Weak Tea

contradiction 300x252 Weak TeaMy former colleague Mark McKinnon (former because he abandoned Democrats and worked for Bush, McCain, Palin et al) has a piece in the Daily Beast calling the Tea Party Movement a true grassroots movement that could do for the Right what MoveOn does for progressives.

Much of the media and most Democrats are dismissive of what is truly a grassroots movement. But the Tea Party has shown remarkable energy in its short life span—dating back about a year ago, when CNBC commentator Rick Santelli went on a live-TV rant about mortgage policy and suggested a Chicago Tea Party.

Oh, the contradictions and inconsistencies! I am not dismissive of the TP movement. I am dismissive of the claim that it’s some kind of spontaneous and authentic grassroots movement, although I believe a few powerful folk are manipulating for their own ends the anxiety people feel about their lives and the world at large. From the beginning, the movement was funded by some of the richest men in America and pushed by the right wing propaganda network known as Fox News. I also believe that it bears a troubling resemblance to George Wallace’s American Party. Wallace’s segregationist party rose in reaction to the Civil Rights movement. The TP has emerged in reaction to the nation’s first African-American president.

Not all the tea partiers are racists, of course. Some just need others to blame for their own misfortunes. Some others feel powerless in a complex world. Many are misguided libertarians. I say misguided because they somehow believe the control and manipulation by unaccountable corporatists like David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries (who pay to put the tea in the teabags) is fine. Everything an elected government does is bad. Everything an untouchable giant corporation does is good. This leads to a bunch of people on Medicare protesting insurance reform because it might offer some other people Medicare.

I take the TP seriously, though, because I do believe it’s a political force to be reckoned with. It  helps clearly define the real American political battle of the 21st Century. It’s not Republican versus Democrat, really, or Left versus Right. It’s a battle between corporatist authoritarianism and egalitarian democracy. As I’ve written before, we are fast approaching a kind of distopian nightmare in which  corporations have more rights and privileges than people, including the right to tell us when we can see a doctor and whether we will live or die.

As I’ve said only half jokingly,  in the not-too-distant future, I expect the rise of Corporate Creationists who will argue that corporations could not possibly have evolved from human beings, just like today’s Creationists claim humans couldn’t have evolved from apes.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the market or business that’s the danger. Entrepreneurship, responsible business leadership, a transparent, open marketplace — these are essential in any working democracy. There are some obvious roles best filled by public functions that are ultimately answerable to voters. Firefighters and police working within city governments, for instance. The military. Bank regulation (ha ha!). Environmental regulation. With regard to health care, when the pursuit of profit trumps the concern for human life, well, we must act together through the cooperative agency of government to do something about it.

But I share a distrust of big government. The Right wants to over-simplify the debate, making it seem like they are the champions of individual rights while their opponents want to destroy individual freedom on behalf of…..well, they use a bunch of contradictory labels and names. I’ve asked many times, and not a single person on the right has explained away their own contradiction:  how is it that a giant, distant, powerful and unaccountable corporation can be as benign but a government elected by the people is bad?

The Teapartiers will get a little more respect in these quarters when they quite representing the colossal insurance industry.

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About Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”