Tea Party and the Myth of a Grassroots Movement

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

 The 2010 elections which gave the Republican Party the majority in the House of Representatives was seen as the elevation of a “Grassroots Movement”, composed of the spontaneously combusted wrath of ordinary citizens fed up with a bloated government. It was indeed a seminal moment for those people who disdained taxation, government handouts in entitlements, and the seeming waste of our tax dollars. The initial angry explosion was a reaction to the proposal and passage of the Health Care Bill. Rallies were organized, town hall meetings disrupted and a “hit list” of both Republican and Democratic members of  Congress circulated. 

The initial mainstream media reaction to this nascent movement was one of disdain, particularly because it was seen as an “out of the Beltway movement”, thus not to be taken seriously. However, this changed in a large part led by FOX News and copied by its “wannabe” CNN. Led by these Cable outlets, thirsting for sensation to fill their 24/7 news maws, all media began to follow suit, not wanting to be left behind. I find it interesting though that as late as April 22, 2010, Politico, hardly a left wing outlet, noted that unwarranted attention and media frenzy had begun, elevating the status of this purported movement: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36185.html  It is ironic that this article, while laying out the irrational amount of attention given to the Tea Party, at its end discounts the effect the movement would have on the election. Its authors certainly were not prescient.

Lost in the tumult of media exaggeration and sensationalism was the fact that this was not at all a grass roots movement of average Americans, but a crafty example of political manipulation laid out in tandem with the compliance of Rupert Murdoch’s news network’s assault upon all things they deem liberal. The prime mover in this is Richard “Dick” Armey, a former Texas Republican Congressman, House Majority Leader, and major senior lobbyist at a worldwide lobbying firm. Armey created the mythology of a grass roots movement, guided its progress, arranged, and then paid for its “spontaneous” events.

Dana Millbank, in the Washington Post related the involvement of Dick Armey in this movement. “Dick Armey is intellectually versatile: The former leader of House Republicans went from being a rainmaker for a Washington lobbying firm to being the unofficial leader of the anti-Washington “tea party” movementhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/15/AR2010031503730.html

 After the 2010 election victory, sweeping away as many “old school” Republicans as well as Democrats, the media both expressed shock and provided substantive background on what had just taken place. 

“There is particular irony in Mr. Armey — who has spent three decades in Washington, where he has become one of the city’s most enduring insiders — mentoring a movement that wants to hold on to its outsider ethos.” http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/a/dick_armey/index.html

 The vehicle for Mr. Armey’s maneuverings is an organization called FreedomWorks, which if you go to the link below you will see a picture of Glenn Beck and a link to receive kits to be used in August disruptions of Town Hall Meetings. http://www.freedomworks.org/  FreedomWorks has its origin in an organization called “Citizens for a Sound Economy” which is not surprisingly a creation of the Koch Brothers that was tactically split into two entities, one being FreedomWorks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_for_a_Sound_Economy    

 In trying to make sense of politics and the forces competing within it context is everything. By its nature politics is the art of using popular mythological themes (i.e. No New Taxes, less government, terrorism, etc.) to rouse the populace to given action. The Tea Party Movement, FreedomWorks and even Dick Armey have every right to try to influence our political system. They also have every right to utilize what mythology they please, or can create, to advance their cause. Whether there is danger to our political system in their belief in, or promotion of, their myths should not result in suppression of their rights. That is not the Constitutional way in our country. Indeed, their aims and their backers are not hidden, but easily researched, as I’ve done cursorily here. 

 My concerns are that for this country to remain democratic and viable under our Constitution we need the information and context supplied by a free press, bolstered by freedom of expression. When the popular punditry and the mainstream news media do not supply context, but actually play a role in creating myths  about the forces engaged in struggle for the hearts and minds of people, our democratic institutions suffer.

 That the so-called Tea Party is a movement backed by some of the most powerful forces in this country to put forth an agenda that is beneficial to them and represents their ideology, should be contextually a part of any news report, media sound bite, or internet article. The myth of this movement being a spontaneous uprising of average citizens is well represented in media reportage. For the average citizen struggling to keep their families and themselves together, getting their news from small doses of mainstream media, it serves to reinforce the myth by omiting context. That this amalgam of people, led cunningly by a Washington Insider and lobbyist, is confused as to their purpose and misled by an ideology that is possibly antithetical to their needs is best represented by that well known poster, prominently shown at a Tea Party Rally: “Keep your Government Hands off of my Social Security and Medicare!” Such is the effect of political mythology on the minds and actions of people.

 Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

98 thoughts on “Tea Party and the Myth of a Grassroots Movement

  1. Blouise

    Thank you, I had not seen the article. I note (though I did not check in the ‘new study’ mentioned in the article above) there is no mention of the Federal Reserve, tax levels or Herbert Hoover. To my mind, Hoover loaded the gun, who knows who pulled the trigger, and the the Keystone cops [the 2 F’s – FDR and the Fed] tried to fix things. It did not work well as far as I can see.

    Today, I’m seeing what I consider worrisome similarities. President Obama is anti-business – most acknowledge that. Boeing? Banks? Chamber of Commerce? FoxNews? Ins Cos? Hedge funds? Wall Street?…
    President Obama has not opened any trade channels.
    President Obama wants to tax the rich.
    The Fed managed the economy in the 1990’s with low interest rates accelerating the housing market and is now ‘managing’ it again with low interest rates, open market purchases (‘Quantitative Easing’) and pronouncements of questionable value about the future of the economy.

    Not enough time to list all the things that don’t seem to me to make sense in the goal of job creation, but I listen.

    If there are any Keynesians that understand the theory, I do have a question or two, though.

    Ed

  2. Ed Bradford:

    I believe that low interest rates at present are primarily a reflection of the fact that no one wants to borrow money.

  3. Mike Appleton
    RE Today’s low interest rates. It also means the Fed has shot its wad.
    It has nowhere to go. Yet, Quantitative Easing was attempted and is being considered again. To my mind, all that means is that eventually we will have to print money to dig our way out. I hope I’m wrong.

    From my view, the Fed and President Obama are impotent. They cannot proactively do anything ‘progressive’ for the economy without digging a deeper hole. What the President can do is “motivate” American Business to invest in America. The Federal Reserve has few tools to do that. The President has many, the bully pulpit, not the least.

    Only the President has the tools; however, he seems to be focused on two things listed in (my perceived) priority order:
    1. Getting re-elected (where is he today? How many campaign funding parties has he had? What his his campaign $ goal?)
    2. Taxing the rich – we hear that out of almost every speech he makes.

    In Feb 2010, the President was going to “focus like a laser” on jobs. Does anyone think that is what he has been doing for the past 18 months? If so, please enlighten me. I have genuinely missed his actions and positive results.

    I fail to see value to America in either #1 or #2 above. I could be wrong, though.

  4. Ed Bradford:

    I agree that the President is impotent. In my view, however, he has pretty much ceded leadership to congressional Republicans for reasons I will never understand. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve got a chicken and egg problem. If I manufacture widgets, I’m not about to start hiring people at present, regardless of how low wages get (and they’re getting lower all the time) because there’s no demand. Corporations are sitting on their money because they don’t have anything to do with it. That’s why I don’t believe lowering taxes will encourage investment. Investment for what, to make more things that people can’t buy? I’m one of those persons undoubtedly in the minority who believes that the original stimulus was too small and was misdirected. I’m not suggesting that it was not important to enable local governments to continue employing teachers and cops. But using stimulus money to tread water is … treading water. It didn’t create new jobs or increase tax revenues.

  5. Mike Appleton
    But you don’t manufacture widgets. You don’t even know why you would manufacture widgets. [Neither do I!] I don’t think it is relevant to break into the middle of a life cycle and try to join the broken appart pieces with political economic “logic”.

    I think you have to consider scenarios like this:

    “I have a business and I simply can’t keep up with demand”. Now I want
    a loan from bank to expand – can’t get it (#1). Ok, I go to VC’s get it. But no, I have to pay all my employees 10% more to expand. I go from 20 employees to 21 and suddenly all must have health care and last years growing profit will be this year’s loss.”

    This is not a chicken and egg problem It is a motivational problem for those in America who can and will create value to consumers (and, as a necessary side effect –> JOBS).

    I am no political economist and no economist. I understand job creation and small business concerns, but am no expert on those either. I speak only what I think any American can deduce after thinking about creating and expanding a business from 1 person to 100 people. I have small business friends.

    Perhaps I should ask one of those small business friends to join us in the conversation. Would that give us more street cred?

