The Tea Parties

By Caitlin Taylor

Apr 15, 2009 8:48am

As thousands of voters make their way to "Tea Party" protests today, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, whose conservative group "FreedomWorks" is part of these activities, weighs in on the importance of the protests in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed.

"Who is the leader of the conservative movement?" he asks. "Is it Michael Steele at the Republican National Committee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, or even Rush Limbaugh? While they all may be movement leaders, today grass-roots activists across the country will answer the question —- the taxpayer tea party is the movement’s leader."

Armey says the tea parties "are the shot across the bow as taxpayers defend themselves against out-of-control government spending." Participants were let down by President Bush’s bailout of Wall Street and were then motivated by President Barack Obama calling for "his $1 trillion debt stimulus, followed by a $275 billion mortgage bailout. CNBC’s Rick Santelli had enough and called for a ‘Chicago Tea Party,’ inspiring folks to do the same in their communities…The tea partiers want to see the cash spigot turned off."

Santelli, as you may recall, was protesting the Obama administration’s housing plan, prompting a White House counter-attack.

Thomas Frank, author of "What’s the Matter With Kansas" — which claims the GOP have used cultural issues to secure support from middle-class and lower-income voters for a party that works against their financial interests — suggests the tea parties are bogus.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Frank says the tea parties were given new energy thanks to the "bonuses handed out a few weeks ago at AIG’s Financial Products division" which caused the public to fall "into the grip of a left-wing political malady that the commentariat quickly diagnosed as ‘populism,’ a word they often coupled with ‘mindless,’ ‘frenzy,’ and ‘fury.’"

Frank says that the conservative movement "has described itself as a rebellion of Middle America against elitist liberals; as a nation of Joe the Plumbers rising against interfering bureaucrats." But he suggests this is bogus, and that "the tea partiers’ stance on the issues is a little mysterious. But outrage is outrage, the party organizers probably figure; who will know the difference?"

Frank also notes that Armey, in an op-ed found at FreedomWorks’ website, denounced "former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s ‘small-minded populism’" after Huckabee said he favored "Main Street, not Wall Street."

"But this assumes that the interests of the two are not in alignment," Armey wrote, "that somehow, one group can only gain at the expense of the other – never mind that the jobs and livelihoods of America’s workers and small towns are tied inexorably with the larger economy. It’s a dark form of class warfare shrewdly masked by his sunny chatter."

What do you think?

- jpt

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