July 15, 2010

The Power of Tea Party Rhetoric

Pundits the world over have been trying to analyze the Tea Party movement and while some have genuinely tried to understand its origins and motives most critiques follow one of two lines. The first, and perhaps most vile, is the writer that starts with the premise that the tea party is a reaction to the election of Barrack Obama and the members are simply crypto-klansmen, end of discussion.

The second is the writer that appears to genuinely want to understand the movement and goes to great lengths to spin a metaphor around a particular trait to come to the conclusion that the tea parties are simply a group of misguided rubes. One recent ABC News piece claimed the Tea Parties in 1773 were wrong about taxes and so they, like their 2010 counterparts, were merely driven by economic self interest. These types of writers get hung up on rhetoric like “taxation without representation” missing the fact that these myths are a means of transmitting larger truths. Perhaps as the line goes some people “just can’t handle the truth” but these critiques always come off sounding petty and condescending.

I don’t know if this is a unique American phenomenon but in times of crisis we invariable return to the rhetoric of the founding. The Anti-Federalists who may have been the first conservatives argued against the new constitution in 1787 for example using the themes of the revolution and Abraham Lincoln again and again reached back to 1776 in that time of crisis. But once the crisis is past we put these symbols safely back in their box.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when the symbolism box was opened this time, while some claim that it was the 2008 Obama election or the 2009 Rick Santelli rant I think the box was opened during the 2006 fight over immigration reform. The Minuteman Project came to life and for the first time in my memory grass roots outrage stopped a piece of legislation in its tracks. It was here that I think most people became aware that something was seriously askew in this country and these fears have only been exacerbated by the ensuing economic and political events.

What is interesting however, is how this rhetoric ties the left into knots. It’s hard to argue the radical position when the opposition has taken the moral high ground of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You can't publicly come out against God, country, and mom’s apple pie without outing your own crypto-socialist tendencies.

So the Lefts only tool in the rhetorical toolbox is the appeal to emotion evidenced by such memorable hits as, “If you don’t go along with the program you will end up wearing your sisters teeth” or as the President of the NAACP recent claim that the Tea Party is the decedent of the White Citizens Council. These arguments are not meant to persuade but to stifle. and in the long run they begin to wear thin with the public.

As people continue to turn away from the Obama movement the only option is to turn up the volume on this demagoguery but they do so at their own peril. As we are seeing this is really a self defeating strategy and one I hope they continue to use so we can put our patriotic rhetoric back in its box as quickly as possible.


Anonymous said...

The race card has been played so much the klansmen on it's face has worn off.

Scott said...

Well put King.