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. Almost all libertarians (anarcho-capitalists excepted) accept the need for some government regulations. I certainly do. For me it’s not a question of to regulate or not to regulate. The question is what and when to regulate. However, ‘regulations’ weren’t what prolonged the depression. If I had to pick one thing it would be FDR’s actions against those who create jobs — his anti-business attitudes and actions. The list is long [and would make in interesting discussion in a separate thread]. One also has to factor in the lack of action and the wrong headed actions of the Fed. Both F’s (FDR and the Fed) seem to me have formed a perfect storm of negativity toward economic growth.

    When WWII came along all the work programs died [as Keynes predicts when the economy recovers] and the Fed changed it policies to support the war.

    Japan and Germany did indeed awake a sleeping giant.

    Ed

  2. Mr. Bradford,

    Quickly, from the second link:

    “Many mortgages of the 1920s were structured to last a short period such as five years, and did not necessarily include any amortization or requirement for principal payments before maturity. These mortgages were then usually refinanced upon maturity. Tight credit markets interrupted that system as banks tightened standards and terms for refinancing and sought to improve their liquidity positions. Other mortgages, such as those through building and loan associations, featured structures that were even less attractive in the event of a downturn (Snowden 2003). These mortgages allowed for amortization by using a share installment contract as a sinking fund; the result was that as the equity position of the building and loan association deteriorated, the borrower’s real loan burden
    increased.”

    ” By 1933, the value of outstanding mortgages on 1-4 family non-farm homes had declined to $16.7 billion from $19.5 billion in 1929, a 14% drop. The value of new mortgage loans declined from $4.4 million
    to $1.1 million. These figures reflect foreclosures, a fall in the number of new loans, and a fall in housing prices. The median asking price for single family housing declined 24% in the same period.
    The mortgage portfolios of all classes of lenders shrank in roughly the same proportion, but the shrinking portfolio of mortgages held by thrifts accounted for a large share of the aggregate decline,
    8simply because thrifts were the largest source of mortgage lending
    The result of this for many borrowers was foreclosure …”

    More later on the monetary policy driven by these situations.

  3. Ed Bradford,

    “first time government got directly involved in ‘fixing’ the economy, the Great Depression resulted” … I can only go by what you write.

    However, I accept your clarification that the federal government did not CAUSE the Great Depression.

    There are several articles on the mortgage crisis that started to build in the late 1920’s and the housing bubble burst that started in Florida in 1926 (due to a hurricane of all things!) and spread across the country leading up to the Great Depression. There were, of course, no government controls/regulations at that time. Here’s a couple sites:

    http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/08/05/Wheelock.pdf

    (Start on the second page of the pdf)

    HOLC was created in 1933 which was way too late:

    http://www.uncg.edu/bae/econ/seminars/2010/Rose.pdf

    There are many additional sites but we can only post two url’s at a time on this blog.

    Although the mortgage structure in the 20’s was different from that of today, it was completely unregulated and when the bubble burst the resulting chaos spread rapidly through out the nation’s financial institutions much as we saw happening within the last few years after regulations were lifted in late 1999 resulting in a housing/mortgage bubble and burst.

    I realize I’m being simplistic but I don’t have a lot of time to go more in depth. Suffice it to say that I contend, based on our history from the 20’s and the early 2000’s, that government regulations are necessary.

  4. That’s it, Howington, own it.

    @Ed Bradford, the bad monetary policy , i.e., government intervention, was one of the causes of the economic bubble that led to the Great Depression. Then Hoover’s (Wonder Boy as Coolidge called him) and Roosevelt’s intervention merely prolonged it. Sounds mighty familiar. See also Japan, Lost Decade of.

  5. Bloise
    I’ve seen that data many times. It is an excellent site for useful and, I believe, accurate information on the Great Depression. My point wasn’t that government CAUSED the great depression, Government PROLONGED it.
    Do you know what happened in 1937 that caused unemployment to go from 15% to 21%? If you look at the GDP graph at that site, and were sitting in time at the end of 1936, things were looking pretty good. What went wrong? Also, how did America go from 1929 to 1936 (almost 7 years) and only get back to 15% unemployment? Why so slow? In October 1929, Stock market only fell 37%. How did it complete the fall within the next 18 months. At that point, the DJ average was worth 11% of what it was in Aug, 1929. How did that happen?

    I like the site; I’ve book marked it. However, after a quick scan I don’t see any references to monetary policy. Did the Fed fiddle while the economy burned?

  6. I love Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. One of my uncles still calls me that. You’ll have to do much better than that, little dog.

  7. If you’re so good at predicting stuff, Howington, why didn’t you predict how quickly your sock-puppet ruse would be uncovered? Hubris? Stupidity?

  8. @Gene H

    And who are your sponsors?

    Sock-Puppet Trolls R Us?

