Tea party reflections

It was interesting attending the “tax day tea party” in Milaca today, and fun to get the story up on the new site, with a photo gallery to go with it. Video will follow.

I was surprised that there were so many people there. Apparently the populist anger out there is real, but I wasn’t convinced that it was directed properly. Some of the folks I talked to didn’t seem know who they were mad at; others were mad at “the government” (whatever that means). Conservative leaders seem to have tapped into the rage and channeled it away from the banks, the war, and George Bush and toward the “liberal elites,” Obama, welfare recipients, etc., ignoring the fact that GW ran up the largest deficits in history, largely due to an unnecessary war in Iraq and massive tax giveaways to the richest 2 percent.

There was also a clear religious dimension to the protest too, at least on the part of the speakers. They still want the U.S. to be a “Christian nation,” which I guess is fine, but shows a pretty superficial understanding of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers (imho). They don’t like judges making laws (unless they’re conservative judges), and there were veiled anti-gay references from Doug Dahl (who, while the Tea Parties pretended to be non-partisan, is or was chair of the Republican party in Mille Lacs County).

There were also plenty of “straw man” arguments about the “other side,” painting them as extremists who want everybody to get a handout and don’t want anyone to have to work, and want to destroy values and faith and apple pie. In fact, the 12 principles and 9 big ideas they were pitching would be embraced by most people on the left as well, which Obama has been trying to tell them.

The usual rants about the liberal media were trotted out again, in spite of the fact that the tea party folks had two cable networks (Fox and CNBC) carrying water for them, and they’ve had every major talk radio host on their side for 20 years.

It’s amazing how the two sides of the political spectrum can both believe the people on the other side are utterly delusional, paranoid and out of touch with reality. Sad state of affairs. I think Barack has sincerely attempted to bridge that divide, and he’s succeeded with folks in the middle, but there are 20-30 percent on the far right who will never see anything positive on the left (or even the center), just like there are 20-30 percent on the far left who will never see anything positive on the right (or the center).

Will hard times bring us together, or drive us farther apart. Sadly, there’s a long history of scapegoating when times get tough. Luckily our nation is so evenly divided that it’s unlikely either side will gain the momentum to start a real revolution. Thank goodness for the mushy middle.

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