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Rizwan A. Rahmani Headshot

Calorically-Challenged Finger Sandwiches and a Spot of Tea

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When it comes to tea, I like mine complex, robust, and naturally fragrant -- none of that orange spice, fruity impartations, or bergamot oil please. Having been raised in India (a tea-producing country and the very source of the tea that helped those Boston Tea Partiers make their point) and by a father who was a tea fanatic, I know a few things about tea, particularly after accompanying him to large tea repository. He would painstakingly sort through the wood laminate and aluminum foil-lined cartons, and had the purveyor blend his final picks.

Not to be confused with their historical ancestors (in any way, shape or form other than their self-aggrandizing adopted moniker), modern day Tea Partiers have brainwashed the geographical Middle and South of the country into giving them a shot at dabbling in governance, without wielding even a modicum of the scrutiny my father exercised in choosing his blend of tea. Once again, we are snookered into electing candidates based on reactive and emotional issues rather than rational analysis of what is good for the nation and for posterity.

There is more than a bit of off-the-cuff judgment at play in Tea Partier (over)reaction: the current administration was given barely two years to change the course of our economy, which has been ailing, unbeknownst to most of the populace, for some decades now according some much esteemed economists. While we may have escaped a grave economic fate (second depression), however the economy is still limping towards normalcy, and the unemployment rate has remained static. (Whatever, scoff the Tea Partiers -- when we said we wanted change, we wanted it Instant, like Sanka!)

We send our politicians to Washington like we send our favorite sons and daughters to the university in the hopes that they will make us proud. While the degree to which these political sons and daughters misbehave away from home varies, the majority eventually get addicted to junkets, freebies, and big campaign donations: the inevitable pas des deux between them and the lobbyist begins. Washington D.C. is a place where policies are bought and sold like commodities, and where the statesman is increasingly an endangered species. Even the straightest-and-narrowest of politicians sooner or later develops a kink induced by the big lobbies' big monies.

So... now that the Tea Partiers have their feet in the door, will they not also be tempted to take a bite from that juicy lobbyist fruit? It is still too early to tell, but it will be interesting to see if this new group of politicians is going to behave differently than what has been the status quo. But there is a hint of indication that the Republican Party may have to somewhat change its tune from the usual patent demagoguery we are served on the ideological platter.

One thing the conservatives do better than any other group is disseminating their talking points in unison using the media masterfully, and their political ideological nacre never seem to lack a hardened lustrous sheen that liberals are so dull at achieving. Liberals always seem to be haplessly scrambling to build consensus among themselves, with visible cracks appearing in the party like some drought stricken parched terrain. Sometimes you just have to leave equivocations at the door for the sake of progress and the accomplishment record of the party, and vote for something meaningful in the chambers.

When Karl Rove started to criticize Christine O'Donnell and some other Tea Party candidates, he was briskly hemmed in by the conservative talking heads and pundits.
He quickly began to sing the party line tune like a well trained parrot, and even started funding them through his American Crossroad GPS Pac, rife with undisclosed hedge fund and billionaire's donors: American Crossroads had more money than the RNC!

Why can't liberals have the same sort of discipline? Not become the party of "You're with us or you're against us," but at least voice disagreements and alternate options, and then vote together to move the agenda forward. Instead, they are spread across the map of opinion, and lack clear and precise communication with the public. Most Americans don't even know what the outgoing congress achieved or what Obama has accomplished: the whole Democratic message is so lamentable that the opposition party has been able to redefine (distort) those accomplishments with rhetoric of their choosing. It is no surprise that babbling Democrats spent the campaign running from their own meritorious record.

There are, however, signs of weathering on the hardened conservative nacre, and the tug of ideological war between traditional conservatives and Tea Partiers may be a blessing in disguise. For the last decade or so, conservatives had forgotten their own ideals, and the more right-eous (much too right) Tea Partiers are reminding conservative where they had resided on the political map some forty or so years ago. If Mitch McConnell's capitulation on earmarks is any indication, then there is more to this feud than meets the eye.

Many of the Tea Partiers succeeded in getting elected pushing to return to a 'retro' nostalgia style of United Sates Republic, one that supposedly adheres to the original gestalt of the country, and the tea 'movement' made a lot of noise about being a grassroots political movement of a quasi-revolutionary nature. Grassroots my foot. This modern retro Tea Time was not born of a true movement, it was a tiny whining fringe that was glommed onto and bankrolled by big money from its very genesis. Ironically, the newfangled tea partiers claim they want to take the country back, but the people who now own most the country are the one who propped them up: during the seventies the top 5 percent of this nation's net worth was $8 trillion dollars--the same group is now worth about 40 trillion! Average blue collar income has gone up 27 percent since the 70s, but for the top 3 percent it has gone up by nearly 300 percent.

The man behind this faux movement is Dick Army and his friends at Freedom Works. They paid off and bused the town hall protesters to derail health care reform, and they partially succeeded. But they had no idea they would be letting a genie out of the bottle, as some of their bread and butter candidates ended up biting the dust in the primaries. One of Army's henchmen (Rick Scott) is now the governor of Florida, conning his way in despite unsavory dealings with the federal government. His former company (Columbia/HCA) was fined the largest amount by the Feds for Medicare fraud (the company paid close to $2 billion to settle the law suit and fines): Scott pled the fifth 75 times. Ironically, he is now the governor of Florida: the retirement capital of United States with the most Medicare recipients.

While some of the more outrageously colorful Tea Partiers who didn't get elected (I was thankful for that this past Thanksgiving), there were quite a few who did, including Marco Rubio, who had rather questionable bookkeeping of his campaign funds. But he sailed through fairly unscathed because of Charlie Crist's party-switching charade and the Democratic candidate Kendrik Meeks' bid for the same office.

It reminds me again of my own afternoon tea parties. Growing up, we always had high tea and some sort of snack with the tea but never the stereotypical tea party fare, finger sandwiches. It was only upon visiting the UK after having lived in the US that I had the opportunity to sample these sandwiches, and even after sampling several of these bite-size feathery gastronomic anomalies, I was feeling still empty and dissatisfied. I feel the same way about these modern day Tea Partiers. They are sound and fury, signifying nothing: behind all the placards and rallies, they leave an aftertaste of philosophical vacuousness: the perfect Party of No -- i.e. no solutions, just grievances. To paraphrase Lincoln, the government of the people, by the people, for the people, has been perishing undetected, rotting from the inside by the parasitic disease of lobbies and PACs who are the proxy decision makers. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people" -- and we shouldn't.