This note, a misspelled quote from Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech as the 1964 Republican Party nominee, was taped to a brick thrown through the front window of the Monroe County, N.Y., Democratic Party headquarters on the night of March 24, 2010. That brick, and dozens like it, were lobbed thru various Democratic Party establishments that night, part of a protest against Barack Obama's recent signing of health care legislation. Some protesters were a little more subtle, and some plain crazy, but by and large, bricks (and not bullets - this time) were the debating medium of choice last night.
Shortly after news of this broke, one Mike Vanderboegh of the predictably-named Alabama Constitutional Militia claimed responsibility for the vandalization, having rallied the Tea Bag faithful to action with an inflammatory post on his blog.
What makes this clumsy, typo-ridden addendum to the brick so interesting is that it is rather representative of the Tea Party movement as a whole, as it well illustrates their three most telling characteristics. First, it displays their penchant of clumsily appropriating quotes from much more illustrious Americans (Though let's face it, Time to Water the Tree of Liberty was pretty cool). Which makes sense, since as of yet the most erudite statements spawned by this movement run more along the lines of "Obama = Hitler plus Soviet Union times a gazillion!!". Stirring stuff.
Second, it shows the Tea Party Movement's clear disconnect between action and perceived importance of action. Unruly, drunk teenagers toss bricks through plate glass windows every night of the year. But tack a misspelled quote to it and lob it though a political functionary's front door, and suddenly this is a Patrick Henry-style act of glorious, patriotic resistance? Sorry, but this is the lamest resistance movement ever. It's telling that a movement which spews such hateful vitriol, when push comes to shove, can't be bothered to follow through on anything more than the most piddling, milquetoast rebellion possible.
Finally, and most satisfyingly, the letter exposes the antediluvian fog of ignorance which blankets the Tea Party movement even on its best days. Apart from the blatant typo which brings their single statement from poignant to laughable, the quote itself, spoken by Barry Goldwater, was referring to the ghastly evils of Civil Rights laws, which at the time, much like Health Care reform, was newly-minted legislation that raised the ire of many a southerner and conservative. So now the quote is reminding us of the futility of rebellion against progressively-minded legislation? It's a very postmodern gesture, were that the case. Understandably, the uneasy melding of limited-government libertarians with open revolt-espousing conspiracy theorists makes any sort of unified platform difficult, if not impossible. But with this whole Tea Party Movement, one gets the impression of a group of people who want to be angry at something and find an outlet for it, without giving much thought to what they're protesting against or why apart from parroting Fox News talking points. I mean, Medicare/Medicaid is a sacred cow but Universal Health Care is the devil's spawn? It's somewhat telling that the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, got his start as Richard Nixon's media advisor in 1968.
Even Mike Vanderboegh, self-proclaimed ringleader of the anti-government window-smashings, is not immune from Tea Party doublethink; it should be duly noted that he lives off $1300/month social security disability benefits.
NanceMuse sent me this picture, which seamlessly merges typos with batshit-insane Medicaid theory. Many thanks.