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January 11th, 2010
Freethought San Marcos: Trying to make sense of a tea-bagger’s rant

Freethought San Marcos: A column

Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck explained the other day, “I got a letter from a woman in Arizona. She writes an open letter to our nation’s leadership:

“I’m a home grown American citizen, 53, registered Democrat all my life. Before the last presidential election I registered as a Republican because I no longer felt the Democratic Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. Now I no longer feel the Republican Party represents my views or works to pursue issues important to me. The fact is I no longer feel any political party or representative in Washington represents my views or works to pursue the issues important to me. There must be someone. Please tell me who you are. Please stand up and tell me that you are there and that you’re willing to fight for our Constitution as it was written. Please stand up now. You might ask yourself what my views and issues are that I would horribly feel so disenfranchised by both major political parties. What kind of nut job am I? Will you please tell me?”

The letter goes on to call for a return to our original Constitution and to propound several other issues, some coherently and others less so.  Glenn Beck has tried to turn this letter into an organizing tool for his own purposes, but he’s such a hypocrite it remains to be seen whether he will be successful.

The Arizona woman–part of what has been called the tea-bagger movement– is concerned about illegal immigration and wants someone to stop coddling illegal immigrants, secure our borders, close the underground tunnels, stop the violence, and stop the trafficking in drugs and people, all without giving anyone amnesty.  While she is asking for some worthwhile actions, they appear to be about our border with Mexico, though she doesn’t explicitly say so.

Obviously, the Arizona woman hasn’t considered, or doesn’t care, what would happen if there were no undocumented workers to help build our houses or pick our produce or do the myriad other jobs these workers perform.  Costs for just about everything we buy would go up.  And then there is the human cost–the families that would be split up, the American-born children who would lose one or both of their parents, the loss of income for poor relatives in Mexico and Central America.  Our porous border with Mexico exists for historical and cultural reasons, and has served both countries well ever since the US wrested what became its southwestern states from Mexico’s control.

The Arizona woman is opposed to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a program initiated under President George W. Bush with bi-partisan support from legislators who are little more than shills for the giant financial corporations.  This program was warmly embraced by President Obama largely because he hired some of the people who caused the financial mess we are in to run the TARP.  If there was ever a more backward way to help the average American, I can’t think what it is.  Instead of helping people with mortgage problems, we helped the people most responsible for creating those mortgage problems and raking off profits in the process.

The financial institutions, based on the rationale articulated by President Bush and supporters in Congress, were supposed to use this TARP money to make new loans and get the economy humming again, but they haven’t done that.  They have used some of the money to pay their executives higher salaries, some to acquire additional assets, and some they have saved for a rainy day.  Of course, Glenn Beck was for the TARP before he was against it, probably because it started as a Bush program and is now considered an Obama program.

The Arizona woman complains also about the creation of Czars, cap and trade, universal healthcare, and government control, none of which she explains in much detail.  However, about government control, she wants “states rights and sovereignty fully restored.”  She wants less government in her life.  She wants it shrunk down.  She wants government to mind its own business.  I don’t object to these notions, but I’m not clear exactly what she means.  Does she want the Supreme Court to stop applying the Constitution to the states?  Does she want a return to the original Constitution that disenfranchised women and African-Americans and permitted slavery?  Does she want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to be able to continue to allow his corporate friends to build toll roads across Texas instead of tax-paid highways?  Are we to turn all the interstate highways over to the states to maintain?  Are we to close all the federal installations–no more Coast Guard, no more military bases, no more postal service, no more Social Security and Medicare for her mother and father, no more public colleges and universities, no more police officers and firefighters?

At this point the letter became very hard to follow.  The writer went on to say that under no circumstances should the organization ACORN be “in charge of” the next census.  I wasn’t aware that they were being considered for the job, since it is the responsibility of the U. S. Census Bureau, but I agree that ACORN should not be in charge of the 2010 census-taking.

