Having followed the news about the "Restoring Honor" Tea Party rally organized by Glenn Beck on Saturday, August 28, I have some questions for its leaders and participants. Some of the rhetoric I heard about a new movement to bring back America's traditional values left me a little confused.
Which traditional values would Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party like to see revived? Robber Baron Era values, before laws guaranteeing workplace safety, eight-hour workdays, vacations, benefits, and the ban on child labor? Pre-Social Security values, when old age meant destitution for millions of Americans? Religious values of the 19th century, when Roman Catholics, Mormons (like Mr. Beck), and other non-Protestant Christians suffered discrimination? Jim Crow values, before an activist Supreme Court rendered its Brown v. Board of Ed decision and Big Government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
If the Tea Party is conservative, why don't its members complain about warrantless surveillance of US citizens, extraordinary rendition and torture, the USA Patriot Act, the neocon doctrine of preemptive invasion, the 'unitary executive theory' of presidential power (endorsed by Justices Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and possibly Roberts), subprime mortgage schemes, Wall Street trading in derivatives and similar financial arcana, international free-trade cabals like NAFTA, and other radical innovations of the past two decades?
When Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin invoke Martin Luther King, Jr., and claim to be his heirs in the civil rights struggle, what do they think of Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign, outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, and critique of capitalism?
Shouldn't Tea Partiers be happy to pay their taxes? I realize that this is a sensitive question, but most Tea Party members come from a demographic (white, born in the late 1940s through the '70s) that has benefited more than anyone else in history from government largesse. Americans who came of age in the post-World War II decades owe much of their unprecedented prosperity to Big Government programs like the GI Bill, low-interest Federal Housing Administration loans (with 'redlining' clauses that excluded blacks), huge subsidies for defense contractors during the Cold War and other industries that employed millions, massive transfer of funding from cities to the burgeoning suburbs, federal projects like interstate highway construction and the space program, generous investment in public schools, and, of course, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which ensured financial stability in old age or a medical crisis. By their own standards, Tea Partiers are practically red diaper babies.
If the Tea Party is conservative, why hasn't it embraced the movement to abolish corporate 'personhood' and restrict the rights enshrined in the US Constitution to humans, as our Founding Fathers intended? Wouldn't a truly conservative movement demand a return to the days when corporations were obliged to observe their charters and serve the public good or risk dissolution?
Has the Tea Party forgotten that the $700-billion-dollar TARP bailout of Wall Street firms was endorsed by Sarah Palin while she was the GOP's vice-presidential nominee in 2008, in agreement with George W. Bush, John McCain, and Barack Obama? If Tea Partiers are so enraged by the bailouts (correctly, in my opinion), why don't they blame the leverage that financial corporations and other lobbies have over both parties? (It might have something to do with the Tea Party's sponsors: see Frank Rich's "The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party.")
If 'traditional values' means denial of climate change and a belief that Barack Obama is Muslim/foreign-born/socialist/communist/Nazi/totalitarian, does traditional mean willfully, defiantly, ridiculously misinformed? Do Tea Partiers ever wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if they're being scammed by GOP operatives, faux populists, and corporate royalists like Mr. Beck, Ms. Palin, New Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News?
While I'm at it, and just to be fair, here are some questions for the Democratic politicians and leaders who spoke at a simultaneous rally last weekend, the one commemorating Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech 47 years ago, organized by Rev. Al Sharpton.
Do Democrats and liberals have anything to offer besides bromides? When Democrats control Congress and the White House, why do we see so little of the change that they promise?
How is the passage of Obamacare a victory when it offers minimal reform, no price controls, and (legally questionable) mandates designed to feed the insurance industry?
Why do so few Democratic politicians at such events ever mention the devastation caused by the war on drugs and mass incarceration of young black and poor men, the private prison system that profits by locking them up, the death penalty, the paltry aid for victims (disproporationately black) of subprime mortgage lending, or plans by President Obama's 'Catfood Commission' to slash Social Security?
When Democratic pols celebrate his legacy, what do they think of Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign, opposition to the Vietnam War, and critique of capitalism?
Why was Education Secretary Arne Duncan, whose top goal is endless standardized testing for kids, invited to speak at the rally? What do privatization and militarization schemes, specifically, Mr. Duncan's expansion of charter schools at the expense of public schools and promotion of JROTC, have to do with the legacy of Dr. King and the 1963 March On Washington?
If the only reason to vote Democrat is that Democratic candidates aren't as godawful as Republicans (see Glenn Greenwald's comments), do Dems expect an enthusiastic turnout for the midterm elections?
Do Democratic voters who oppose the wars, favor Medicare For All, and support other progressive goals ever wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if they've wasted their votes during the last two decades?