A recent article in The New Yorker revealed that the organization Americans for Prosperity is funded by the billionaire brothers Koch. The organization has provided tee shirts and talking points to Tea Party activists who remain unaware of the wealthy backers of the purportedly grass-roots movement. Surely if the Brothers Koch were as strongly in favor of prosperity for Americans as they are for themselves, they would keep the tee shirts and share the wealth.
It may be a bit unfair to say that the Koch's do not share the wealth. They certainly contribute to some noble causes. Museums and ballet companies benefit from their generosity. They have hospital wings named after them. So, they do contribute huge sums of money, albeit to causes and institutions that their lower working-class political lackeys would consider frivolous.
The Kochs are arch libertarians. They embrace an Ayn Rand world view, according to which the fact that they inherited a fortune and parleyed it into a larger fortune proves them more worthy than others of status, power and influence. That they are able to manipulate the poor, the desperate, the frightened proves their entitlement to do so. That they have the means to steer the political system to their selfish ends is proof that they should. If deregulation serves their empire, they will fight for deregulation regardless of who or what their unregulated endeavors will harm. If maintaining and improving their position requires that they convince the poor to loudly protest against their own social safety net by vilifying it as a socialist entitlement, then the billionaire Koch brothers feel they are entitled to do so.
By holding a stealth position behind an organization that seems to be a wide-spread and populist one, the Koch brothers strive to continue concentrating wealth and improving their political leverage. To do this, they deliberately frighten the most manipulable fringe of the conservative spectrum, the undereducated, the overly religious and the fiscally oppressed. The only way to continue building their leverage is to increase the number of undereducated, overly religious and disenfranchised citizens.
The real grass roots members of the Tea Party have become easy fodder for Comedians. Interviews on site at Glenn Beck's recent rally have spread virally across the internet as laughably inarticulate protesters prove themselves incapable of civil discourse that transcends the most inane mouthing of slogans and epithets. I think, though, it is time for us to stop belittling and begin educating. It is time to deprogram the vast number of desperate people whose energies are being utilized to further causes that will only harm themselves.
The Kochs see the poor as stupid people to be used as fodder in their own crusade for increased profits. As long as we who disagree with them continue to attack members of the Tea Party as fools, we only serve to polarize and entrench them, supporting and furthering the work of our political adversaries. We must engage and embrace individuals.
We must seek to enlighten and educate.
It is time now for the left to remind the poor, the uneducated and the desperate that it is we who fight for their ability to prosper, to learn, to excel. When the hoarders of wealth at the top of the Republican Party and it's Randy sisters the Libertarians call us elitists, we must point out that even our the wealthiest and best educated among us seek only to raise everyone to the highest possible level. When the wealthy seek to hold onto their own tax breaks saying, "A rising tide lifts all boats," we must point out that these are the words of people who can afford boats. When corporate-backed politicians urge us to free the corporate profit-machines of regulation, cheerily reminding us of Reagan's trickle down economics, we have to ask, time and again, whether anyone has ever really enjoyed being trickled on.
The Tea Party is made up of energetic Americans who care deeply about their country and their own prosperity. Sadly, their vision is clouded, their ability to reason impeded by decades of misleading language, corporate disinformation and distorted debate. Rather than continuing to attack and belittle our fellow Americans, let us invite them all up to the moral high ground with outstretched hands and open arms. There is a chance -- though I cannot claim certainty on this -- that the truth might set us free.