    Did you have to trade in the Buddha mask for the Gene H mask or did you get that one free too as part of your trolling sponsorship deal?

  9. A jingoistic appeal to patriotism. How utterly unoriginal. And now a word from kderosa’s sponsors . . .

  10. @Spinwell, if everyone took Soros’ cowardly way out, we’d have had no American Revolution and you’d have no high horse to pontificate from.

  11. The actual 60 Minutes quote referred to:

    “(Vintage footage of Jews walking in line; man dragging little boy in line)
    KROFT: (Voiceover) These are pictures from 1944 of what happened to George Soros’ friends and neighbors.
    (Vintage footage of women and men with bags over their shoulders walking; crowd by a train)
    KROFT: (Voiceover) You’re a Hungarian Jew…
    Mr. SOROS: (Voiceover) Mm-hmm.
    KROFT: (Voiceover) …who escaped the Holocaust…
    (Vintage footage of women walking by train)
    Mr. SOROS: (Voiceover) Mm-hmm.
    (Vintage footage of people getting on train)
    KROFT: (Voiceover) …by–by posing as a Christian.
    Mr. SOROS: (Voiceover) Right.
    (Vintage footage of women helping each other get on train; train door closing with people in boxcar)
    KROFT: (Voiceover) And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps.
    Mr. SOROS: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that’s when my character was made.
    KROFT: In what way?
    Mr. SOROS: That one should think ahead. One should understand and–and anticipate events and when–when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a–a very personal experience of evil.
    KROFT: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.
    Mr. SOROS: Yes. Yes.
    KROFT: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.
    Mr. SOROS: Yes. That’s right. Yes.
    KROFT: I mean, that’s–that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?
    Mr. SOROS: Not–not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t–you don’t see the connection. But it was–it created no–no problem at all.
    KROFT: No feeling of guilt?
    Mr. SOROS: No.
    KROFT: For example that, ‘I’m Jewish and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be there. I should be there.’ None of that?
    Mr. SOROS: Well, of course I c–I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was–well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in markets–that if I weren’t there–of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would–would–would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the–whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the–I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt”.

    Why should he feel guilt? Would his death had changed the outcome? It
    is so easy to pontificate from the distance of years. Imagine though actually being in a horror movie, except it was real. What would you do to stay alive, especially at age 14, with no one to protect you? Anyone, without an axe to grind, who has actually spoken to Shoah survivors, as I have, would understand his actions and his lack of guilt.

    My next door neighbor’s brother and he were called down to respond to an ad meant to lure Jews to their death in Lithuania. his brother went and died, he didn’t and lived. Should he feel guilty that he didn’t go with his brother. Soros, is the bogeyman the Right throws up to draw attention away from the Koch Bros., Murdoch, Mars Family, Scaifes, Mellons, etc.
    who pollute the airways with propaganda and who with their wealth, far exceeding Soros, are intent on undermining Democracy in this country.

  12. “The history of depressions in America shows that the first time government got directly involved in ‘fixing’ the economy, the Great Depression resulted ” (Ed Bradford)

    I read up to that statement and then skimmed the rest. No, Mr Bradford, that is not what history shows. Here is a simple site from which you may expand your reading in order to learn the actual causes of the Great Depression and why your statement can be dismissed as pure teabagging disinformation.

    http://americanhistory.about.com/od/greatdepression/tp/greatdepression.htm

  13. “there might be some understanding of what individual Jews, much less 14 year olds faced. The “courage” to attack the actions of a 14 year old in that situation and use that to denigrate him 7 decades later bears witness to the empathy a person has for others faced with desolation and despair”

    Had he not bragged about that that being the best time in his life and that he felt no guilt over his actions, you’d have a minor point. but, that kind of talk is not the talk of someone who merely had to do what he had to do to survive.

  14. “He must have remebered that Soros, though not a brownshirt, was an admitted Nazi collaborator that as a 14 yr old helped the Nazi’s send his fellow Hungarian jews to concentration camp while posing as a christian.”

    Unfortunately, I have to break my rule here. As a Jew, who lost family in the Shoah and who knows and has known Shoah survivors, I refuse to judge the actions of anyone who had to face that unspeakable horror. Perhaps if someone saw the video I posted as “Dancing Under the Gallows”, there might be some understanding of what individual Jews, much less 14 year olds faced. The “courage” to attack the actions of a 14 year old in that situation and use that to denigrate him 7 decades later bears witness to the
    empathy a person has for others faced with desolation and despair.

  15. Why certain populations get so screwed by life is beyond me.

    Yea like the people of Africa.

    Why is it always the same, famine and genocide

  16. See above, I’m heading out.

    Mike it should be noted that a few models are still calling for Emily to come up the West Coast of Florida. The most notable one yesterday was the UKMET Office. So you do need to pay close attention and stock up. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    UKMET = United Kingdom Meteorology Office

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