Stanley Kutler: Tea Party Robber Barons

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Stanley Kutler is the author of “The Wars of Watergate” and other writings.]

We are witnessing, we are told, a groundswell of anger from a spontaneous, grass-roots movement against the president, Congress, Democrats, socialists (are commies extinct?), the debt, higher taxes, the “takeover” of the health system, and on and on. But the tea party appears to be as bothered by the policies of Franklin Roosevelt as those of Barack Obama.

Disenchantment on the left, meanwhile, is muted and hardly reported. Liberals have been disappointed by President Obama’s initial appointments, his compromised health measure, financial system regulation that offered no remedies to prevent a recurrence of our financial distress, retention of Bush-era policies on detainees and failure to shut down Guantanamo.

The media repeatedly invoke grass roots and other code words to describe the tea party. Tell a lie often enough and it is believed. Our media wizards must realize that with the revelations of high-powered funding and the involvement of Republican operatives, the characterization of the tea party as a spontaneous, ground-up movement does not fit; nagging facts nevertheless must bow to pursuing the “colorful.”...

The political operatives and financial angels of this angry movement have capitalized on that most fragile and forgettable of human traits: memory. Memories and backbones fail us in harsh times. The political strategists and their financiers who conjured up the tea party are clever. But will electoral success bring us smaller government, freedom from foreign-held debt or new jobs for Americans?

David and Charles Koch are the most prominent bankrollers of the tea party. They fit the mold of late 19th century “robber barons” and reject government oversight, corporate taxes and social welfare programs—except welfare that benefits private enterprise. They want no government regulation of the pollution caused by their oil refineries. Simple political bribes served their predecessors, whereas the Kochs and others provide bountiful campaign contributions—our legalized bribery—under the constitutional cover of free speech....
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John a Wilson - 10/26/2010

There is no secret central command for the Tea Party run by some conservative version of George Soros. That really is projection.

The tea party is the leading edge of the "We're Broke!" movement as I see it. Work on that theory and you will go a lot further in your writings.