Today conservative groups held a tea party in protest of the federal economic stimulus package, among other things:
Taxpayers from across Connecticut gathered outside the Supreme Court and State Capitol Friday afternoon to protest spending in the federal stimulus package and a handful of other policies proposed in President Barack Obama’s budget.
The protest was billed as a “tea party,” similar to the Boston Tea Party[.]
“It’s time for taxpayers to get out and let the politicians know how angry we really are,” Rusty Haigh of Southington said while standing on the steps of the Supreme Court holding a sign that read: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
And where was this guy in 2003, when the Bush Administration started spending billions on an increasingly expensive war we didn’t need?
More to the point, where was he in October when President Bush bailed out/nationalized banks? This isn’t exactly a new and different thing.
But wait, there’s more:
That includes Lora Feld, a nurse from Simsbury, who sported a “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” T-shirt.
“All the liberals drank the Kool-Aid,” Feld said. “They sold their souls and now have Obama on their hands.” (Stuart)
It’s easy, and tempting, to dismiss these people as nothing but the fringe of a defeated and struggling conservative movement, at odds with the party in power in Washington, and angry at the way the country is moving away from them.
Still, I can’t stop thinking about the anti-war rallies I’d go to back in 2002 and 2003. I remember all the anger, and all the frustration, that Washington was not listening to us. It felt like we were adrift. I also remember that inevitably, the media would find the very craziest person at the rally and put him or her on TV. And yet, six years later, anti-war sentiment has helped to drive Republicans from both their Congressional majorities and the White House. Is anti-spending feeling anything like that? Could it come back to bite Democrats the way the war did for Republicans?
There are some interesting parallels. As the Iraq War approached in 2003, support among the public for the invasion reached 70% in some polls. Support for the stimulus has been hovering in the 60% range, and President Obama’s approval rating is only a little higher. Support for the war started to ebb the longer the conflict dragged on without tangible results, or any evidence of the WMDs the Bush Administration has assured the public existed. Support for President Obama’s economic policies could also melt away, should there be little evidence that they’re actually working.
And yet, there are also differences. Hundreds of thousands of people in cities all across the country attended anti-war rallies in the run-up to the conflict. While the rallies that were held today were in fact nationwide, attendance doesn’t seem to have been nearly as great. Also, at this point the president’s economic policies don’t seem to be nearly as polarizing an issue outside the nation’s capital as it is within the beltway, and the vast majority of people will not see tax increases as a result. Government spending and deficits are a much more abstract issue if people don’t see the money being taken out of their paychecks. Also, the war was promoted as a quick, relatively painless affair by the administration. Obama’s team, on the other hand, has been going to great lengths to suggest that all of the effects of the latest package will not be felt for some time, and that the economy isn’t going to improve overnight.
It is possible that the “tea parties” held around the country over the past few days will end up being the germ of a Republican resurgence in 2010, 2012 or 2014. But for that to happen, the economy and the deficit will have to take a turn for the worse, despite Democratic efforts to salvage the situation. For now, those who are frustrated with the way things are going are just shouting into the wind.
Stuart, Christine and Kimberly Primicerio. “Taxpayers Organize ‘Tea Party’ Protests.” CT News Junkie 27 February, 2009.