The Arizona woman is against the “redistribution of wealth.”  Once again, I might agree with her if I were sure I knew what she meant.  In 1887, President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have been used for drought relief for Texas farmers, suggesting that it was a kind of redistribution of wealth, so is the letter writer calling for an end to federal programs for natural disaster relief?  George Bush tried this in New Orleans after Katrina and his negligence further compounded that natural disaster, causing immeasurable additional harm to hundreds of thousands of our poorest citizens.

The Arizonan is all for charity as long as it is kept local, a position I have no quarrel with even if I don’t understand it.  Nevertheless, I will continue to give some money each month to a charitable organization headquartered in Vermont, which is not local for me.

Corporate bailouts were another concern of the woman from Arizona.  She opposes them, and I can’t argue with her about that, at least on general principles, though I do remember that back around 1979 we helped out the Chrysler Corporation with a $1.5 billion loan guarantee and they paid back the money two and a half years later, sending the federal government $350 million more than Chrysler borrowed as payment for the government’s guarantee.

The Arizona woman wants transparency and accountability in government.  I agree wholeheartedly, but I don’t think we will ever have anything approaching transparency and accountability as long as we have a Congress full of politicians dependent on campaign funds from the corporate sector, whose bidding they tend to do.  Mark Twain humorously remarked that “There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.”  Unfortunately, the legalized bribery inherent in campaign fund-raising is seen as criminal by many of us.  And you can’t be criminal and transparent and accountable at the same time.

The Arizona woman’s twelfth objection is to “unprecedented quick spending.”  She remarked “Stop it now.” I might be against this if I knew what it is.  She seems to be concerned about passing bills too quickly, which makes it difficult for her to find the time to participate in the process.  We can all probably relate to that sentiment, especially when we look at the TARP bill that virtually no one in Congress read completely before passing it.

The Arizonan wrote further:  “Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian. Understand this. We don’t care. Political parties are meaningless to us. Patriotic Americans are willing to do right by us and our Constitution and that is all that matters to us now. We are going to fire all of you who abuse power and seek more. It is not your power. It is ours and we want it back. We entrusted you with it and you abused it. You are dishonorable. You are dishonest. As Americans we are ashamed of you. You have brought shame to us. If you are not representing the wants and needs of your constituency loudly and consistently, in spite of the objections of your party, you will be fired. Did you hear? We no longer care about your political parties. You need to be loyal to us, not to them. Because we will get you fired and they will not save you. If you do or can represent me, my issues, my views, please stand up.”

I may not understand exactly what this writer means, but I think I know how she feels.  Few politicians have represented my views over the years.  What I understand, and the woman from Arizona apparently does not, is that there are over 300 million Americans, most of whom have differing opinions on all of these issues and more.  If we are to achieve some unanimity among a large group of Americans, we have to speak and write clearly enough that everyone of average intelligence can understand our position on an issue.  I can’t tell how much I agree with the woman from Arizona because she is not clear on the specifics.  I relate to her anger, but that’s about all I can be sure of.

The tea-party folk need to be more focused on the cause of our political problems.  One primary cause of the Arizona writer’s anger and mine is that most of our politicians represent the interests of corporate America, not the interests of Americans in general.

The late comedian and social commentator George Carlin had an explanation for how the government can act against the best interests of its citizens and in favor of the corporations: “[Politicians and corporate moguls] don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting (messed over) by a system that threw them overboard … years ago. You know what they want? Obedient workers – people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly (bad) jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. … [T]hey own this … place. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.”

The only way to fight back against this “big club” is to keep putting pressure on politicians through civic associations, unions, political groups, popular organizations, and individual efforts.  Let the politicians know that they aren’t fooling you.  But think critically and express yourself clearly.  Only those actions and constant pressure and participation by the American people in, by, through, and on our political and social institutions can achieve the promise which is America.  I think both the Arizona woman and I agree on this.  At least, I hope so.

© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins

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20 thoughts on “Freethought San Marcos: Trying to make sense of a tea-bagger’s rant

  1. So, get on the horn and call the lady and ask probing questions so that she may explain ambiguities in her positions.

  2. I confess that I quit reading your article after reading the part where you juxtapose her statement about “Illegal immigrants” and you making excuses for what you call “Undocumented workers”.

