14 April 2009

Tea Party Minus One

Albany is one of the cities across the country where allegedly non-political "tea parties" are being held tomorrow to protest high taxes and government spending. The organizers are at pains to deny that they are acting at the dictation of a political party, but their concerns seem to match one half of the Bipolarchy pretty closely. The Albany organizers claim that their idea began with a local radio talker and self-style "everyman" who then hooked up with the national organizers. They make their case here.

The partygoers may claim not to be partisan, but they are clearly ideological. Look at their complaints and you would have no idea that private business practices had anything to do with the current state of the American economy. Government, in their view, is the source of all our woe. The appeal seems designed to attract libertarians as well as Republicans, and in casting as wide a net as possible the organizers strike a hysterical note. They equate themselves with the 1773 Boston Tea Party, which was less a protest against taxation as such than it was a demonstration against British mercantilist policy, but is portrayed by the 2009 organizers as an early uprising against mounting tyranny. They see tyranny on the march today, in this country. They cite the increase of government generally as well as legislators' unresponsiveness to popular disapproval of various bailout plans. They also accuse the Democratic regime of striving to diminish personal freedom. This is the sort of talk that has provoked some people to link the Tea Party movement to the anti-government Pittsburgh cop killer, but the Tea Parties are probably as much a symptom of a broader reactionary mentality as the shooter was, rather than a cause of his violence.

We ought to restrain our assumptions about what these people want until they have a chance to speak tomorrow, but I don't expect to be surprised by what we hear. I would be surprised to see a lot of people at these events, since the people most sympathetic to their concerns are the ones most likely to dislike "mob" scenes and to prefer being "left alone." If the crowds are large, I'll consider it a pleasant surprise, even if it's in a dubious cause, because crowds would show that those people are learning, despite their own instincts or inhibitions, to act collectively in a public way.


d. eris said...

I've been thinking about this paradox of politics without politics recently. In addition, Libertarians and Boston Tea Party folks have been pushing back against the conservative Republican attempt to claim the tea parties for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be in the public interest if they just threw themselves into the harbour.

Samuel Wilson said...

If the libertarians and independents want to beat back Republican appropriation of their brainchild, they'll also have to deal with the news media. This morning's Times Union has a lead editorial that basically identifies the Tea Party as a Republican event, and that seems to be the attitude of Democratic and liberal bloggers I've read this week. Whether this is because Fox News and other Republican propagandizers have succeeded in putting their brand on the event or because others assume that anyone who questions taxation may as well be Republican, I can't say.