The April 15 tea parties are over. As tax day passed I'm sure most, tea partiers or not, filed their tax returns and met the midnight deadline. I'm not one to have a problem with the tea party movement. America is full of diverse ideas and we have a history of protests against governments — from King George to the anti-war protest of the Vietnam era.
Just as students and others who took to the streets to oppose Vietnam were mischaracterized as anti-American traitors and hippies hyped up on weed, tea party folks are being poured into a single box, too, as uneducated, racist hicks, antagonized by a black president, health care reform and a general feeling the country is headed for socialism.
However, a New York Times/CBS poll released last week tells a slightly different story. According to the poll, tea partiers are more conservative than your average Republican and have more income and are better educated than one might think after seeing one of its rallies.
Consider this, only 67 percent of Republicans polled have an "unfavorable" opinion of President Obama, but 84 percent of tea partiers share that opinion. They characterize the president as "very liberal," and they see themselves as, "very conservative."
Tea partiers are also "more likely" to classify themselves as "angry." I can't look into their hearts to see what really sparks that enmity. It could be that it's not directed at President Obama at all, he just happens to be the one sitting in the White House trying to pull the country out of the deepest ditch its been in since the Great Depression. Or it could be something else.
Tea partiers seem to have short-term memory loss. They've forgotten who was in the White House when two wars were started and a worldwide economic collapse led to the biggest bank bailout in our history. Of the tea partiers polled, 57 percent have a "favorable" opinion of former President Bush, yet they cut President Obama no quarter. At the Washington, D.C. tea party, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., called the government of which she is a member "gangster."
Arguably, that "gangster" was able to avoid a total financial collapse. Business is picking up and the Dow has climbed from last April's close of 7,792 to Friday's 11,155 close, up 38 percent.
Tea partiers are also upset with Congress. Ninety-six percent "disapprove" of the way Congress is doing its job. That must mean they are upset with Republicans. The GOP controlled the House from 1995 until 2007. It controlled the Senate from 1995 to 2001. It split 50-50 from 2001 to 2002, but Republicans again held the majority from 2002 to 2007. Why weren't the tea partiers in the streets then? What pushed them over the cliff to say they want their country back?
I would submit Obama has traversed the thousands of minefields well if you can step back and take a look without partisan politics coloring the landscape. He is the energizer bunny. In the last week he signed the START treaty with Russian President Dmtry Medvedev in Prague, he's change NASA's focus and in just one day he met with the leaders from India, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Pakistan and Nigeria, all were in Washington for Obama's Nuclear Security Summit, the largest since 1945. There, the Ukraine gave up its nuclear ambitions and China's leader talked about sanctions on Iran, another accomplishment. All this while shepherding financial reform, signing the jobless act and looking for a Supreme Court justice.
If the tea party movement is to be successful in changing government, they are going to have to understand there are those who will gleefully use their ire for their own political purposes. If they allow political forces to hijack their movement, the tea parties will be remembered, not as a movement, but a group bordering on the lunatic fringe.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Charles E. Richardson is The Macon Telegraph's editorial page editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.