12/16/2009 08:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Tea Party Problem. When Do Both Sides Say Let Them Drink Tea?

How delightful it is to learn, on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, that the Republican Party would lose serious ground in an election held today if it had to face off against an as yet unformed, generic (yet gayly dressed) "Tea Party Party." Delightful for me, of course, not for the GOP.
This is the GOP's chickens-home-to-roost moment, and it serves them right. For thirty years and more, the strategists and moneymen of the far right, abetted by their bought-and-paid-for sock-puppets in Congress and their partisans in the slowly emergent right-wing media establishment, have relentlessly poked the far-right bear, rousing it into a wild and angry state, and attempting to co-opt its fury for their own ends. The logical culmination of all this hard work is the Tea Party movement, whose loathing of government is so unhinged and reason-free that it repudiates large swathes of an already half-insane Republican Party (another time-bomb triumph for Dubya!). Sadly, as any zookeeper could have warned the GOP, you can only keep a bear in a riled-up mood for so long before it starts ripping limbs off you one by one. And now, say the pollsters of Rassmussen, the Bear looks set to eat the Elephant alive. And now Boner, McConnell, Kantor et al, try as they might, cannot figure out what is happening to them. The Party of No just became the Party of D'oh!

But for a long time it worked. A politician like Newt Gingrich was able to make a name for himself essentially by acting as if the United State and its Congress were Yugoslavia and he was Slobodan Milosevic (lest you think I jest, compare their shock-n-awful proto-Jim Jarmusch hair-do's). Slobo's methods became Newtie's: act as divisively and as chauvinistically against one half of the citizenry as possible; exploit the rawest and tenderest of national wounds and rouse the most dangerous of its dormant pathologies, then set the political landscape on fire from here to the horizon, hoping one day soon to become ruler of the resultant smoking ash-heap. As Gingrich can tell you though, it only works for so long, especially if you're a maladjusted crybaby hypocrite leading the charge for impeaching a president for sexual hanky-panky with an intern whilst yourself copping backseat blowjobs from your very own intern! (The greatest political assets you can possess on the right are not honesty, integrity or superpatriotism - they're shamelessness combined with stupidity and greed, and Gingrich has always had them in spades; likewise most of the knuckle-dragging, government-drowning, Contract-on-America crowd of the 1994 GOP Congressional sweep).

And lest we credit too much innovation to Gingrich, he was really only following a template set down by Ronald Reagan, who after a political life-time of scarcely veiled race-baiting, commie-bashing and rhetorical war on the poor, kick-started his 1980 campaign for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi, site of the notorious Klan murder of three civil-rights workers (one black, two Jewish) in 1964. At the nearby Neshoba County Fair, the Gipper talked of "States Rights" which, last time I checked, and certainly in that part of the country, was a widely understood codeword for "Keeping the Nwords Down." Nice thumb-in-the-eye politics from a master of the game - no wonder they called him the Great Communicator: because no one had any doubt what he was really saying.
And yet the GOP holds few attractions for the exultant neo-Tea Partyists, despite containing such marvels of right-wing genetic engineering as Jim DeMint, who looks like Andy Griffith's criminally insane twin, or the chairman of the Mayberry White Citizens' Council circa 1962; Intra-species Predators like self proclaimed coked up rodeo clown Glenn Beck, the apparently senile and no less extreme James Inhofe; and foaming-mouth fascist-freakshow Michelle Bachman. None of them are crazy enough, apparently.


Meanwhile the Tea Party cadres (or more fondly, "Tea Coots"), are really crazy! Bold and fearless, they continue with their tin-eared, clueless and club-footed re-appropriation of the more gonzo aspects of 1960s left-wing political theater, taking back the buckskins and Crocket-caps retro-Revolutionary motley once used - with a far more subtle sense of historical precedent - by the hippies and the Yippies 40 years ago. Except this time they're not flinging real money onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange or running a pig for President, they're shouting down handicapped people, punching strangers in the face at Town Halls for wearing the wrong shirt, sneering at personal tales of medical catastrophe and taunting the grieving parents of sick or dead kids, just generally acting like jackasses of limitless diameter. To celebrate the anniversary of Sam Adams' big day, the best they could come up with was a Senate Die-In. So go ahead and die already!
....Or at least secede. At what point do we stop shoving what we think is good for them down their throats and let them choke on exactly what they do want - the complete subtraction of government from their everyday lives - then see how long it takes for them to start squealing for mercy. They could drive their seat-belt- and airbag-less cars for maybe a quarter mile before getting bogged down in the waist-deep mud that used to be a government-funded road, whilst breathing air thick with carcinogens and industrial pollutants, as the fields dry up and the crops and lawns die because we've taken back our communistic TVA dams and irrigation-systems. They could hardily ford rivers on their own (Pioneers, O Pioneers!), there being no bridges or tunnels to save them from wet feet or total engulfment, or take their chances at unsignposted railroad crossings, except there wouldn't be any railroads (cause you get what you pay for, and you want to pay nothing, so go ahead, feast on all that nothing). They could throw pitiful little saucers of water on the flames engulfing their houses after grandpa falls asleep with a lit cigarette and then sit in the smoldering ash heap that was once their family home and wax idiotic over firemen and FEMA and the social security that would have enabled grandpa to live on his own. They could eat poisonous food and imbibe untested medicines and home-school their children - if the lack of government-funded inoculations hasn't already killed them in their cribs - about the latest developments in alchemy and phrenology and intelligent design or whatever equally insane lunacy they choose to put their faith and the health of their children in. They could watch all that tax money formerly diverted from better-run, richer northern and western states dry up and vanish (we'll use the savings for mandatory family planning for children and to build inner city skating rinks and train at-risk youths for future domination in figure skating and hockey, just to piss them off), then try to feed their families on cotton bolls or tobacco leaves or rifle ammunition instead of food stamps. Can't you just taste The Freedom?
Or they could just let God sort it out for them, not my benevolent, merciful and providing God, but he of the lying, hateful, money-minded gospel of gay-bashing, race-baiting and immigrant-assault. About one week of this would have their hands outstretched like Oliver with a pewter cup asking for "more" from the public treasure chest they scorn so loudly. If it was not for the innocent - the children, the disenfranchised, the sick and the elderly, and all the red-state-line geographical casualties, I would be tempted to just call their bluff and let them all secede. But for some reason, at the end of the day, I still care about my fellow American too much to say "Take your tea and your pantywaists and begone with you, and don't come crawling back across state lines when your own child needs medical care that you cannot pay for". Because I don't mean it. I will always be there. No matter how gag-inducing I find their appropriating the wigs and stuff of great men who stood for everything these idiots stand against, their willful misinterpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill of Rights and the proper way to wear a tricorn hat, there is still a part of me that wants it all to work out. For there to be a "We the People" again.

"This Country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a ban of brethren, united to each other by the stongest of ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties".

So said John Jay, Federalist No 2, in 1787. Far be it from us patriotic Americans who know better, on the Right and the Left, to let a man playing dress up and tea party, tear asunder.