The Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party movement is staging hundreds of protests today, April 15, across the nation. While the Tea Party protesters have a number of complaints, many of them ill-defined, they center around the growing deficit and national debt.
The Left is making a concerted effort to minimize this movement. The most common complaint is that it is "astroturfed". This refers to a centrally manufactured protest designed to look like a grassroots movement. ACORN specializes in these. The widely covered tour of AIG executive homes was organized and paid for by an ACORN-affiliated group. Only a small group was actually involved in the protest but they got disproportionate press coverage. Many stories noted that the press outnumbered the protesters. Congress is holding hearings that allege that ACORN pays people to show up for protests on demand.
The people who claim that the Tea parties are astroturfed point out that one of the main organizing web sites is paid for by someone who normally works for conservatives and that Fox News is promoting the events. Some talk show hosts and Republicans are making speeches at Tea Party events.
Strangely, these same critics never questioned the legitimacy of events sponsored by George Soros. Neither did they worry about celebrities or Democrats becoming involved in anti-Bush activities. Cindy Sheehan had a lot of organising behind her protests. No one questioned her legitimacy. Similarly, no one suggested that anti-war rallies were really anti-Bush rallies.
When the press does report on the Tea Parties, the main thread is that people are involved in a protest for the first time in their lives. This is as far as you can get from paid activists.
Possibly the silliest example of trying to tar the movement came from Arthur Delaney on the Huffington Post. He saw a clip of a protester complaining about communists college professors and a woman off-camera who called for burning books. As far as Delaney is concerned, that wraps up the Tea Party movement. To him it is all about anti-intellectualism and burning books. Delaney also conflate a Tea Party with Glen Beck's 9-12 Project. The two are separate and have nothing to do with each other. Neither are they responsible for everything that anyone says at a rally. I have seen Free Mumia signs an numerous left-wing rallies but that does not mean that the event was about freeing a cop-killer.
Of course, the real reason that the Left is trying so hard to denigrate the Tea Party movement is that, for decades, steer protests have been the property of the Left. Conservatives just didn't do things like that. That threatens their whole world-view. For years they have insisted that protests represent the voice of the people and must be listened to.
In order to reconcile the protests with their world-view they insist that the protests aren't real, that they are somehow staged. They are part of the Republican Party (or Fox News which they are convinced is the same thing) so they can be ignored.
The fact is that the Tea Parties are separate from the Republicans. They would be just as outraged if the Republicans were in charge. In fact, this sentiment comes from a pool of frustration that the Democrats tapped in 2006 and 2008. In both elections the Democrats ran as the party of fiscal responsibility. Just yesterday in an economic speech, Barack Obama said that we can no longer borrow and spend. These people agree with him and want a budget that reflects this sentiment.
Obama often defends his spending by pointing out that George W. Bush started it. This is true but it does not mean anything to the Tea Party protesters. They want the government to cut spending, not increase it until interest on the national debt equals the total of all discretionary spending. The Republicans are talking fiscal responsibility right now but they doubled the national debt under Bush. The Democrats promised to bring back the balanced budgets of the Clinton administration them passed a budget outline that will double the debt again in six years (and that's after raising taxes and making unlikely assumptions about the economy).
The truth is that Democrats have never been fiscal conservatives. Now that the Progressives have taken over they don't even pretend to care about the deficit. Congressional Republicans had a good record under Clinton but they threw it away under Bush. Bush and Karl Rove decided that limited government does not bring in enough votes so they abandoned this group. The Democrats courted them in 2006 and 2008 but quickly proved to be worse than Bush.
At its core, the Tea Party movement represents the forgotten libertarians, the people who think that government is already too big and don't want to see it growing bigger and more powerful. Their hero is Ronald Reagan. This is the counter to the Obama-progressives currently running the country. This represents a big swing vote from a segment that has been ignored for years.
Rather than leading this movement, the Republicans are in a position to benefit from it. This will mean turning away from the easy compassionate conservatism of both presidents Bush and returning to the party of Reagan. If they fail to follow through then this group will probably stay home at the next election.