Jay Ambrose: Like a hero rescuing a damsel tied up and lying on the railroad tracks as a train approaches, the tea party movement has been trying to save America from runaway leftism. But this hero, instead of being applauded, is taking it on the chin from critics who will invent any calumny and revise any truth to make their case.
Like a hero rescuing a damsel tied up and lying on the railroad tracks as a train approaches, the tea party movement has been trying to save America from runaway leftism. But this hero, instead of being applauded, is taking it on the chin from critics who will invent any calumny and revise any truth to make their case.
The movement consists of ignoramuses, it's said. It's a tool of the Republican party, some contend. The comedian Bill Maher, who thinks all Americans are stupid, calls it a cult. Its lineage is traced by a Prospect magazine article to Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. We've now had a tea party terrorist, we're informed. Some critics point to kooks in the party and others to haters, and at the end of the day, we are all left to shudder in fear of this dreadful thing.
First, of course, it's true that any movement with millions of followers will have some oddballs and worse in the mix. But anyone who has ventured to a rally or paid close attention to the speeches knows the tea party fringe does not come close to summing up the whole, that there is nothing racist in its rhetoric or accusatory in a McCarthy style.
A CNN poll tells us those involved are middle class, mostly middle aged or beyond and that 75 percent are college-educated. These are not uninformed citizens in pursuit of dingbat policies, but people mostly worried about a killer debt, President Obama's spendathon tactics to resolve the recession and a health plan that would be unaffordable while giving us a society ever more run by Big Brother in D.C.
Think the position on debt is loony? Those who are similarly concerned include such economists as Alice Rivlin, who served in President Bill Clinton's Cabinet; Isabel Sawhill, a budget expert at Brookings Institution and Paul Volcker, past chairman of the Federal Reserve. Think we can spend our way out of a recession? Then consult these Nobel Prize winners in economics: James Buchanan, Vernon Smith and Edward Prescott. Will the Obama health plan cuts costs while improving care? Not in the view of Jeffrey Flier, dean of the Harvard Medical School.
So my question for Maher, who thinks people with views different from his just don't have his analytical skills, is whether he wants to announce to the nation that he has a superior understanding of these issues to the experts I just cited. I will tell you my judgment. He does not understand boo. Maher is a flap-jaw making his living as a clown and whose idea of a good joke is to talk about Sarah Palin's Down syndrome child. That's as good as he gets.
But wasn't the man who plowed his plane into a Texas building housing IRS workers a tea party terrorist? The first thing wrong with the this silliness is that his political views, as expressed in a "manifesto" he left behind, are more leftist than tea-party conservative. As others have also noted, the second thing wrong with the thesis is that no one has been calling Amy Bishop a liberal terrorist. She is definitely liberal and is being held by police on a charge of slaying three fellow professors at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
And yet, well, aren't these tea party activists really just doing the bidding of the GOP? No. It's true that even though they lambast Republicans all the time for betrayal of principles, they tend to vote for Republicans.
But where else are they going to turn? The Democratic Party is now engaged in nerve-rattling extremism in Washington, and 53 percent of its members nationally informed Gallup pollsters they had a "positive image" of socialism. Conservatives do not much like socialism.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California says the tea party movement was spurred by the down economy and predicts it will go away as the economy improves. He may be right that it will go away in time, but the impetus for the movement was extraordinary recklessness, and I myself have been hugely heartened to see fellow Americans stand up and be counted in an effort to rescue us from it.
These heroes deserve applause.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.