    It is beyond me to understand how the term “Illegal” can mean anything other than against the law and to consider it beyond this seems to be a waste of time.

  3. Mostly I hear it called the “Tea Party” movement. Sometimes people say “Tea Bagger”. What does Tea Bagger mean?

  4. Why do these delusional brain-washed “tea bagging” zombies think they deserve any credibility whatsoever? They are the most gullible weak minded rejects of our society. Ninety percent of them are Fox news fanatics. Palin, Beck, Joe the plumber just look at their leaders. Put all three together you may come up with have a brain.

  5. Lamar:
    You lose all credibility with independents when you label the people in the movement as “tea-baggers”. Drop the Sal Alinsky tactics; it’s becoming tired, worn, cheap, and painfully obvious.

    I noticed that you couldn’t actually debate, or at least address, the issues at hand. You would rather make personal attacks as they come easy and require very little knowledge of substance, history, and context. You would be better served to read up on the founding fathers and the core principles of this great nation, than attack other peoples character and a movement you seemingly do not understand.

  6. To Shane:

    I did not realize that the term “tea-baggers” was a Saul Alinsky tactic as you claim. Alinsky was not a columnist. He was a community organizer who directed action toward entrenched government and corporate power bases. I fail to understand how this term has anything whatever to do with the sort of tactics he used. The most amusing Alinsky tactic that I recall was when he tried to embarrass the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, into capitulating on some issue by recruiting people to stand in line in front of urinals and toilets during rush hours at the O’Hare airport (one of Daley’s proudest achievements) in order to create chaos by overloading the restroom facilities so that people were relieving themselves in the potted plants found in the airport. Daley capitulated and gave the group Alinsky was working with whatever it was that they wanted. My use of a term that must be offensive to you does not compare to Alinsky’s tactics in any way that I can understand.

  7. Tea bagger is a sexual reference that idiots use because they fail to realize that thanks to the Tea Party movement we have managed to make all liberals take a big gulp of our “bags” by stalling their quest for big government and control over how we choose to live our lives. I don’t understand why limited government, ending the Federal reserve, ending fiat money and upholding the constitution is so foreign a concept, however all Tea Party members really ask for is for individual responsiblity to remain. NO NANNY STATE. Congress shall make no law endorsing a religion. So as long as you are Amish, the government can’t force you to buy Health insurance. Everyone else is screwable. This is what we mean by we want our country back. Do you honestly think our founders envisioned us being forced to purchase an insurance plan from the government ?

    This reminds me of what the indulgence tax the catholics tried to force on the lutherans and puritans in Europe.
    Pay your indulgence and you will get into heaven. “Pay us insurance and we will take care of you” the government says.
    Always promising the eternal life that God and Jesus already paid for.

    I for one would rather earn my keep and purchase my own insurance freely than give in to socialism, communism, facism or whatever ism this crap falls into. All I know it ain’t Americanism to force me to buy anything. And yes I would gladly forfeit my social security and medicare if they would stop forcing me to pay it every pay check, I am smart enough to save for my own retirement.
    And no you are not forced to buy car insurance, you are not forced to own a car so therefore you can avoid it.

  8. Lamar:

    Rules for Radicals, by Sal Alinski

    “Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

    This is the most obvious use of Sal Alinski’s tactics by the Left. Using the term “tea bagger” is an attempt to ridicule one’s opponent because arguing on the issues doesn’t work when your position is defenseless and void of any merit.

    Clearly, I was mistaken to give you that much credit. Evidently you are just parroting everyone at MSNBC and the Daily Kos without any clue as to what you are saying and why you are saying it. But those people are well versed in Alinski’s tactics and rule #5 is the easiest and most frequently used tactic they seem to employ.

  9. If you can’t even title an article without a childish sexual joke, I have to wonder about your credibility. Ad hominem attacks are the tools of a man without any real facts or reasonable arguments.

