July 15, 2010

Craigorian Chant Goes to a Tea Party

That’s right; your humble correspondent has attended a meeting of the Motherlode Tea Party. Here is what I found. Lots of flag being waved, both your standard American and the more confrontational “don’t tread on me” rattlesnake flag. The sound of Lee Greenwalds cheesy classic “Proud to be an American” was playing over the PA system as I walked in the door. Good turnout, maybe a couple hundred people. The crowd was pure white, which doesn’t tell you much in Amador County, every crowd in the Motherlode is pure white. More men than women, but not overwhelmingly so. About a quarter of the crowd raised their hands when veterans were asked to show themselves.  The most striking feature of the crowed was its age. This is not a young and spritely group.  If the Tea Party ever did get the heavy hand of government off the back of the American people most of their members would die of disease and starvation once Social Security and Medicare went away. The meeting opening consisted of the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem and God Bless America and an invocation. The speaker for the “Constitutional Minute” didn’t do his prep and stumbled though a reading of the first and second amendments. Then came the committee chairs, pitches to join in and help spread the word, give money, give time, buy a tea party tea shirt and wear it proudly. Frankly, I was disappointed in the complete lack of anger. Health care passed. Financial reform is about to pass. The GOP is projected to do well in November. These are conservatives who’ve taken their lumps and have hope for the future.

The keynote speaker was one Dr. Angelo Codevilla, professor and former Reagan Administration official. He gave a rather rambling speech, a sort of conservative intellectual history in which he objected to both sides of the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Obama. Think about your oldest, tiredest college professor and you’ll get a pretty good sense of his style. The crowd was very generous, eager to clap strong points and laugh at dumb elites, but they were not given much red meat. The only concrete suggestions the speaker made were 1. Vote Republican 2. Break up the School District and 3. EPA officials should be elected. Huh?

So in the end, the Tea Party is the Republican Party with a name change. You could have hung “Republican Central Committee” outside that door and nothing would change. Less people, cause the Republican brand is dirt, but the same kind of people, same rhetoric and same goal – get Democrats out of office and replacing them with Republicans. And you know what, that's fine. “I didn’t like how the last election turned out” works pretty good as a platform. It was my guiding principal for the years 2001 to 2006. But the Tea Party is no revolutionary movement. Its members are too old and too content with their lives, their policy goals too vague and contradictory. Conservative Republicans are now the Tea Party. It’s a rebranding, like
Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC to seem healthier or ValueJet Airlines renaming itself Airtran after a crash.

They are trying to say “Forget about conservative Republicans, who gave you war and economic disaster, we are the Tea Party, a fresh force in American politics and life.”

They are not.

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