It's Fear Over Our Country's Future That's Driving the Tea Party Movement
Come tomorrow, Nov. 3, what will the headlines across the country read, other than reporting on a Republican landslide election? If history is any guide, the headlines will blare the rebirth of the “angry white male.” You might remember him. We last saw the “angry white male” in the aftermath of the 1994 mid-term elections, when Republicans captured control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
As this conceit applies to today, the “angry white male” now stamps his feet under the banner of the Tea Party. Ever in the vanguard of elite liberal opinion, the New York Times in a Sept. 15 editorial, “Primary Day 2010: The Tea Party’s Snarl,” lamented the rise of a “tiny fraction of furious voters” and their “toxic message.” The Times’ Frank Rich, in a recent column, was equally aghast: “The mad-as-hell crowd in America, still not seeing any solid economic recovery on the horizon, will lash out at any convenient scapegoat.”
We should not be surprised by these cartoonish characterizations. Citing voter anger is the mainstream media’s lazy attempt to justify Americans’ rejection of liberalism. Anger is irrational, reactionary, and uninformed. Anger is also selfish. Rather than appreciating all the good deeds Democrats have done for the general welfare, these angry Americans only care about their own wallets.
Which is not to say that there isn’t an element of anger driving the Tea Party. But it’s not the temper-tantrum-style anger invoked by critics. It’s an anger that arises from a fear for the future. This fear is based not on what is necessarily happening now, but rather what is going to happen to our country if we continue down our present path of spending. In other words, the Tea Party is afraid that we are in the process of destroying America by bankrupting it.
This kind of fear is markedly different from the fear President Obama insinuated when he recently spoke to a crowd of Democrats at a Boston fundraiser and said, "[p]art of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared.” This suggests the public is turning away from Democrats because they simply fail to understand the delicacy of complicated legislation. In other words, their fear is bred from ignorance.
But the fear gripping the Tea Party is anything but ignorant. On the contrary, it is rooted in a very pragmatic understanding of what the federal government’s policies are doing to our country. With a the national debt rising $3 trillion since President Obama entered office, and when 42 cents of every federal dollar is borrowed, ordinary Americans are fearful that the country they know and love won’t be there for their children. That’s the true emotion driving the largest grassroots uprising in modern history; not anger, not ignorance, but a fear that in short time our country will be unrecognizable from any European welfare state.
If you want a clear example of what frightens Tea Partiers, consider France at the present moment. There, youths have taken to the streets to battle police over the government’s attempt to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. The rioters are smashing windows, torching cars and blockading streets, and for what? A two-year increase in retirement rate. That’s what real anger looks like: A mob of government-dependent citizens who have been hypnotized by the false promises of cradle-to-grave welfare that they can’t keep.
Liberals scoff at the idea that such a scene could unfold on streets of America, even as they promise more unpaid-for benefits to their allies in the public-sector unions. Even as they insist that problems affecting programs like Social Security and Medicare are nothing that a few minor tweaks won’t fix. Even as they argue that the rising deficit is primarily the result of “tax cuts for the rich,” rather than a consequence of reckless government spending.
Tea Partiers are more realistic. They appreciate that America’s long record of success is not the fault of accident, but because our economic system allowed for an explosion of human ingenuity never before seen in history. They also appreciate that France’s fate could be our own if we don’t do something now. And so fearful Americans are taking to the streets through the ballot box, which is the American way.
Come Nov. 3, the newspapers will almost certainly announce the return of the “angry white male.” Those of us in the Tea Party know better. It won’t be anger, but fear, which will drive millions of Americans to send a message to Washington, it’s time to either change course or lose our country.
Matt Kibbe is president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a nation-wide grassroots organization fighting for lower taxes, less government and freedom and the author of "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto."