Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Tea Party Insurrection

It is important to insist that the Tea Party Movement (TPM) is a movement, not a party. Most attempts to savage the movement by identifying its “leaders” and denigrating them have failed. A like but more brutal attempt to end the patriot insurrection in Boston and elsewhere by associating it with leaders and, say, hanging them on Boston Commons would have failed to terminate the movement afoot in the colonies to sever the ties that bound colonists with their mother country. You can’t stop an idea by cutting off the heads that contain the idea.

This is the way of all movements: Ghostly at first, they take on flesh and later become an active political opposition.

Democrats have been trying their best to associate the TPM with a number of politicians loathed by the left in an attempt to discredit the movement.

So far, no luck. No George Washington yet has been found within the TPM. There is no one in the movement conspicuously leading the troops to do battle with the reigning power. But just because the movement has no head, it does not follow that it is without ideas or purpose.

We have little “scientific” knowledge about the TPM because political analysts -- the sort of folk whose work is cited authoritatively in New York Times’ editorials – have been asleep at their desks, and what we think we know of the TPM is largely anecdotal. Seen from the editorial desks of the Mainstream Media (MSM), Tea Party Patriots are a rabble given to rabble rousing – nothing more. Connecticut journalists who might with a little digging turn up a few factual truffles are content hugging their own left of center prejudices.

On the last day of September, a good many people who still read the hardcopy media woke up, took a gander at their morning newspaper and gasped.

“It’s A Dead Heat,” headlines proclaimed. The reference was not to the U.S. senatorial race between Linda McMahon and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, narrowed by Mrs. McMahon over a long period of time from 40 percentage points to a statistical dead heat. Democrat Dan Malloy’s sizable poll lead over Republican Tom Foley had been whittled down from 9 percentage points in mid-September to 3 points by the end of the month, yet another dead heat.

This was not supposed to happen in the gubernatorial race in which, a few weeks ago, the Democratic dominated legislature passed a bill greatly benefiting former Mayor Dan Malloy, Stamford’s wunderkind who, while light on campaign cash, was supposed to roll over Republican Tom Foley. The two were equally rich in campaign funds at about $3 million each when the legislature decided to stuff Malloy’s pockets with an additional $3 million in taxpayer funding -- this at a time when the state is burdened with a $4 billion debt. The tax boon would make Malloy about twice as rich as Foley, who thinks the $3 million price tag for a gubernatorial office is obscene enough.

Independents, according to the pollsters, are drifting away from the Democratic bastion. And who are these Independents?

We don’t know, and those who think they know should review Will Rogers’ sage advice: It’s not what you don’t know that hurts you; it’s what you think you know – and don’t.

Are the Independent drifters 1) people who have never joined a political party, 2) refuges from the Democratic Party, or 3) refugees from the Republican Party? Has the drift been caused by affections and emotions or an aversion to ideas. If polls are showing a movement of Independents either towards the Republican program or away from the Democratic program, does the direction of the flow indicate that Independents may be party averse conservatives or libertarians, otherwise known as Tea Party Patriots?

Or have all these people come down with a bad case of political indigestion? Are they the equivalent of political misanthropes?

No one knows.

And yet – astoundingly – Independents have been with us for decades. The Independent movement has been growing in proportion to the diminishment of parties for many years, certainly long enough for polling analysts to take several telling snapshots of them.

Will the “rabble” form a new party?

Probably not any time soon. For the time being, the Republican Party appears to be the catch basin for a new and, some think, transformative discontent. New parties in America, few of them long lasting, usually were shaped during prolonged periods of economic distress caused either by the rapid expansion or depression of markets. Prolonged wars sometimes have given rise to the formation of new parties. Occasionally, new parties are mothered by new ideas, which is to say, rediscovered ideas, new wine poured into old wine skins that explode, sometimes with a politically disturbing effervescence.
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