`Tea Parties' or McCain-Palin/militia movement reunions?
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 05:27:55 PM EST
More than you, or Rachel Maddow (who I adore), might ever want to know about the upcoming 'Tea Parties'

In December of 1773, colonists in Boston - then a town in the British colony of Massachusetts - protested against the British government after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain.

The protesters boarded the ships and tossed the tea into Boston Harbor. The action became a signature event of the nascent American Revolution.

Now, more than 235 years later, a number of conservative organizations are resuscitating the "tea-party" concept. On Apr. 15, Tax Day in the U.S., organizers are hoping that thousands of people will turn out in cities across the country to protest the Obama administration's "wasteful spending".

Now, more than 235 years later, a number of conservative organizations are resuscitating the "tea-party" concept. On Apr. 15, Tax Day in the U.S., organizers are hoping that thousands of people will turn out in hundreds of cities across the country to protest the Obama administration's "wasteful spending".

Desperate to turn their flagging political fortunes around and aiming to take advantage of the public's anger over government bailouts, the bonuses handed out to executives at American International Group (AIG), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, a number of longtime Republican Party operatives, religious right groups, a 25-year-old free market advocacy group, and a newly formed coalition of previously unknown groups have been organizing "Tea Parties."

Will these 'Tea Parties' draw crowds? You betcha! Has the always-opportunist Newt Gingrich and the ever-alert Fox News Channel jumped on board? For sure! Is it worthy of Rachel's ridicule? Why not!

Is it worth paying attention to? Stay tuned!

Here's a few things you should know about the whole 'Tea Party' thing.

'Tea Parties' 'R US

On Mar. 21, at a rally sponsored by a group called Floridians United, between 3,000 and 5,000 people showed up at the Lake Eola amphitheater in Orlando, Florida, to not only rail against "wasteful Washington spending," but also to call for the impeachment of the president.

One local television station reported that Floridians United "staged a Boston Tea Party-style protest, hoping to make it loud and clear to politicians that they were tired of bailouts and what they called a push toward the socialization of America."

"These `tea parties' apparently seek to build on the outburst from CNBC reporter Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago mercantile exchange, when he lashed out at the `losers' who had gotten in over their heads on mortgages and rallied the traders into booing President Obama's efforts to reduce the number of foreclosures," Robert Parry, a former AP and Newsweek reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s, told me.

"Santelli's rage, which was highlighted by other NBC news programs...became known as the Chicago Tea Party. Overnight, Santelli became a folk hero on the Right and the `tea party' emerged as a way of denouncing Obama's liberal reforms," Parry added.

Former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future - an organization that bills itself as non-partisan, while raising millions of dollars from top-shelf longtime Republican Party donors - announced that it was endorsing the Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.  

The Nationwide Tea Party Coalition was set up a month or so after the Obama inauguration by the Dontgo Movement, Top Conservatives on Twitter, Smart Girl Politics and now includes American Solutions.

"The goal of the Tax Day Tea Party is two-fold," Juliana Johnson of Urquhart Media, who is doing the PR work for the coalition, told me via e-mail. "The first is to show the president and members of Congress how upset we are and that we will not sit idly by while they destroy our country. The second is to rally conservatives together and build strong coalitions in every state."

Despite the signs at the Florida rally, impeachment "is not one of our goals," Johnson said.

Several other groups, including Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, are also sponsoring their own tea-parties.

For the American Family Association, "TEA stands for `Taxed Enough Already,' and is meant to invoke the Boston Tea Party," Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told me via e-mail. "It's actually a fairly clever media overture, and in the hands of some of the more sophisticated right wingers, it might get some traction."

"But it fails for two reasons: The overwhelming majority of Americans got a tax cut under Obama, and the project is being run by Wildmon's AFA, a group that people long ago stopped taking seriously."

At the AFA's TEA (Taxed Enough Already) website, Wildmon's AFA offers up a a pretty broad list of grievances, slicing and dicing abortion, immigration, child pornography in with economic issues.

