In its first year of existence, the Tea Party movement made clear what it was angry about: the first black American President, health-care reform, taxes, deficit spending, “lib-rhuls,” socialists, Hitler, emergency “bailouts” to stave off a new Great Depression, and – in general – Big Government.
Now, however, with its first genuine national spokesman – Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky Rand Paul – the public is getting a clearer sense of what the Tea Party is actually for. It is a movement intended to enshrine “owner rights,” along with states’ rights, as the bedrocks of the American system.
That is why Paul would question enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other federal laws designed to stop segregation, including the then-common practice of restaurants, hotels and similar businesses denying service to people because of the color of their skin.
Paul followed up those remarks (he later backed down somewhat) with an equally revealing criticism of the Obama administration as “un-American” for its tough demands that BP be held accountable for its disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including payment of billions of dollars in damages.
“What I don’t like from the President’s administration is this, sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP’,” Paul said Friday, referring to a statement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.
“I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”
Paul made a similar comment regarding the recent mine explosion in West Virginia where 29 workers died after Massey Energy dragged its heels on correcting safety violations, including the buildup of gasses that were blamed for the blast.
“We had a mining accident that was very tragic,” Paul said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” adding: “Then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.”
After the voting-rights comments, some media pundits, like Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, made excuses for Paul, saying he was just a political novice who hadn’t mastered the skill of packaging his answers in politically neutral ways. In other words, his only sin was believing too sincerely in his ideology and expressing it honestly.
However, what Paul was really doing was explaining what the Tea Party movement is truly about. Though it draws from a variety of political animosities – like white resentment of the nation’s demographic changes and a desire to “take our country back” from the likes of President Barack Obama – the Tea Party’s core mission is to stop the federal government from limiting the power of corporations.
That is why former House Republican Leader Dick Armey has thrown his corporate-backed FreedomWorks behind the Tea Party movement. It’s why Massey president Don Blankenship showed up in Stars-and-Stripes apparel to give a rousing speech to a Tea Party rally.
In essence, Big Corporations are pulling a Big Con on the common folks attracted to the Tea Party movement, getting them to focus their anger at Big Government as a threat to their “liberties” when the federal government is all that stands in the way of total corporate dominance of the United States.
So, instead of pressing for a democratized and energized federal government that could serve as a check on unbridled corporate power, the Tea Partiers are being turned into foot soldiers for “owner rights,” to ensure that corporations are freed from government regulations and accountability.
Rand Paul’s mistake was simply to expose this reality to the broader public. To stanch the bleeding from his candor, his Senate campaign canceled his scheduled appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a virtually unprecedented act for an American politician.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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This story was published on May 21, 2010.