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Web Letter

As Gary Younge is aware, "the tea party movement" was created out of whole cloth by groups like Dick Armey's Freedom Works and Tim Philips Americans for Prosperity, with massive cooperation from Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio? However, the main goal of these organizers is to destroy and disrupt any initiatives coming from an elected Democrat-controlled government. They have marshaled the anger and frustration among voters reacting to the economic meltdown, bank handouts, record unemployment and the health bill fiasco.

"The tea party movement" at the bottom is nothing more than a cynical marketing attempt to re-brand the right wing of the Republican Party under the exact policies and principles that defined it for the last couple of decades. There are many individual participants in this movement with valid populist grievances against the sleaze and corruption of both parties in Washington, but it's all being directed toward a pedestrian goal that has nothing to do with any of those sentiments; namely, the re-empowerment of the Republican Party in completely unchanged form. In sum, Sarah Palin and her tea party followers support virtually every policy that defined the uniquely disastrous Bush years. The tea party movement depicts itself as some sort of novel and independent force in American politics, but the opposite is true. It's just an appendage of the Republican Party; more dogmatic and boisterous than some party members like, but nonetheless devoted to the purest of partisan goals of restoring the same GOP to power that ran the country into the ground over the last decade. It is the same nationalistic militarism and warmongering, Wall Street-subservient economics, and religion-based policy-making that has defined the GOP forever. There is nothing new. If anything, it represents a demand for even greater allegiance to the Bush/Cheney mindset, for a more purist and even less restrained version of the national security insanity, civil liberties assaults, massive increases in the rich-poor gap, control of Americans' lives through "social issues" and endless wars that the Republican Party has long rhetorically claimed to embody. Other than a Medicare prescription plan here and an immigration reform plan there, from what Bush/Cheney orthodoxies do they dissent? None.

The Tea Baggers are not wing nuts nor are they stupid but they do exhibit a level of irrationality and ignorance not unusual among US voters. However, as Younge mentions, there is a strong element of racism in the group. The major media in the US will never admit it, but America is now seriously ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism. Many Americans go so far as to reject the very existence of any objective truth, insisting that reality itself is nothing more than a construction of their minds, to be reconstructed in any way they please. This is wooden-headedness, the inclination to believe what one wants to believe regardless of the facts. A major problem is the susceptibility to meaningless phrases, stereotypes, irrational biases and simplistic diagnoses and solutions that play on one's hopes and fears, the fundamental basis of political advertising: producing a citizenry that can be easily manipulated to vote against their own interests.

Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we are bombarded with the cant and spectacle pumped over the airwaves or over computer screens by highly paid pundits, corporate advertisers, talk-show hosts, and gossip-fueled entertainment networks. And a culture dominated by images and slogans seduces those who are functionally literate but make the choice not to read. The culture of illusion thrives by robbing the citizenry of the intellectual and linguistic tools to separate illusion from truth. It reduces one to the level and dependency of children.

The media attention paid to a simpleton like Sarah Palin and the Tea Baggers is an indication how far the country has slipped through lassitude and inattention across the border into stupid America.

george h. mcglynn

San Francisco , CA

Feb 16 2010 - 8:01pm

Web Letter

Numerous articles, journalists, reporters, pundits, commentators and wags have told me not to "underestimate" the tea party. In this article, as in many, they tell me not to underestimate the tea partiers and then proceed to tell me that these tea partiers think Barack Obama is a Muslim and a communist.

Maybe that is why I find it supremely difficult not to underestimate this crowd. Don't get me wrong--they terrify me. These are the people who went out and bought a cache of weapons when President Obama was elected. They drove for miles to yell the most awful things at me in town halls. They print the most offensive T-shirts and misquote the Constitution. The rest of tea partiers talk a lot about tort reform and scream about socialism.

Well, I'll tell you something. This is my country too. Obama is my president. For my entire life, I have worked toward his presidency. Every campaign, every vote, every rally, every speech--every bit of my political life has been devoted to the idea that one day, one blessed day we would have an extremely intelligent African-America president. I could not be prouder or more supportive of our president.

So yes, the tea party is scary but intelligence and the American spirit (as exemplified by the constitution, not the revolutionary war) will prevail. There are a lot more of us than there are of them. We are just as well-armed (literally and figuratively), we are just as motivated and we are just as prepared. In fact, we have the presidency and both houses of Congress (for the time being). so here's my point:

Don't you dare underestimate us!

Christine Jonas

Denver, CO

Feb 16 2010 - 3:52pm