Inland Northwest Democrats who belittle the Tea Party gatherings of last Wednesday do so at their peril.
Inland Northwest Republicans who embrace them wholeheartedly could be in for a few surprises.
In terms of number of venues and total participants, the demonstrations outstripped any protests in recent history.
There may have been another 1,000 over time in
…Tea Partiers win.
This is a mistake Democrats often make, countering an emotional argument with a process-based response. The fact is that a certain segment of the public was fed up enough last Wednesday to skip lunch, leave work early or have dinner late so they could cheer speakers, shake fists or wave signs in protest.
But the real question for Republicans is: Protest what?
The first Tea Parties earlier this year were conceived as a
protest against federal bailouts and deficit spending. They wanted to evoke one
of the few images grade schoolers remember from their American history book,
that a bunch of colonists got to dress up like Indians, jump aboard a British
ship and dump stuff into
By Tea time Wednesday, the parties had become a merge point for a wide range of grievances that protesters wanted to redressed through their peaceable assembly. Government spending was high on the list, but some were against all taxes, others were against the income tax. A few signs suggested “tax the millionaires” which, interestingly enough, is sort of what Obama is proposing.
The Federal Reserve came in for criticism, as did paper money, and at least one speaker held forth on the virtues of the gold standard. Any suggestion of gun control was met with derision, so were most mentions of bank executives, multinational corporations, international treaties, AIG, politicians or bureaucrats.
The Stars and Stripes were much on display, but so too were several versions of the Gadsden Flag, with its coiled rattlesnake and “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan. And there were a few rugged individualists with the obligatory “Where is John Galt?” signs. (Note to liberals: That’s from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” but if you have to ask, there’s not enough space to explain it.)
More than anything else, the Tea Parties showed a wide range of
dissatisfaction with “the way things are.” For out-of-power Republicans, the
challenge will be uniting as much of this disparate dissatisfaction as possible
into a cohesive voting bloc. How can they let the gold-standard bearers talk
about eliminating the Fed before
If not, they may split the “loyal opposition” with the Libertarians, the Constitutional Party, the Reform Party or another party that surfaces in the next few years.
Toward the end of the
That truly is the question for Republicans. Perot split their vote in 1992, and helped elect Bill Clinton. Gingrich solidified their vote two years later, and gave them the House of Representatives for the first time in a generation.