A recent story in The New York Times verified much of what I had already suspected about the Tea Party movement. It’s powered by a lot of delusional people with too much hate in their hearts – and too much time on their hands.
How else does one explain Tom Grimes, a Tea Party activist who lost his job as a financial consultant before Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, and who called his congressman for help in getting government health care, and who lives on Social Security, only to join a movement that wants nothing to do with government?
“If you quit giving people that stuff, they would figure out how to do it on their own,” Grimes told the Times.
Somebody should have asked him if he plans to take his own advice – and give up his government check, as well as his plans to apply for a job with the Census Bureau.
Or how does one explain Diana Reimer, who is also unemployed, gets Medicare, but became a Tea Party organizer because she liked the fact that they are patriotic? I’m guessing that maybe patriotism — a description that tea partiers toss around to delude themselves into believing that their American-ness is more authentic than Obama’s – is all she has left to hold on to.
Yet what’s interesting is that many of the tea partiers are, indeed, like her and Grimes. Many of them are unemployed. Many of them would starve or be homeless were it not for some government benefit. Yet they seem either unable – or unwilling – to acknowledge that. And it’s easy to see why.
Such an acknowledgement would put them perilously close to being akin to people that many of them have spent much of their lives looking down on. Those would be Black and Latino people — people who, since the days of President Ronald Reagan, have been broadly stereotyped as “others” looking to mooch off the generosity of industrious, hardworking taxpayers like them.
By clinging to that comforting stereotype, many working-class Whites who are now joining the Tea Party movement held a kind of moral supremacy; they might be one paycheck away from poverty, but dang it, they were still more noble — and better — than the people who had to rely on the dole.
But now, this deep recession has forced many people like Grimes and Reimer to lash out against the most convenient target: the government. They don’t look at it as a bridge to help them get through the worse of the bad times, but as a force that has reduced them to being like the needy people they’ve spent much of their lives vilifying.
It’s sad because what it shows is how many White people still continue to work against their best interests for the sake of clinging to some imagined sense of superiority.
What’s also sad is that instead of unemployed Tea Partiers using the time they have on their hands to try to make the government that they already depend on to work more efficiently, they’ve turned themselves into an exploitable class of people. They’ll add to the masses of working-class White people whose insecurities have always been exploited by Republicans.
By that, I mean Republicans like Sarah Palin, who charged $100,000 to deliver a speech at the first Tea Party convention that most of them couldn’t even afford to attend.
Instead of acting on hope, the Tea Partiers are being guided by denial and fear. They draw their strength by touting their American-ness, and insisting on everyone else’s otherness.
Too bad that, in the end, it won’t lead to a real solution.
Photo credit: obamacitizenshipdebate.org.