Mind your business.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Oped: What Happened to the Tea Party?

As a 22-year-old young man in a denim jacket, with long, dark hair down to the middle of my back, and a big sign that said something against the banks, you might have guessed that I was an Occupy Wall Street protester– but this was the summer of 2009 and the Occupy Wall Street protests wouldn’t happen for another couple years. I was protesting at a Tea Party, and I was proud to be there.

Before Occupy Wall Street, there was the Tea Party, and we didn’t like big Wall Street banks much either. In fact, the Occupy kids are a little late to the game. At the risk of sounding like a “hipster” I have to admit that I’m a little proud that I was out there protesting Wall Street banks before it was cool, nearly three years before many of my peers. And I’m more than a little amused that their mothers and grandmothers were out there protesting Wall Street with me while they were too doped up on the sugar high from President Obama’s recent inauguration to see the problem.

Despite the unfair media caricature of Tea Party protesters as angry, white partisans and traditional, hard right-wing zealots repackaged and branded by their corporate overlords on Fox News and talk radio, I was there and I can tell you that the Tea Party represented something entirely different than this media narrative. I wrote over and over again, even here at the Independent Voter Network, to defend the Tea Parties as a positive development in American politics. The event that kicked off the Tea Party protests was Rick Santelli’s February 19th, 2009 rant on CNBC against the financial bailout. By February 28th, “Tea Parties” were happening in dozens of cities across the United States. By April 15th and July 4th, these swelled into massive demonstrations and grassroots organizations that took the political world by storm.

Throughout that time, the Tea Party had many grievances– all of them related to its insistence on less spending and more accountability from the Washington regime. These included opposition to the Democrats’ health care bill, cap and trade legislation, and various “stimulus packages” with too many zeroes on the price tag, but there was no issue more central, more emblematic, more emotional for the Tea Party protesters than their opposition to the TARP bailouts of Wall Street banks with taxpayer money. That was the final, intolerable act of brazenness from a Washington establishment united across party lines in its contempt for the American people and willingness to sacrifice our interests to Wall Street’s. Both main parties’ presidential candidates, who were also U.S. Senators at the time, voted for the bill. The Democratic House passed it with bipartisan support, and the Republican President signed it.

at The Independent Voter Network.

Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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