They should worry.
Critics of the movement tend to focus on the theatrics involved: the signs the crowds, the UTube clips. But this is a genuine grass roots movement. And, of course, the object of any movement is to move things, to effect change. Sober politicians would do well to take note. It’s a movement still in its early stages, unattached to particular persons. That does not mean that it is a disorganized movement. Not to make any direct comparisons, but the original Boston tea party sprang from a sense of frustrated helplessness. And before what later came to be called the American Revolution took shape, the resistance was an emotive idea that burned in the brains of Sam Adams and others like him.
The movement is being pushing forward by a settled sense that principles to which most Americans have given their internal asset are being violated with impunity.
One principle is that power should not overflow its proper boundaries as set, for example, by the U.S. Constitution. Tea Party Patriots see the Constitution as a real bar to the political aggrandizement of power; others see it as a paper barrier. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction out there with the notion that the executive, legislative and judicial powers are commingling, when they ought to be separate.
Another principle is the notion of representation itself. This is not an elliptical movement; it is a movement that seeks a return to strongly felt and distinctively American ideas. The general sense among people who actively participate in the Tea Party Patriot movement is that the center must be made to hold; otherwise precious rights spin off into anarchic chaos. Tea Party Patriots believe in ordered liberty. They believe, along with George Washington, that “government is force.” Because it is force, government should be modest in its exercise of power, frugal and mindful of its own destructive capabilities. All these idea nestle in the hearts and minds of Tea Party Patriots. What moves them is the possibility of a rebirth of these distinctively American ideas. They want a small “r” republican restoration.
There are many Democrats dissatisfied with the direction of the country. They perceive that the modern legislators in their party want to move the nation back to President Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive administration. Tea Party Patriots would move it back further – to the founding of the country. And while it is true one cannot return to a vanished past, it is also true that every step forward is directed by the past, except in the cases of those who will not learn from the past and unwittingly repeat its mistakes.
If the Tea Party movement is politically unorganized, some ask, why should incumbent politicians pay it any mind?
Some groups in some states are organizing, if by organizing is meant engaging in direct political action: getting people elected, working to disturb the election prospects of targeted politicians, promoting for office candidates within the Tea Party Patriot movement, that sort of thing.
But surely not here in true blue Connecticut, the land of steady habits?
And why should that be surprising? We are the Constitution State as well. We are the Provision State. Connecticut was the Provision State for Washington’s army during the American Revolution. It provided munitions and armaments in both World Wars. A recent declaration by some principals of UTC that in coming years Pratt&Whitney will lose jobs destined for other places is not happy news.
We used to be the insurance capital of the world as well. But with the advent of insurance reform uniformly pushed by Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. congressional delegation, that too may change. Insurance reforms pressed upon insurance companies by the Democratic controlled national congress will cause Connecticut companies to cut their costs in some manner, because the reforms will force companies to provide their products to people who cannot afford them.
It all sounds eerily familiar. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provided housing financing for people who could not afford to purchase homes, with predictable results. There are people who believe the housing crash was made in Washington. Many voters in Connecticut were poised to vote against U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, one of the beltway architects of the housing collapse. He declined to run again, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal now has stepped into his shoes. Blumenthal thinks his many suits against Connecticut companies actually create jobs.
Politics this election season will be played out against a dark background. The near past is reaching for our throats. Connecticut has the largest per capita debt in the nation. Connecticut is the most heavily taxed state in the nation. Connecticut is bleeding jobs. Young people are pulling up their roots and moving to greener pastures elsewhere. It is foolish to expect that all this – and much more – will have no effect on the upcoming elections. The state legislature has proven itself unable to discharge a lingering deficit of nearly half billion dollars through spending cuts, and coming around the corner is a deficit of some four to six billion.
People are in a throw-the bums-out-mood. The Tea Party movement, a semi-organized opposition to a hollowed out future, is part of all this. And its unremitting opposition to that dismal future is one of the more hopeful signs on the horizon.