In my opinion, midterm elections aren’t the most exciting part of the political calendar. Mostly because the congressmen and senators running aren’t as nationally known as the present and, other than a few exceptions, their political influence doesn’t have very much impact outside of their district or state. But midterms, and also the entire political landscape for that manner, have received a boost in intrigue this year. Maybe the biggest reason is the impact of the infamous Tea Party.
You all know who the Tea Partiers are by now. They’re the middle-class Americans who are mad as hell and are not going to take anymore from the government. They feel that the government, most specifically the Obama administration, has done nothing to ease the economic woes they have to deal with. They see the government as an evil, all-consuming entity and the candidates they support are going to give America back to the people by getting rid of all the Washington elitists in the midterms.
On that front, I understand, even if I don’t always agree with, the Tea Party’s plight. There are a lot of out-of-touch bureaucrats in Washington and there’s nothing wrong with increasing the influence of the common man. But there’s one small problem I have with the Tea Party: they are redefining ignorance as we know it.
That isn’t just some reactionary claim from a liberal. When I listen to some of these people talk, I wonder if all these candidates are comedians starring in the most elaborate Christopher Guest movie ever. But no, many of them actually believe that President Obama is a Muslim who wants to enslave white people, or is best friends with Osama Bin Laden, or that the Ground Zero community center is really a nuclear missile silo or whatever other theory they’re spewing out this week.
For the most recent batch of crazy, look at Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate for senator in Delaware. She has said that women shouldn’t be allowed in the military, English should be the only spoken language in the U.S., AIDS research gets too much money from the government and that one of the greatest evils plaguing our society is –wait for it—masturbation. I am not making this up; she really said it. Really Christine, with all the real threats of home-grown terrorism, that’s the worst thing you can think to do with your right hand? And hey, people have got to do something now that unemployment is pushing double digits. Well at least she’ll have the Spanish Inquisition’s vote. Also, in 1998, she went on Bill Maher’s show "Politically Incorrect" and said she wouldn’t lie to Nazis to protect Jewish people because "you never have to practice deception, God always finds a way out." So it’s okay to send Jews to the slaughter because God will surely save them?
Another stark-raving-mad candidate is Sharon Angle, who’s running for the senate in Nevada. A quick tour of her policy ideas: reinstate prohibition, eliminate the Department of Education (because it’s "unconstitutional"). She also believes that abortions cause breast cancer. She said on abortion that "all human life is precious." Unless you’re gay, because then you’re just not precious enough to marry or adopt. She’s not a politician, she’s the annoying mom that shows up to PTA meetings and tries to ban Harry Potter and Judy Blume books.
These people sound crazy right? They’re only a sample of how insane the Tea Party can be. What amazes me is how so many people can throw their support behind this movement. I think the answer might be very simple: racism. Before I continue let me state that I don’t think everyone who criticizes Obama is a racist, just the ones that hold up signs with his face painted up like The Joker and tell him to go back to Kenya. Oh, and I’d venture a guess that the ones who hurl gay slurs at Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank are also homophobic.
Does anybody honestly think the vitriol these people have toward Obama would exist if he was white? I honestly don’t think so. The Tea Party allows these ignorant people to tap into their primal mistrust of a black president. I’m sure there are members of the Tea Party who aren’t racist. These are just people whose dissatisfaction with the government has reached critical mass. But if you show up at a rally filled with people holding up signs with racially insensitive material, don’t be surprised if you get lumped in with them. If the Tea Party wants to expand their influence, they need to tone down their rhetoric. If they’re not racists, they should do more to prove it. Get rid of the inflammatory signs and stop comparing Obama to Hitler. You didn’t like it when liberal groups compared Bush to him and we all know the adage about two wrongs.
The Tea Party is a natural progression of our increasingly divisive political landscape. We live in a country where politics are bipartisan. If you’re not A, you’re B, period, no questions please. Obama is the Messiah, or Obama is a secret terrorist Muslim. Cable news channels, haven’t been helping, Fox News being the most egregious offender. It was inevitable that in this environment a radical group would break away and go on a lunatic tangent.
At the same time, I think the Democrats and Republicans are overreacting to the Tea Party. When some of them are elected, they’ll realize how naïve they were about the political process. Do they honestly think they can single-handedly fix the economy, health care and lower taxes? Well they can’t and they won’t. They’ll be first-term congressmen and senators at the bottom of the totem poll. Since our collective attention span is getting shorter everyday, people will get frustrated and move on to the next political flavor of the month.
If we really want to make progress in this country, we have to use common sense. Don’t blindly follow people with insane ideas just because they have the same level of anger as you.