Further on the teapartiers....
How do you know when you're part of a revolutionary movement? A possible partial answer: When they -- critics, opponents, the nameless they who seem to rule -- start trying to define you, as opposed to letting you define yourself.
They -- leftists, Democrats, mainline pressies -- have sought variously to define teapartiers as racist, fake (faux grass-roots, "Astro-Turf"), extremist (Nancy Pelosi), irrelevant, and prone to violence (could Bill Clinton have had tea-partiers in mind when he recently recalled the horror wrought by Timothy McVeigh?). Comes now E.J. Dionne, la-de-da columnist for the ever-so-lofty Washington Post, to describe them as "more affluent and better-educated than Americans as a whole" -- practitioners of the "populism of the privileged."
At a Tax Day rally in Richmond (Virginia), neither such qualities nor such people were in evidence. The several thousand attendees defined themselves broadly as middle-class and definitely not "privileged." They presented not as violent, not as extremists, and not as racists. They were polite and calm. The rally had an almost Fourth of July sense to it. The program featured two blacks -- one a diminutive postal worker who said from the lectern she voted for Barack Obama but realized shortly after his inauguration "that the time for affirmative action is over."
Among the placards and signs: Lower taxes increase revenues -- JFK, and ObamaCare: Take a number, stand in line, and die waiting, and Washington, Sam Adams, Jefferson, John Adams -- right-wing extremists, and Failures love socialism, and When did 'We the People' become insignificant?
No hate-speech. No rhetorical bomb-throwers. Not a whole lot of people any observer with his head screwed on right would regard as nut-jobs. Just plenty of plain-speaking, hard-working Americans at the end of their tethers about taxes and regulation and the expanding role of government in their lives.
Ordinary, run-of-the-mill, just-folks people fed up with pols feathering their own nests by snitching bedding from the everyday rest of us. People worried about the growing culture of dependence on government, at the expense of individual independence from government. People distressed by the regulatory state, driven into retreat during the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, now -- under Obama and his fellow radical leftists -- romping on. People, as William Buckley said in its opening issue his National Review magazine would do, standing "athwart history yelling, 'Stop!'"
-- Myron Magnet, longtime editor and now editor-at-large for City Journal: "(What unifies many teapartiers) is their fear that the president's various Great Recession bailouts, along with his government takeover of health care, will change America from the limited-government, individualistic, free-enterprise regime that the Founders created to a statist, big-government regime that will curb liberty in the name of redistributionist 'fairness' and will burden their children and grandchildren with impoverishing public debt."
-- Philip Dennis, founder of the Dallas Tea Party and member of its three-person steering committee: "One reason we are becoming more effective is that we have largely eschewed social issues. We view fiscal irresponsibility as the greatest danger to America. And so nearly every local Tea Party embraces five basic principles: fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, limited government, the rule of law, and national sovereignty. Of course, many Tea Party members are social conservatives, but economic issues remain the unifying principle."
LONG simmering, their fury has been fired by stimulus bills and ObamaCare, and now is building toward November's congressional elections that may prove the boiling point. And this is what gives the screaming meemies to them -- the theys who see teapartiers as potentially genuine revolutionaries potentially capable of ending their reign, and so seek to describe them in malignant terms they do not deserve.
There are risks. The teapartiers could fizzle into flakiness. Or they could field their own candidates, and so divide the political allegiances of conservatives, Republicans, and independents -- as Ross Perot did in 1992, thereby securing the election of Bill Clinton, the same Perot who endorsed the wild Ann Richards against George W. Bush in his first (successful) race for governor of Texas.
Or conservative tea-party sentiment could prove so strong in the primaries and their run-ups (as in Florida) that some seemingly invincible candidates (e.g., Florida's Republican Governor Charlie Crist, hungering for a seat in the U.S. Senate) could CAMPAIGN in the fall as independents and -- again fracturing the conservative cohort -- lift the prospects for leftist Democrats.
There's all that, and there's this: Teapartiers must not fall for the leftist effort to co-opt much of their energy in the financial realm through further regulation of Wall Street and the corporate world. Among the business community, there are a few crooks and far too many shamelessly exorbitant incomes. Let the prosecutors deal with the crooks; let the CEOs resolve to live on significantly less.
Yet federal measures drawn up by Chris Dodd and Barney Frank to punish the private sector while expanding the public sector (e.g., Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that they largely oversee, are the wrong way to go. Such measures deflect attention from leftist excess and invite the punishment of private companies (Goldman Sachs?) in order to regulate the private sector still more. Let the crooks go to jail and let inefficient companies (such as General Motors) fail.
And next time -- come November -- let teapartiers, conservatives, Republicans, and independents put leftist pols' feet to a revolutionary electoral fire.