  10. To Shane:

    I read “Rules for Radicals” in 1971 or 1972, so I hope you can understand that I don’t actually remember any of Alinsky’s rules. I occasionally watch about 30 minutes of MSNBC and I don’t recall ever reading the Daily Kos. I find little of value in commercial TV newscasts and I don’t keep up well with blogs, if that’s what the Daily Kos is.

    I don’t consider “tea-bagger” a slight or a put-down. As a matter of fact, I drink a pot of tea every morning in preference to coffee, so I guess that makes me a tea-bagger. I am aware of a sexual practice known as “tea-bagging,” but I have never had anyone I know use the term in that context, so I don’t automatically think of that when I use the term. I’m just not as hip as you, I suppose.

    By the way, my copies of “Rules for Radicals” and “Reveille for Radicals” claims on the covers to have been written by Saul Alinsky (note the spelling of his first and last name). But you are in good company in messing up the names. A sociologist I took a course from once who was lecturing on Alinsky, spelled his first name “Sol” in his bibliography for the course, so I assumed that he had not actually read any of Alinsky’s books, but used some third party source that had gotten the name wrong.

  11. It seems that the Tea-baggers might learn much from Saul Alinsky. Maybe, it is just me but I haven’t heard much out of Austin Interfaith, Valley Interfaith, Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), etc. for some number of years. I hope those groups have not stacked arms, packed it in, or, worse, been neutralized from within.

  12. Seems to me the Tea Party folks have forgotten their first protestswhere they asked people to bring tea bags as a homage to the Boston Tea Party and started calling themselves “tea baggers” before the people befre the lunies at MSNBC noticed what a silly thing this was for them to call themselves.

  13. Winchester:
    Thanks for the correction. SaUl Alinsky. Got it.

    I could care less about the spelling of his first name. Interesting that people would rather address the misspelling than discuss the tactics themselves. Where then, if not from MSNBC or the Daily Kos, did you pick up the term ‘teabagger’? On a side note: I have a hard time believing that you don’t even know what the Daily Kos is.

    You have a point. I do recall a protest sign that said, “Tea Bag the Liberal Dems Before They Tea Bag You.” After that, I recall that Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow ran with it. My issue though, is with journalists using it as a term to describe people of the movement. It highlights the void of journalistic integrity in some people. Journalists and pundits should be above this. I don’t take issue with people like Bill Haney using it in some comment on some paper’s website. I take issue with people such as Lamar using the term in the title of his article. Integrity must be restored in journalism.

  14. To shane:

    While I don’t remember Alinsky’s specific rules from reading his books years ago (but I can look them up if I have any need for them), I do remember many of his tactics in various organizing efforts in Chicago and Rochester and Boston, and I knew Ernie Cortes (COPS) many years ago. When I taught courses in Juvenile Justice about 17 years ago at SWT, I included Alinsky’s early efforts in the Back of the Yards in Chicago because they were directed at ameliorating juvenile delinquency. I was a participant in a small seminar with Alinsky in Austin around 1971. Perhaps some of his ideas have become incorporated in my thinking and I am not aware of the source. However, I say again that I intended no put-down of the people involved with the Tea Party events by referring to them as “tea-baggers.” I still do not consider that term a pejorative.

  15. To Rick..
    “And no you are not forced to buy car insurance, you are not forced to own a car so therefore you can avoid it.”

    Not a valid argument, Rick. Nobody will choose to not own a car in order to avoid paying car insurance. Whether someone will choose to not own a car because they cannot afford both the car and the required insurance is another question.

  16. Actually both names were incorrect. “Sal Alinski”. Shane, if you quote someone get the name right, any individual is owed that respect.

    As for “teabagger” been in the vast majority of media, not just the few you refer to.

  17. You can ride a bike, walk, take the bus without buying any insurance. Which means you are free to live in America without being forced to buy insurance of any kind at the present. After this law is signed I will become a criminal if I don’t purchase insurance and thrown in jail. This is a valid point.

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