LA Progressive: Is This What a Populist Movement Looks Like?

February 23, 2011- Last week the Tea Party proved itself once and for all to be anti-populist.

Now, I know their press says Tea Partiers are just regular Joe the Unlicensed Plumbers, angry about government fill-in-the-blank. That’s been the story ever since they first rallied against people who found themselves on the wrong end of an adjustable rate. “How many of you want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgages who has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”, queried CNBC’s Rick Santelli in February of 2009. It was the rant that brewed the Tea.

Yeah, can’t pay your bills? It’s not the conspiracy of Wall Street’s semi-legal la cosa nostra. It’s that you’re a degenerate!
Thus the battle hymn of the Tea Party was born: Wealth rewards the virtuous; poverty punishes the failures. Someday we’ll all be virtuous enough to be affluent.

This idea has been packaged and sold as “free market” – bought by people in tri-corner hats: There are winners and losers. Losers are broke. Root for the winners.

“Populism” – traditionally defined as average people against the elite – was attached to the Tea Party by default. Tea Party isn’t a youth movement. They’re not labor. They’re not anti-war. So for lack of a better vocabulary word the Tea Party – basically the GOP on caffeine, fueled by corporate interests – got labeled “populist.”

But they’re far from it. Tea Partiers see destitution as a leprosy to be cured by forceful finger wagging.


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