught gutting the regulations that had kept us for 70 years from another stock market crash like the crash of 1929 and another collapse of the banking system like the one that occurred during the Great Depression, and when your policies throw millions of people out of their homes, jobs, retirement, and doctors’ offices, the next bottle of elixir you sell is not likely to fly off the shelf…”
Despite the active role of Fox News in making this event happen, however, despite Paul Krugman’s scorn, or Drew Westen’s suggestion that only Republicans caused the economic mess we’re in today, the concerns of yesterday’s tea party protesters are valid. The United States is indeed at risk of overreacting to the current economic crisis by expanding the role of government when what has been at issue was never the size of government, but the quality of government.
No matter who caused this event to happen, and no matter who were there, in Sacramento the roars from the Tea Party being held on the west side of the Capitol could easily be heard on the grass to the east of the Capitol. And for the most part, along with Democrats and media professionals, California’s Republican politicians were nowhere to be found.
The aim of democratic politics is to strike a balance between legitimate but conflicting interests. It is therefore inaccurate and unhelpful when left of center commentators mock the notion that America might be drifting towards socialism, or that socialism isn’t so bad anyway. It is also innacurate and unhelpful to define one of the fundamental planks of the Republican Party, fiscal conservatism, as part of a totally discredited whole.
An editorial in the New Yorker on March 16th, 2009, made an observation somewhat representative of this leftist, triumphalist mentality, when it wrote “Republican jibes that the [U.S. 2009] budget was ‘socialist’ should be treated with the respect they deserve, which is to say none…”
A more constructive editorial in the April 2009 edition of Harper’s, in an editorial entitled “Shine, Perishing Republicans,” by Garret Keizer, includes this gem, “These two imperatives, that of self-reliance and social responsibility, of the Republican heart and the Democratic heart in their purest forms, are the crux of any sustainable community.” In recognizing that moral worth emanates from both sides of the political spectrum, Harper’s has credibility.
Socialism is real, it can creep into a society gradually, and when fully realized it is tyranny, orchestrated by credentialed opportunists and nomenklatura of all stripes, and it begins by embracing increasing sectors of the economy, and we all disagree only as to where one might identify the tipping point. One of the most insidious, to-date effectively invisible agents of socialism is environmentalism in general, and global warming fear in particular. It is absurd and only self-serving to suggest that socialism, fascism, communism, or any other authoritarian ‘ism might not be as likely to originate from the political left as from the right.
Self reliance and social responsibility, along with fiscal conservatism, are values that any party and any successful policy agenda can and should embrace. The value of environmentalism cannot be viewed apart from, in its application, compatibility with pluralistic economic growth, individual initiative and expression, and private property rights. The tea parties of April 15th, regardless of their provenance, reflected genuine values necessary for any sustainable community.