29 January 2010

Tea Party Convention: What's the Objection?

Who owns the Tea Party movement? That may be the question behind the exodus of organizations and sympathetic politicians from the scheduled National Tea Party Convention. The notorious Rep. Bachmann of Minnesota is one of the latest to bow out while insisting that she remains a supporter of the overall TP movement. The convention has become controversial because it is charging admission at $550 a head. A good chunk of that money goes to pay for the keynote speaker, Sarah Palin. It may be that some potential rivals object to being made to pay to promote another would-be leader of the movement. But Palin may just be hired talent, her performance being the incentive that justifies the ticket price as far as the organizers are concerned.

In any event, as you can see from my header, I can't see what the TP's are complaining about if their main complaint is about the expense. Some are saying that the admission fee belies the movement's character as a grass-roots organization. But my impression was that the Tea Parties have consistently championed the entrepreneurial spirit that supposedly comes with the "personal responsibility" ethic they preach. They should be the last to object to someone wanting to profit from the movement -- unless they believe that the movement isn't the property of the convention organizers, who thus have no right to exploit it for profit. But to whom does the movement belong? How are the TPs to decide? I might suggest that they decide democratically, but they seem generally to be the sort of people more willing to trust in the judgments of "the market" than the judgments of fallible human beings. So if the convention organizers can make the project pay, and can anoint Palin as the leader or spokesperson for the movement in the bargain, who are the rest of the TPs to object, just because they think they're being priced out of the debate? Wouldn't their complaining make them akin to the "whiners" and "losers" whose interests or needs they apparently feel entitled to disregard in their defense of their own freedom to maximize their wealth? Or does the Tea Party movement believe in something besides the unconstrained, unregulated and absolute power of The Market to determine the worth of all things? If so, I'd like to learn more about it.

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