  6. Ed Bradford:

    Of course you can ask one of your small business friends to join the discussion.

    I’ve had small businesses. That’s all a typical law practice is. My wife presently has a small business. The actual “small businesses” in this country have only a few employees and rely upon consumers to keep the doors open. When unemployment goes up, business drops. The fact is that there is very little money circulating through the economy. All the tax cuts in the world are not going to bring customers back into Main Street shops without more.

  7. Mike Appleton
    “I have a small business” [law]
    Would that be a partnership? Are you looking to grow your business and hire lots of employees? [I doubt it in the legal profession, but I could be very wrong. Please correct me.]

    You wife has a small business. What is it? Can I invest in it?
    Tell me about it so I can judge for myself if I want to invest.
    Tell America about it so America can invest.

    Just ‘participating’ in a ‘small business’ does not qualify anyone to
    be a significant/major contributor to American economy. You are a
    CONTRIBUTOR — don’t mistake my thoughts. You R contributing!
    You must may not be America’s salvation.

    “Small business” is about many people going into business for themselves.
    Minimally, they want to make a living and help 1,2 or 5 folks also. That is not the model of which I speak. I speak of an Entrepreneur with an idea.

    I fail to communicate!

    America is built on Small Business and an IDEA! I forgot the unbelievably great IDEA [I screw up a lot!]. Without that IDEA, you have a mom and pop grocery store that can be (easily) “run” out of business by Albertson’s.

    Tell me an idea that I know many/most American/WorldCitizens will want
    and I will invest! Today, I go to Asia/Gold.

    I want to invest in America, but the Obama threat of bigger tax, bigger Obamacare bills tells me to consider other countries to invest in. I hate that!@@@@@@@@@@

    I must and will care for my family. Investing in a company that will stagnate or fail because of Obama policies, Eric Holder and Obamacare limits their growth tells me to go overseas. I do that.

    That makes me very sad.
    Helpl me understand why I am wrong.

    [Don’t speak to me how the future will be better. I
    am older and wiser than many and have ‘seen’ the
    ‘future predictions’ so many times I am disgusted
    and know a *LOT* better.]

  8. Ed Bradford,

    I am going to try and contribute … it might require some patience on your part to see where I’m going with this.

    There are two girls in my neighborhood. One graduated from high school in 2010, spent 1 year in college, couldn’t afford any more and started looking for a full time job to replace the part time job she’s worked since turning 16. She needs more money for school. She has been looking since April and has found nothing. She’s not picky about what kind of job she gets … she just wants one.

    The other girl just graduated from high school but had to wait a month before starting her job search till she turned 18. (You’ll see why in as minute) At the end of her high school sophomore year she decided that college was not for her so she spent her junior and senior high school years at a vocational high school getting all the certificates she needed in Precision Machining. She started her job search two weeks ago (insurance requirements in machine/manufacturing shops is the reason she had to wait until she turned 18) and has had three interviews, two job offers and two more interviews scheduled. Her beginning salary will be a little over $37,000 a year plus full benefits. Not bad for an 18 year old kid. All the machine/manufacturing shops she’s interviewed with and been offered jobs at would qualify as small businesses.

    There are jobs out there for those who have the skills. But not enough jobs for everybody.

    I would agree that job creation should be a top priority but someone will have to show me actual facts and figures as to how lowering taxes will encourage investment. I don’t want party line rhetoric from either side … no trickle down or anti-trickle down talk … I want proof in the form of facts, figures, graphs etc.

  9. Blouise

    If I have no patience, you should ignore me.
    Ed Bradford
    Pflugerville,TX
    @GovernorPerry did it for TX, don’t doubt! (My opinion)

    #1. She can vote with her feet. Has she considered that? (TX is hiring!)
    #2. She wins. Do it, Ms. #2. However, never stop looking for a better position.

    Much more interested in #1. Pell? (I hate Pell [I hate the unbelievable cost of an Education] but it’s there, go for it!)
    What state? What skill?

    I paid for my own education
    My wife paid for her education
    My kids (3) paid (with me and my wife) for their educations.

    I don’t understand why people cannot pay for their own education?

    Ed

  10. Ed Bradford,

    Pell? I said that she needed money for college. She’s paying her own way. Why would you think she’d qualified for a Pell grant?

    Never mind …

  11. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours
    would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% positive. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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