"Are you fed up with a Congress and a president who:

*    vote for a $500 billion tax bill without even reading it?  
*    are spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying?
*    consistently give special interest groups billions of dollars in earmarks to help get themselves re-elected?
*    want to take your wealth and redistribute it to others?
*    punish those who practice responsible financial behavior and reward those who do not?
*    admit to using the financial hurt of millions as an opportunity to push their political agenda?
*    run up trillions of dollars of debt and then sell that debt to countries such as China?
*    want government controlled health care?
*    want to take away the right to vote with a secret ballot in union elections?
*    refuse to stop the flow of millions of illegal immigrants into our country?
*    appoint a defender of child pornography to the Number 2 position in the Justice Department?
*    want to force doctors and other medical workers to perform abortions against their will?
*    want to impose a carbon tax on your electricity, gas and home heating fuels?
*    want to reduce your tax deductibility for charitable gifts?
*    take money from your family budget to pay for their federal budget?

"It's hard to say how effective any of this will be," said Robert Parry, who is currently editor of Consortiumnews.com, a 13-year-old investigative news Web site. "Because the Right has a large news media apparatus...it can spread and popularize its outrage quickly."

"But the protests often have an awkward quality to them, like the renamed `freedom fries' before the Iraq War or the crushing of Dixie Chick CDs after their lead singer criticised George W. Bush," he added.

"On the other hand, the crude personal attacks on the Clintons - which also started early in that administration - combined with the relentless verbal abuse from Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Savage and Fox News helped to undermine Clinton's legitimacy in the eyes of many voters."

Rob Boston noted that these events are the perfect vehicle for Newt Gingrich, who "is trying to forge a new alliance between the Religious Right and the far-right `all-taxes-are-evil' crowd. I'm sure he [sees himself as a] lead[er of] this movement and regain his rightful place in American political life and perhaps even run for president."

Gingrich's new group, Renewing American Leadership, "has been working on the TEA rallies with the AFA and other organizations," Boston noted. He also "has a history of exploiting Religious Right groups to advance his political career."

Overall, Boston doesn't see the tea parties as being the vehicle that will transform the rage the U.S. public feels over the various bailouts and bonuses into a coherent movement: "The Religious Right has spent years backing the GOP and the Republican candidates whose economic policies have brought us to this point. For these groups to now pretend that they are suddenly standing up for the little guy who is feeling the squeeze is simply beyond belief."

"These days, Obama has a very high approval and it hasn't changed much over the past month. I don't believe the Religious Right attacks on him and the TEA rallies are having any effect. Most Americans don't even know about them. The people attending these events are the same lunatic fringe that always turns up for events like these. Most of them are probably dividing their time between attending these rallies and filing lawsuits claiming that Obama is not an American citizen."

'Tea Party' Anthem in the making?

If you're going to have a `Tea Party' that will rouse the masses, won't a theme song be helpful? Apparently rested from one of the most ill-conceived and ill-attended tours in the history of presidential politics - Our Country Deserves Better PAC's 40-city pre-election Stop Obama Tour - country singer Lloyd Marcus (http://www.lloydmarcus.net/index.html) hopes to add his voice and his lyrics to the party.

The African American president of an organization called the National Association for the Advancement of Conservative People of Color, recently appeared on the Fox News Channel, where hoist Bill Hemmer, publicized the song that Marcus hopes will become a "Tea Party Anthem." (Hear it here: http://www.lloydmarcus.net/)

...if a corporate-backed movement succeeds in overthrowing a government, would you call that a revolution or a coup?

by tacitus on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 07:44:33 PM EST

Any background story about Santelli and the Tea Party "movement" needs to make clear the possibility that the whole thing is a carefully planned campaign, cynically exploiting the resentful base of the Republican Party and movement conservatives. The same day as Santelli's supposedly spontaneous rant, two sites went up pushing the tea party idea. The Chicago Tea Party site was created by Zack Christenson, the producer of Chicago talk radio host Milt Rosenberg. Christenson registered the domain name chicagoteaparty.com last August. The second site, officialchicagoteaparty, was created by Eric Odom, the founder of the Dontgo Movement and an expert in astroturfing. I don't know if Michelle Malkin, Fox News, Gingrich, and the others were in the project from the beginning, were invited later, or jumped on the bandwagon with invitation. What i do know is that the whole business is about as spontaneous and grassroots as a pro Kim Jong Il rally in downtown Pyongyang.

by John McKay on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 09:11:47 PM EST

Just came across a video of one of the Glenn Beck 9/12 Project Tea Parties in action:


It would be scary if it wasn't so hilarious.  First we have members of the Constitution Party and Libertarian Party promoting their parties--eventually being reminded that the meeting was supposed to be non-partisan (LOL!).  Then we have a marketing guy saying that the problem of Obama will only be solved by superior marketing (I guess that's better than armed revolt, anyway) and he throws out a new conspiracy theory I hadn't heard of before -- that Obama postponed the final switch over to digital TV till June so that the government could perfect its brain-washing capabilities--something, apparently, that communist infiltrators (led by billionaire George Soros) have been planning since the 1950s.

