I had a mixed agenda for my three-day stay in our nation's capital, not the least of which would be gazing at the gaggle of true believers in Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project gathered on the National Mall for an Astroturf Tea Party.
What I saw was life imitating art, with Beck playing the role of deranged "Network" TV anchor Howard Beale while his staged, sign-waving and media-seeking followers vied to broadcast their prepared sound bytes and declare with Twitter-compliant brevity why they were "mad as Hell" and "not going to take it anymore."
I classify this Tea Party, promoted by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, as Astroturf--rather than genuine grassroots--because although their mission may have been to meld a movement with a consistent message, what they and Beck's Beale have actually done is tap a common emotion: discontent.
The sources of that discontent range from the understandable (such as those who have lost their jobs and homes in the recession) to the unacceptable (such as "birthers" and other bigots willing to accept or espouse almost anything that might "get that N**ger out of the White House"). And it was clear that those gathered under the Tea Party umbrella not only lacked a shared vision, but were working at cross purposes. Ask yourself, for example, how protesters waving images of Obama with a Hitler mustache or posters denouncing Pelosi as a Fascist can peacefully stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Neo-Nazis and Skinheads sporting swastika tats? And who in their right mind would label a man of mixed parentage a "Nazi" anyway, given that a widely known plank in their Aryan supremacy platform has always been ethnic purity?
Not all in attendance were confused Klansmen, however. Many appeared to be average Americans rightfully concerned but deliberately misinformed about "Obamacare" by everyone from the Congressionally-rebuked Representative Joe Wilson to the not-quite-so-bright Constitutional law attorney, "I have read the entire text of proposed House Bill 3200" Michael Connelly, to the fired treasurer of the Minuteman Project now selling patriotism online, to the disgraced reactionary rip-off Stephen Eichler.
The misguided masses also were demanding that (a) their taxes be lowered today, while at the same time (b) their grandchildren be relieved of paying off our exploding national debt tomorrow.
I applaud their belated interest in fiscal responsibility, but question why they were silent for all those years when Dubya and Darth were digging the hole in which we now find ourselves. I also have to wonder about their grasp of macroeconomics given that taxes and debt are Uncle Sam's two
major sources of money (other than printing it) and that lowering the former usually increases the latter. Granted, one would think that reducing government spending will enable us to have our cake and eat it too. But even if we stop bailing out Wall Street billionaires and building bridges to nowhere, that won't free up enough funds to make us fiscally sound by the time young Johnny and Sally graduate.
Obamacare or Nobamacare, it's simply too late now. And it's too bad Leonard Burman wasn't there to explain "Catastrophic Budget Failure" to this crowd.
Since 11 September 2001, and for many years prior to that sad date, "We the Sheeple" have been fleeced, slaughtered, suckered in and sacrificed to serve the needs and fuel the greed of corrupt politicians, white collar con-men, and the cold-blooded multinational corporations that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about way back in 1961 when he said:
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Commentary by Bruce Arnold,
author and biker's rights advocate