Today was the opening of the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, which is fueled by anger and fear, and the willingness of the angry and fearful to believe without question the catchphrases that the organizers and reactionary so-called "conservatives" are feeding them. The "movement" was invented by those who created the conditions that led to the anger and fear: right-wing shill and ex-Congressman Dick Armey (R), and coalitions of health insurance companies, industries and ulra-rich individuals that stand to lose the most from real reform. They financed and created the smoke and mirrors, whipped up the flames, and are laughing behind their followers' backs at the theatrics characterizing this mislabeled "grassroots" movement.
Tea Partiers interviewed outside today's convention--none of them alive during or before WW II--say Obama & the Dems "remind them of what happened with Hitler." To them, I say pick up a history book or talk to someone who was around back then. Hitler rose to power on the strength of a disgruntled populist Germany "tea-party" (kaffeeklatsch?) movement eerily similar to this one. The people were angry and fearful over the loss of jobs and eager to blame a scapegoat. Hitler came along, claimed to be "just like them," and offered up the Jews, Gypsies and gays--groups distinctly in the minority of the population--as that scapegoat. He (and in Italy, Mussolini) rose easily to power on those waves of fear and anger. But rather than work for the angry & fearful people, or do anything to rein in the abuses by or even regulate the industries that caused the devastating conditions that in turn caused the fear and anger, they let business and industry control the government. THAT was "fascism" and "Nazism" (a contraction of "National" and "Socialist" that was the polar opposite of "socialism"). We all know what happened next, at least those of us who didn't sleep through history class, or lived through or have spoken to those who actually lived through those times. The Tea Partiers obviously forgot or never learned the facts.
They need someone to blame because their world has turned upside down: high unemployment, plunging savings and home values, dried-up and ever more expensive credit, and an unfamiliar face in the White House. They feel America has passed them by, and they blame everything that is different and unfamiliar to them. (And for many, a nonwhite President with a non-Anglo-Saxon or non-Celtic name is extremely unfamiliar to most of them and thus scares them the most). They embrace the enemy they know because they know it and have lived through what it wrought; they reject the friend they don't because they are afraid of it....and the enemy they know is encouraging them not to learn the facts because the facts would make the unfamiliar reassuring and comforting.......and would expose that enemy for the enemy it is and defeat it.
The truth is that Obama and the Democrats in Congress (except for those Republicans in Democrats' clothing) are NOT Hitler and Nazis. Are Obama and liberals "socialists" either? Wrong again. A real socialist regime would take over--not just regulate--EVERY shred of private enterprise, not just order health insurers and bankers to stop playing dirty; it would ride Obama and both parties (Democrats AND Republicans) out of town on a rail. Socialists and fascists do share one trait: to deprive individuals of liberty. Socialists would take that liberty from everyone and give it to government. Fascists would take that liberty and give it to business, which would become the government.
So let's see: who wants to make sure that our credit becomes more easily available to responsible people and costs us less? Not the conservatives. Who wants to make it easier to get health insurance and make sure that we don't lose it when we get sick enough to use it? Not the conservatives. Who wants to cut our taxes and those of small businesses, and make big business and the ultra-rich pay their fair share? Not the conservatives. Who wants to put Americans back to work? Not the conservatives--they want to cut taxes and regulations on the wealthiest businesses and financial industry even further, and NONE of those savings would create jobs or bring lost jobs back.
Glad that Grandma is getting free medical care (or you are if you're over 65)? Thank a liberal. Glad if you have a pension or at least Social Security? Thank a liberal. Glad that you can't be forced to work for an unlivable pittance, and that nobody can order you to work without an evening or weekend off? Thank a liberal. Glad that you have the freedom to worship or not worship as you choose, without the government endorsing the religion you don't embrace? Thank a liberal. Glad that when you suffer physical harm because of a defective product, unsafe workplace, or negligent doctor or hospital you can sue to be fairly compensated? Thank a liberal. Glad if you can safely breathe your air, drink your local water, work in a safe workplace, ride in safe cars that won't drain your budget dry, and can provide your kids with safe clothes and toys? Thank a liberal. Glad that you can choose to send your kids to school without paying tuition? Thank a liberal. Glad that the government can't control what you read or watch or what you do in the privacy of your bedroom (including deciding to use contraception)? Thank a liberal.
On behalf of my fellow liberals (especially those in government who ensured you and all of us these freedoms and benefits), thank you. We'll address the myth of "the evils of taxation" in another column.
Some tea partiers voted for Obama because they thought he "promised" "change" and "the end of partisanship" and now blame him for not providing it fast enough--even though conservatives used every Congressional trick in the book (which tricks can't be changed without hugely bipartisan consent) to prevent him from achieving it. Others, mostly the afraid-of-change, think too much "change" has come too fast: huge deficits, unemployment, etc., even though all of that "change" was wrought by conservative governments.
Yet the "tea partiers" (conservatives, Libertarians and independents alike) swallow whole abstract catchphrases like "big" or "small" government," "death panels," "healthcare rationing," "Islamo-fascism," "war on terror," "soft on terror," "tort reform" and "lawsuit abuse" that the conservatives who actually started the tea party organizations, planted the supposed "grass" seeds, and watered the fields with fearmongering, lies, and encouragement (and even exaltation) of ignorance, spout all over the airwaves and internet.
To the tea party movement, do you REALLY believe these guys will give you back your jobs, savings, homes, freedoms and safety (from domestic hazards and international enemies)? If so, look into who they are, what they stand to gain at your expense (or lose from the real reform and benefits YOU'D enjoy). Listen to actual reporters (not FOX, not MSNBC primetime show hosts), read real NEWSpapers and magazines (not the Wall St. Journal or fancy slick blog sites on either side), and talk to and with those who are actually IN office, not just the wannabes. Incumbents want to keep their jobs (and wannabes to win them), and those jobs depend on YOU. If getting your vote depends on giving you what you REALLY want (not what catchy shorthand sound bites are designed to do: strike your gut and not your mind, and keep you from having to think), they will LISTEN and DIALOGUE with you. Ask them what they've done, what they propose to do and why, and don't settle for slick pat answers that assume you're stupid and depend upon you not to ask for an explanation. You're not. (But there are those who rely upon you to behave and talk as if you are, and they put together that big bash going on in Nashville).
If after doing all that you still want to cast your lot with the most reactionary of conservatives, who call themselves "populists" when they really wouldn't sit next to you on a bus or plane, who drive a truck for show but a luxury car when nobody's looking, who eat burgers and brats and drink beer only because you do, and who bowl and hunt and fish for the camera but really do their hunting and fishing at free banquets (at which they get paid to speak) and three-martini lunches, then good luck and God help us all.
Be careful what you wish for. Like the angry and fearful people of 1920s and 1930s Germany, you just may get it. And you won't be able to change your minds and give it back for at least 4-6 years (if that quickly).