Plan of Action

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Culture, Debate, Politics

The Tea Party has been active for long enough now that most everyone who’s paying attention has developed an idea what it’s really about, or alternately, what it really wants. (Slightly different search strings will return hundreds of thousands dozens of unique results.) Perusing the search results turns up a few themes about the really real truthful truth behind the Tea Party. Let me propose another.

Most of us have participated in discussions where people simply want to give voice to their opinions and personal anecdotes, sometimes recognizing and infrequently admitting they may not be in possession of rather sensitive, protected information that would reasonably inform their opinions. Put another way, people want either to vent or to empathize with each other. This is especially important when there is no possible apparent solution to the problems under discussion, which is often the case with political and cultural debate. Then someone with a connection to the information holders and decision makers enters the picture and attempts to translate opinions and anecdotes into policy, a platform, or even a workable proposal. However, since the underlying objectives are so different, creating a plan of action is an obvious recipe for failure. This is the nature of much though not quite all activism, of course: plowing ahead with demands but without knowledge or operational control of an institution, whether it be a parent-teacher association, school board, town hall meeting, nonprofit community group, or political discussion. The dynamic springs up just about everywhere because people have strong vested interests and experiences related to any given institution or governing body but few concrete details of the long-term objectives and (paradoxically) day-to-day workings that drive policy decisions — especially financial ones.

With the Tea Party, members can sense that their heads are on the chopping block, though the axe has yet to fall. It’s about that ugly political football that keeps getting punted around: entitlements. Entitlement programs were set up to care for people during times of hardship, a sort of social safety net that established a lower threshold through which no one should fall. But those programs have fallen prey to a variety of failures, as aged institutions do. The biggest one is simple demographics (exploding rolls or payouts combined with diminished inputs) and the second biggest is the absence of political integrity needed to address the problems effectively, which has persisted for generations. One catastrophe after another has made too abundantly clear that governments at all levels are flatly unable to care for the citizenry and probably don’t even want to anymore. Rather, the overwhelming message has been, “You’re on your own. Good luck!” mixed with “but still pay your taxes … and in the end, please slink away and die quietly without causing any fuss for the rest of us.”

The Tea Party is not the only demographic to sense they have been abandoned. Youngsters know it, too, though they typically can’t articulate it too well (if at all). The notion is beginning to dawn on the middle-aged middle class, too. Folks really just want a voice in the conversation, knowing that most activism results in absolutely nothing. But several someones somewhere heard the kvetching and sought to make a grassroots movement out of it. Then it was coopted, as dissent eventually is. Some few are calling for serious, violent, destructive resistance, perhaps leading to revolt and then revolution. It might happen, but I doubt it. I’m not even sure it’s something to be sought. I suppose if a coherent, coordinated plan of action does emerge, it would be better — even if it fails — than rolling over and dying already.

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