Tea Party on Boston Common

Yesterday the Tea Party came to Boston.  About 5000 gathered to hear Sarah Palin give her talking points.  As I was going to work, I saw the booths being set up and the motorcycle police gathering.  The few black faces at that early point were Boston Police officers. We heard the helicopters circling all morning.  When I went for a walk at lunch the rally had ended and I saw a tea partier too busy trying to hang on to his sign to notice he was crossing a busy intersection against the walk light and in front of a bus pulling out from a stop.  The driver did see him and the man finally noticed, but to me it was emblematic of the tea party movement: oblivious to the reality of the world around them.

Yvonne Abraham had a great column in the Boston Globe this morning.

I was standing in the crowd at the tea party rally on the Common yesterday, enjoying Sarah Palin’s applause lines (Do you love your freedom? We’re not going to stand for it any more! Oh no ya don’t! Drill, baby, drill!), when a friendly woman asked me a question.

“We don’t look insane, do we, really?’’

Well, no, I had to allow. They didn’t. In fact, most in the excited crowd seemed pretty normal — unless you count Doug Bennett, the Boston City Council candidate whose giant grin and jolly handshake show up so often around town it’s kind of creepy.

In fact, most of the people I spoke to treated me as if I were the one who was soft in the head, unable to comprehend elementary concepts. They patiently dedicated themselves to my enlightenment.

“Here, have a copy of the Constitution, so you know what we’re talking about,’’ one kind man offered. They even engaged in civil debate with some counterprotesters.

Donna Tripp was thrilled with this development. Holding a sign that read “No Matter What I Write, I Will Still Be Called a ‘Racist, Nazi, Tea-bagger . . . ,’ ’’ the Avon resident had just been interviewed on camera by a young man who works for Palin.

“It gives me the willies!’’ she told her friend. “He’s shooting for Sarah!’’

She loves Palin because “the Constitution is her mantra, and that’s what I’m all about,’’ Tripp said. “She’s done what all those women wanted to do in the ’60s. She earned everything she has, all on her own.’’

Like everybody else at the rally yesterday, Tripp hates, hates, hates the health care overhaul recently signed into law.

“This country is taking a hard right turn for socialism,’’ she said. “I don’t want to be told to buy a service I don’t want. America is about freedom of choice.’’

Tripp, 55, already lives in a state that requires everybody to buy health insurance, but she refuses to do it.

“I’m healthy,’’ she said. When her husband went to Canada for prostate cancer treatment five years ago, they paid $25,000 out of pocket.

But what if she got really sick — if she needed, say, heart bypass surgery, which could cost more than $100,000?

“I’d mortgage my house,’’ she said. And if that wasn’t enough?

“I guess I’d die,’’ she said. “But under our Constitution, I should be able to take that risk.’’

More likely, Tripp would get her treatment, and if she couldn’t afford to pay for it, the rest of us would pick up the tab.

That’s how this country is set up: According to the preamble in the little Constitution the kind man gave me, we are all about promoting “the general Welfare.’’

Scott Brown, our new Senator, didn’t show up.  Neither did Charlie Baker who is running for Governor as a Republican.  Wonder why?

Today the New York Times and CBS released a new poll about the Tea Party.

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

And I hate to burst Donna Tripp’s bubble, but the reason why she is perceived as racist is because many of her fellow tea partiers appear to be racist.  According to the poll, “Supporters of the Tea Party movement are more likely to be men, over the age of 45, white, married, and either employed or retired. Few are unemployed. They are more affluent and more educated than most Americans. Almost all said they are registered to vote, and most are Republicans.”

Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.

The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

So this well educated, overwhelmingly white group obviously feels threatened by the way the world is changing and afraid they will lose theirs.

When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

It looks like the Tea Party is really the party of “I’ve got mine and I don’t want to share with anyone who is not like me.”

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