Earl Grey, Not

I will begin by stating that the fundamental right of protest is not commutable, and am glad that the many people gathering today will be able to do so without fear of government reprisal. It is great to live in a country where such events can happen without people losing their jobs and/or lives because of their participation. I will continue by saying that I am nonetheless confounded by the odd schisms between the reasons for today's protest, the revolution, and reality.

The "Tea Party" demonstrations being held across the nation attempt to recall that first, pivotal prelude to the revolution. Unfortunately, nothing about the protest is remotely connected to the motives and atmosphere present in 1776. A cursory examination of the wikipedia article on the original event is more than enough to reveal the disparity,

The Boston Tea Party was not a protest of high taxes, or of taxes themselves. Rather, thousands of pounds of tea were dumped in the bay because of the old creed "no taxation without representation". The colonists weren't angry they were being taxed, they were angry that Parliament was making decisions concerning the colonies without allowing them to participate. Taxes were merely the most common, obvious way in which the government asserted its authority over the colonies.

Today's "Tea Parties" are protesting Obama's economic recovery plans. The basic talking points assert that he is only increasing the budget deficit (and thus the national debt), increasing spending, and increasing government size and authority. On the tax front the talking points assert that the Cap and Trade taxes, oil and gas taxes, and tobacco taxes will affect low income voters more than high income voters. Taxes are involved, but there's no lack of representation at work and thus the oddly common assertions that "this is what 1766 felt like" are off the mark.

However, the talking points are lost in the sea of posters, images and videos. The vast majority have little to do with any of the issues cited above, and instead focus on socialism, fascism, assertions of the Christian nature of the nation and attacks on Obama's character. Many posters claim that higher taxes have already cost them, despite the fact that the only economic recovery measures passed thus far have lowered taxes for all but a wealthy minority of Americans.

The sad, depressing truth is that these protests have become little more than an outlet for frustrated right wing supporters. The intelligent arguments that should, in fact must be made for the sake of the nation are being drowned in a sea of blind vitriol. What was already a somewhat incongruous use of the "Tea Party" concept instead drags that hallowed (arguably too much so) event through the mud. This is a shame; today could have been a landmark moment of revival and rebirth, one we very much need for our government to remain balanced.


Magellan the Red said...

Not disagreeing with everything you say, but ...

First, representation in the U.S. is arguably broken these days. See "Free Lunch" by David Cay Johnston. Politicians often represent the money rather than the people.

Second, the bailouts have already cost us. True, we borrowed the money and we haven't been taxed yet. But it's not as if we can change our mind, get the money back from the banks, and repay the loan whenever we feel like it. The future welfare of U.S. citizens has been mortgaged.

Matoushin said...

Similarly, I won't disagree with everything you say either.

My fundamental issue with these protests is not that there aren't valid points to make. I'm personally worried that, unlike the New Deal, the investments being made will not be paid back. If that happens, it will be my generation and our children who pay for mistakes we had little or no influence over. What bothers me is that the majority of the people in the protests do not appear to be making points such as these.

None of the various websites I constructed the talking points from made any mention of the eventual burden of deficit spending and national debt; the fervor over taxes is very much focused in the now. The fervor in general doesn't even seem focused on taxes. Considering their supposed to be protesting taxes, a disproportionate number of posters proudly proclaim their bearers to be right wing extremists, declare the country a Christian nation, or otherwise focus on issues that are at best tangential. This undermines what should have been a principled protest of the economic recovery plan. Organized demonstrations clearly decrying current economic decisions are hard to write off, however apt or inept the comparison to the Boston Tea Party. The infiltration and outright takeover of these efforts by people more interested in Obama's alleged bow to the Saudi king usurps and dilutes the message that should have been conveyed.

It does not help a protest against taxes to have a person with a poster declaring, "Speak for yourself Obama! We are a Christian Nation!" The idiotic hypocrisy and/or obliviousness displayed by such people is at the core of why it's so easy for democrats and even moderates to simply write off these protests as simple right wing extremist flailing. In short, too many people are protesting Obama, rather than specifically protesting policies, decisions, and issues.