The video ends with a good old-fashioned call for a book-burning from the videographer--though I suspect she might have been engaged in a little trolling (difficult to tell if she's serious).  What's truly disturbing about it is that when a bystander challenges her on her outrageous comment, she says she means things like evolution text books, and the guy then agrees with her!

Having watched this video, I'm beginning to wonder if the Fox rancor anchors' (Beck & Hannity) involvement in promoting these tea parties might backfire on the organizers of the tea parties and any hope that they might gain serious populist support for their cause (if they can ever figure out what that is, beyond hating Democrats and Obama).

All Beck seems to be doing is encouraging the real kooks to go to the meetings, and they're much more interested in railing about "birth certifigate" and "socialist conspiracies" than any dry, tedious discussions on what to do about sky-rocketing budget deficits.

As we saw with the election of Obama, there is only so much bizarro conspiracy talk the public at large (and the press) will take before tuning out, if they even bother tuning-in in the first place.

by tacitus on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 09:45:40 PM EST

I'm concerned that this will be enough.

I run into heavy-duty Obama bashing just about every place I go, unless it's heavily moderated or (as a friend of mine puts it) in the meat world- not so supportive of conservative causes.  Even then, with a ban on political stuff in place and a rather vigilant moderator - I've been treated to Obama bashing on a non-political blog (I halfway expect that the moderator will ban the twit- and if not, at least take him to task!)

I've been "treated" to Obama bashing from neighbors, from strangers, and from people I know online.   I encounter it almost daily- and I try to avoid it!

I've stopped reading the comments to online news articles, because they've gotten so hate filled, and all against Obama and "Liberals".  They used to amuse me- but now I feel threatened.

One of my friends told me that there are more people today who believe that Obama is some sort of secret Muslim, than before the election.  I trust this person's word implicitly.

It's really vitriolic and hostile "out there".  Here at home and at school are the only places where I feel reasonably comfortable that I won't get attacked or listen to lies and hate-filled diatribes against a President that I highly admire.  (I should say that  there are areas of school where I do not go because of the conservativism - spouting, hate spewing jackleg preachers.  If they DON'T bash our President, I would be greatly surprised!)

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Apr 12, 2009 at 01:27:10 AM EST

It shouldn't take much to counter the efforts of the lunatic fringe. All the present administration has to do is very loudly and very clearly continuously remind people that it was the Republicans who caused the financial meltdown, that Bush's unneccessary war in Iraq has cost $800 Billion to date, and that the first stimulus packet of $700 Billion was issued by the Bush administration. The "Looser Loonies" also known as the Radical Right need to be constantly reminded of this. They rightfully are labelled as "Loosers" especially as they have the big looser - Newt Gingrich - on their side.

by Bonatti on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 04:04:48 AM EST

They're now planning one for Tampa.

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/apr/14/tea-party-style-protest-p lanned-tax-day/news-metro/

While they fuss about taxes, Florida State is being cut- 21 degree programs eliminated, one entire department (anthropology/archaeology) eliminated, and they're going to close an entire campus.

http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20090414/FSU01/904140317&r eferrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL

Oh... right.  They don't care about destroying higher education as long as they cut taxes.  They think the churches will take up the slack once programs for disabled and the elderly are eliminated.  They think "God" will fix everything.

Funny- but we didn't see any real difference before or after the tax cuts.  I wonder why.  Could it be that the tax cuts are only for the rich???  Could this all be a political ploy to make a very few people richer at the expense of the rest of us?

Nah, couldn't be.

(Cynicism off.)

Even some of the conservative newspapers are starting to chide the conservative politicians about their "any tax is wrong" attitude.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 04:49:33 PM EST

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