After all the tea parties have disbanded, and the media scorn has vanished, what did all of it mean? Byron York says that the true meaning can be found in the small towns, rather than the larger, more organized protests in media centers like New York and Washington DC. Byron believes that the depth and breadth of the protests should worry those in power … in both parties:
A number of press reports have characterized the tea parties as anti-Obama exercises. The Wall Street Journal carried an online story headlined “Anti-Obama ‘Tea Party’ Protests Mark Tax Day.” CNN introduced a tea-party story by saying, “This is a party for Obama-bashers.” The Los Angeles Times ran a column headlined, “Anti-Obama Taxpayer Tea Parties Steeped in Insanity.” But in Winchester at least, the atmosphere was not so much anti-Obama — organizers posted a note on their website asking that everyone “Please DO NOT personally attack the President or any member of Congress by name” — as it was a classic conservative Republican, limited-government, anti-spending talkfest. Anyone who covered the GOP primary contests in 2007-2008 would have recognized it immediately.
At those gatherings, as now, Republicans complained of runaway federal spending. They didn’t want to bash George W. Bush — they were too grateful for his efforts in the War on Terror to do that — but they blamed the then-president, as well as Republicans in Congress, for failing to rein in federal spending. And on spending at least, they heard what they wanted from John McCain and voted for him, even though many disliked the party nominee for a variety of other reasons.
Looking back, the way a lot of them see it is that Bush laid the foundation for worse things to follow. “It started with the Republicans and with Bush,” James Spangler, the insurance agent, told me. “I mean, I’m a George Bush guy, but it started with him at the end, with Bernanke and Paulson — those guys screwed up big time, and they opened the door for those people who are in there now to just go crazy, which is what they’re doing.”
Now, deficits that troubled them a few years ago have tripled. The $787 billion stimulus bill, in particular, bothered everyone here — not just the spending, but how it was rushed through Congress by a secretive Democratic leadership before anyone in the general public had a chance to examine it. (One child here carried a sign that said READ B4 U SIGN!) The projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009 simply blows their mind. And then there is the old-fashioned stuff. A number of people were aware of a new report by Citizens Against Government Waste naming Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran as the Congress’ most prolific earmarker, with $653 million in park-barrel projects for his state. “I heard about Thad Cochran, and it was really upsetting to me,” homemaker Cheryl Lancaster told me, “because I always thought it was more Democrat than Republican. But honestly, it’s both of them.”
The resonance of these protests go beyond the actual fiscal policies that prompted them. In fact, as Professor Paul Rahe would appreciate, the real disaffection comes from a governing power that grows increasingly remote and autocratic, and that has a real connection to the historical Tea Party in Boston. Just as the raiders protested tax policies imposed on them from a distant and mostly unresponsive British government, the American people have finally tired of power moving away from localities and states and to a federal government much more interested in pork patronage than in the actual priorities of each community.
That impulse does not belong solely to the Democratic Party. Republicans have fed at the pork trough, which creates more federal power over the money of the American people and less control over the governance by the citizenry. The founders never envisioned having the entire nation run by 535 people in the District of Columbia, with the states subservient to the mandates of Congress and the President. They imagined a nation that mostly governed itself, with a federal government that had the authority to enforce the Constitution and to defend itself.
The Tea Parties signal an intent by the American people to move the paradigm back in favor of more local government and a return to individual liberty rather than a dependent population left to beg for scraps from Washington’s table. Byron has it right; look for the meaning in the small towns that feel overwhelmed by federal hegemony.
Meanwhile, here are a few pics from Hot Air readers. Looks like Dallas got a big turnout, courtesy Michael:
Jeanine says San Antonio got the spirit. I think they provided the definition for “asinine” for the media:
We love Montanans, too, Keemo! Good definition of Tea Party, too:
Piscataway residents resent getting treated like a money machine, via Paul:
Jeff in Chicago notes a future surveillance target at a protest:
And he also sees someone who’s learned a lesson young:
Finally, almost 3,000 people turned out in Southlake Texas, with a population of less than 25,000, via Brian. You need to update the date on your camera, though, Brian!