From the Publisher: Leveling with the Tea Party

Arnold G. York

There is a commercial running on cable in which former White House Chiefs of Staff (WH COS) tell the viewers that being the WH COS is the most thankless job on the planet of politics. Not only are you required to wake up at 5 in the morning, but you work metal to the floor throughout the day, until you practically limp out at night after spending the day as the President’s gatekeeper and Chief SOB. 

Sadly, I’d now tell those former WH COS that the worst job in politics has changed, and there is a new champion. I think House Speaker John Boehner is the current titleholder for “Absolutely Worst Job in Politics.” 

It mystifies me how that man manages to get out of bed in the morning, go to work and face a caucus that appears so detached from reality that you could only guess they come from an alternate universe. The strangest part is that if the Republican caucus voted in a secret ballot, I believe this would be over in one or two votes. So the question you have to ask is: Why are they all so afraid? 

The worst thing that could happen to any of them is that they would be challenged in the Republican primary and might actually lose, ending up as another lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and earning a significant amount of money every year. 

Frankly, I don’t think that’s going to happen for many of them. I truly believe the Tea Party has badly overplayed its hand and that almost all Democrats and a significant portion of the Republican Party are deeply upset with what’s going on, perceive the genuine danger to our country and understand we can’t continue to do business this way without tearing ourselves apart. 

Even many of the deep pockets that bankrolled many in the Tea Party wing are thinking they might have made a big mistake. I suspect they assumed that, after elected, these people would fall into the fold. But that just doesn’t appear to be the case. 

Watching it, I get the feeling that many of the Tea Party people are not really interested in politics or governing. What they want is an opportunity to vent their anger. To feel they are having some impact on our nation. 

They see the nation they knew—a white nation, a Christian nation, a suburban and rural nation, a middle class nation—slipping away from their grasp and they are frightened of everyone and everything that doesn’t look, sound and pray like them. 

They look around and see evidence that something is wrong and not getting better, but they’re not sure why and what. 

It was part of the American ethos that every generation would do better than the previous generation, that life in America was getting better. Now, they look around and see a country headed in the wrong direction, their children coming out of school with large debts, an iffy job market, a questionable future and a scary retirement. It makes them frightened, angry and very depressed. That very quickly turns into a sense that they’ve been betrayed, that someone sold them out. They think the deck is stacked, and being reasonable doesn’t work. They’ve been radicalized because it both feels good and holds out the possibility that it might bring about some positive change. 

It’s not just the Tea Party that has that feeling; many of us share those same feelings. Where we differ is that their solutions don’t seem to make any sense. They’re mad at the wrong people for the wrong reasons. 

At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-like, we are in a time when we should be optimistic, and yet many of our people feel just the opposite. We have the largest economy in the world. We have the most stable democracy in the world. Our currency and our language are universally the standard. Power changes hands in most elections peacefully and no American leader ever thinks of calling out the armed forces to enforce or over-throw the decisions at the ballot box. We are on the verge of becoming energy independent by 2020; in fact, they’re estimating that we will have the largest energy reserves in the world. And that is going to change the map of the world. We have vast deposits of natural gas and new ways to extract oil. 

But we also have a series of problems we need to solve. The Tea Party is not an aberration. Their solutions may be aberrations, but their feelings are widely shared in all segments of America. We all want a fair share of the improvement. In America today, too few people have too much at the expense of too many. That isn’t accidental. The system has very methodically been corrupted and skewed. And if it doesn’t level, we could all end up in the Tea Party.