By Jeff Fulmer
Originally posted 9/19/11 at Hometown Prophet
Sometimes, it’s fun to be mad. Once, I was so upset I actually got off my couch and drove downtown to take part in a peaceful demonstration. As soon as I was plunged in the middle of so many like-minded individuals, I got a contact high. Feeling mistreated by the police or slighted by the press only bonds you closer to your compatriots and reinforces your resolve. While I personally never felt like I accomplished much by protesting, it must be satisfying to feel like you’ve managed to move the needle.
The Tea-Partiers are feeling the power of being a part of a national movement that has already had a significant impact on the political landscape. This may be a new experience for many of them. 79% of the Tea Party are white, 75% are over 45 years old, and over 54% are Republican (41% are Independent). Most in this demographic were not participating in freedom marches or sit-ins. Over their lifetimes, they haven’t had a whole lot to be upset about, but now they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.
What exactly are they so mad about? While there are a range of issues, deficits, taxes, and creeping socialism are the main themes. According to Pew Research, 87% of the Tea-Party thinks the government is always wasteful; only 10% believes the government does a better job than it gets credit for. While these statistics scream a distrust of the Federal government, they also demonstrate an ability to see the world in black and white terms.
There is not much room to have a conversation when one “party” already knows they’re right. Never mind that Obama inherited a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit or most of his ‘reckless spending’ has been in response to the recession handed to him by his predecessor. Let’s ignore that most of the wasteful TARP money has already been paid back and probably helped save the country from a depression. And for all the hyperbole, has Obama actually raised taxes on anyone yet? Of course, none of this really matters because facts could get in the way of a good party.
Something certainly does need to be done about the deficit. In 2011, Obama put out a plan that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over a twelve year period. The Republicans didn’t like the proposal because it would raise taxes on their wealthy contributors. The Tea Partiers made it clear they would never support anything short of draconian cuts and a Constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. By refusing to give an inch unless everyone met all of their demands, these Tea Party Republicans essentially held the country hostage.
In 1773, Revolutionaries risk their lives to demonstrate against the British because they were being taxed without representation. In 2011, every citizen has the right to vote and is represented, even when their side loses an election. Even if I disagree with their beliefs, I admire the Tea Party’s ability to organize and make their voices heard. What I believe is dangerous is their willingness to dump the country’s credit ratings and hard-working American’s 401(k)s into the sea in order to score political points.
The Tea Party’s automated response is to slash spending without thinking through the ramifications (especially during a recession), as well as the pain that will be felt with each cut. Perhaps members should demonstrate some of the same radicalism and bravery that our forefathers showed…They could start by refusing any reimbursements from Medicare and voluntarily reduce their own social security benefits; take their parents out of government assisted nursing homes and their children out of public schools.
Freedom of speech is one of the great tenets of a democracy and Tea Partiers have every right to gather and yell and carry signs proclaiming whatever they want. But there are serious, complicated problems facing this country that will require more than a mob mentality to solve. This isn’t 1773 and answers will not be found by simply throwing a temper tantrum. It may be their party, but we’ll all be crying if we can’t work together.
Jeff Fulmer is the author of the book "Hometown Prophet."