This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published August 17, 2011 on The Washington Times website.
The man in the coffee shop had the look of a no-nonsense Westerner. A retired architect, he told me he had lived in the mountains for the past few years and, like most Americans, was appalled at what was going on in Washington.
Cheerfully admitting to being a political liberal, he nonetheless agreed that America’s financial woes were caused by government profligacy, not a lack of tax revenue. He acknowledged that the nation’s credit rating was downgraded because Congress had not enacted serious spending cuts.
There’s plenty of common ground here, I thought. That is, until he shook his head and said, “But I worry about those Tea Party types. The right wing scares me. Some of them are so far out.”
I heard similar remarks from others as we traveled the southwest portion of the Rocky Mountain state. Common-sense statements were followed by nervous fears about – the Tea Party.
As Rush Limbaugh recently observed, many people misunderstand what the Tea Party represents. It’s not a third party; it’s not organized in the mass sense. It’s simply a consensus among Americans that a major turnaround will be necessary to save America as we know it. It is a worldview that embraces what has made America great – personal responsibility, American exceptionalism, smaller government and the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. Tea Partyers think people should work hard and take care of their own kids. Scary, eh?
In the same coffee shop, two people in their 20s, a man and a woman, discussed the economy. Their gut reaction was like that of the architect – Washington is spending too much. One of them said, “We’re like, $4 trillion in debt, and this year’s deficit is in the hundreds of billions.”
Well, the national debt is actually $14.6 trillion and rising, and this year’s deficit is $1.6 trillion. They looked surprised when they learned the red ink was even worse than they had thought.
With the media intent on diverting blame from President Obama and the Democrats, it’s no wonder some folks are confused. Their instincts seem sound, but they are marinating in the mainstream media’s fantasized world, in which the Tea Party is a monster and “more revenue” from “the rich” is the answer to our troubles.
There’s Sen. John Kerry on CNN, brazenly blaming the Tea Party for the credit downgrade. The left’s vitriol against the Tea Party knows no bounds, even in far-flung places. In the Vail Daily, which caters to the privileged ski-resort community, a lengthy editorial by Sam Sterling from Aug. 10 is a fountain of left-wing dogma. He blames George W. Bush for the entire federal deficit, even the $4.3 trillion added under Mr. Obama. He says Mr. Obama “saved an additional 3.5 million additional jobs from being lost.” He excoriates oil companies for “not exploring for oil in the U.S.” and suggests that “If the government got into the oil business, prices would drop substantially and the U.S. would have cheap energy for 150 years, without reliance on imports.” Who says faith is dead?
Mr. Sterling assures us that “the overwhelming majority of economists believe the government needs to spend money to create jobs,” and he ends the piece this way: “Let’s reveal the tea party for what they are – greedy, selfish, ill-informed and irresponsible traitors.”
Guess the civility memos didn’t reach Vail in Eagle County, which went big for Mr. Obama in 2008. Over in Telluride, another megaresort, in San Miguel County, which also gave Mr. Obama a nearly 4 to 1 margin, columnist Thom Carnevale of the Telluride Daily Planet emoted on Aug. 5 over the mass shooting at a Labor Party youth camp in Norway by “a white, nationalist right-wing Christian fundamentalist.” (Mr. Carnevale must be paid by the epithet.)
Never mind that the shooter, Anders Behring Breivak, revealed his lack of faith in God and his contempt for Christianity in his 1,500-page manifesto. Mr. Carnevale went on to warn of madness “whether it comes from the barrel of a gun, the blast of a bomb or from the ploys of corporate titans whose sole purpose in life is to reap inappropriate amounts of profit at the expense of the middle and working class.”
Say what? Businessmen in the same league with terrorists? Please note that Mr. Carnevale is a Telluride Town Council member.
It would be wrong to pick out a couple of knee-jerk writers and extrapolate their views onto the people of Colorado or even the ski towns. The papers run some conservative writers, too. And in Ridgway, where much of the original “True Grit” was filmed, the spirit of John Wayne stands tall over the town and Ouray County, which Mr. Obama won by a whisker.
The Tea Party has many adherents in Colorado, a state with slightly more than 5 million people growing quickly despite the late John Denver’s wish to keep it for the wildlife and dwellers of Starwood in Aspen.
Colorado is a mixed bag, a work in progress like the rest of America. Color it purple, for the time being, while the teapot simmers and liberals cringe.