The Tea Party Puppets and the Death of Compromise

My Liberal beef of the day? The GOP has allowed a minority of its own members, the so-called Tea Party, who are manipulated by the very wealthy to use them and their gullible ignorance to dictate party positions.

For all of their political leaders’ tough talk, the Republicans have steadfastly refused to act responsibly as one of two parties in the world’s supposed foremost Democracy. And top it off, they have scared the GOP former good-faith conservatives into deriding even the word “compromise” since the day John Boehner took the gavel as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Now, despite the damage that political gridlock is doing to Americans  their country’s infrastructure and ability to function as a free society, they press on. Why? Because they’re afraid of being “primaried” out of their 3-day work weeks and lifetime healthcare and pension plans.

Some statesmen these are.

Although the left has tried–and in the case of President Obama, been a pushover–the political right is particularly vehement when it comes to compromise. Conservatives are now totally under the thumb of the ubiquitous Tea Party movement, whose clarion call is a refusal to compromise, regardless of the practical consequences. And why do the few sensible Republicans that haven’t quit allow this hijacking of their party? Because they are afraid , not of the zealots themselves, they are aware as we are that they’re political buffoons. They are afraid that the big-money manipulators that use the Tea Party simpletons will come after them. 

But the rejection of compromise is more widespread than that. The left regularly savages President Barack Obama for compromising too soon, too much or on the wrong issues. And I wholeheartedly agree. Many who fervently sought universal health coverage, for example, could not celebrate its near accomplishment because the president gave up the public option without even a whisper of a fight. 

The death of compromise has become a threat to our nation as we confront crucial issues such as a literally crumbling infrastructure and power grid that is being used as an obstruction against anything that could be construed as a success for President Obama regardless of lives lost or potential national security implications.

So why do voters want leaders who are adaptable, but detest those who don’t stick to their guns? Social science research indicates voters want compromise but only when the other side is caving in. So when people say Washington is broken, they may mean that politicians from “the other” party seem unable or totally unwilling to compromise.  And yet many voters also hate it if politicians from their own party should compromise with the other side.

This is no way to run a democracy. And although this division has been around since the country’s founding, there has always been a segment of the population that believes that any central government that can overrule their local predilections is a bad government. These are descendants of the  Confederates if you will.  After all, the Articles of Confederation that pre-dated the Constitution, was eventually rejected by George Washington after it became apparent that the southern tier of the original colonies had no interest in doing their part to support the rest of the Republic. The northern colonies’ decisions, opinions, and morals were as much an anathema to them then as it is now.

The Tea Party is just another extension of this same segment of the population. It’s no coincidence that the term Confederacy has never left the U.S. lexicon since its inception, or that blood-red states like Mississippi still defiantly display the stars and bars in their state flag today.

The Biggest Tea Party Myth—Grassroots Movement? More Like  a Bowel Movement

The biggest myth of all is the myth that the Tea Party was a “grassroots” movement made of ordinary citizens fed up with government waste and over-taxation that allows the “lazy welfare queens and foodstamp kings” to live off the sweat of their brow.

Granted, it may have originally been presented as a defining movement for people who don’t like government taxing them because their tax dollars ended up as handouts in entitlements. But that initial reaction was simply another incarnation of the confederate faction in America has always wanted freedom to discriminate, freedom to separate, and freedom to denigrate.

The initial mainstream media reaction to this budding movement was one of disdain, because it was seen as an “out of the Beltway movement”,  therefore lacking relevance. This changed when FOX News–soon copied by once-respected CNN—saw an opportunity to exploit the movement for sensation as a means to fill their 24/7 news channels with voracious, albeit under-informed, masses and the advertising dollars that would follow. As usual, all of the televised media began to copy their leads so as not to be left behind.

Lost in the clamor of media exaggerated and sensationalized “reporting” was the truth that this was not a grass roots movement of average Americans at all. But it was a great example of air-wave manipulation.  Laid out with the aid of Rupert Murdoch’s “news” network’s assault upon all things they deemed as liberal, the puppets danced as FOX “news” became more and more outrageous.

But it was Richard “Dick” Armey, a former Texas Republican Congressman, House Majority Leader, and major senior lobbyist at a worldwide lobbying firm created the mythology of a grass roots movement, guided its progress, arranged, and then paid for its “spontaneous” events. And one thing Dick Armey could never tolerate was compromise.

Dana Millbank, in the Washington Post reported the involvement of Dick Armey in this movement when in 2010, he reported that the former leader of House Republicans went from being a rainmaker for a Washington lobbying firm to being the unofficial leader of the anti-Washington “tea party”movement.

After the 2010 election victory, sweeping away as many “old school” Republicans as well as Democrats, the media both expressed shock and provided substantive background on what had just taken place.

The New York Times was chief among the national print media in exposing the real power and purpose behind this “grassroots” movement that sullied the political climate more like a bowel movement than a political movement.  Mr. Armey’s maneuverings were being funneled though an organization called FreedomWorks.  FreedomWorks has its origin in an organization called “Citizens for a Sound Economy” which is not surprisingly a creation of the uber-wealthy Koch Brothers who have never tried to hide their lack of empathy for the plight of less fortunate Americans.

The Realization That Perception is Easier to Sell Than Facts

If you’re trying to make sense of politics and the forces competing within it, you must first realize that perception is key. Compromise has been repeatedly rejected as being a consideration by GOP leadership, despite the fact that Americans overwhelmingly support it. By its nature, politics uses the art of conning the segment of the population it targets by using popular mythological themes (i.e. No New Taxes, less government, terrorism, etc.) to rouse the populace to given action. The Tea Party Movement, FreedomWorks and even Dick Armey have every right to try to influence our political system. They also have every right to utilize what mythology they please, or can create, to advance their cause. Whether there is danger to our political system in their belief in should not result in suppression of their rights. That is not the Constitutional way in our country. Indeed, their aims and their backers are not hidden, but easily researched, as I’ve done fleetingly here.

My concerns are that for this country to remain a democracy and viable under our Constitution, we need the information and context supplied by a free press, bolstered by freedom of expression. When the popular punditry and the mainstream news media do not supply context, but actually play a role in creating myths–for profit– about the forces engaged in struggle for the hearts and minds of people, our democratic institutions suffer.

The so-called Tea Party is backed by some of the most wealthy—and therefore powerful– forces in this country. They seek to present an agenda that is beneficial to them and represents their ideology, but that fact should be contextually a part of any news report, media sound bite, or internet article that represents their interests. The myth of this movement being a spontaneous uprising of average citizens is well represented in media reports.

But for the average citizen struggling to keep their families and themselves afloat after the economic and national defense catastrophe that was the Bush administration, getting their news from small doses of mainstream media, serves to reinforce the myth by omitting the context. 

The fact is, this amalgamation of people, is being led  by their noses by a group of diabolically savvy Washington insiders and lobbyists…often to their own detriment.

The Tea Party movement has become so confused as to their own original purpose that it’s best represented by that well known poster, prominently shown at a 2010 Tea Party Rally: “Keep your Government Hands off of my Social Security and Medicare!” 

And the gridlock continues.

Harvey A. Gold

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