Saturday, October 2, 2010

Political Signs of the Times

In light of the controversy over inappropriate signs at Tea Party gatherings, I paid special attention to the signs at the rally I attended yesterday, here in The Villages, FL. The headliners were possible 2012 Presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney (who lost in the 2008 primaries despite my vote) and businessman Rick Scott (who won the 2010 primary for Governor of Florida despite my vote for his opponent).

Well, the strongest sign I saw said "FIRE PELOSI". Mine said "How About COMPETENCE for a CHANGE?" The others were boldly printed "SCOTT CARROLL" (for Rick Scott and his running mate, Jennifer Carroll) plus hand-written signs the organizers had passsed out saying things like "Chicks for Rick" and "Vote for Rick".


I arrived around 3PM, two hours before the main event. By that time, however, all seating in and around Market Square was occupied by happy residents of "Florida's friendliest home town." The central area around the pavillion from which the headliners would talk was for standees only and was already 1/3 full.

I got a $1 hot dog and watched one of the jumbotron TVs showing video of the 2008 visit by President George W. Bush. They also showed the presidential primary appearances I had attended for Mitt Romney and John McCain, plus videos of the visits of Rudy Guilliani and Fred Thompson. The video highlight for me was the gigantic Sarah Palin for VP rally I had attended along with 70,000 others.

A nice lady gave me a flag. I stuck it into a hole in my hat. I politely turned down several offers of political signs since I had brought my own.

It was a brilliantly sunny and beautiful day in The Villages. I needed a shady place to sit. Folding chairs, coolers, and signs with sticks were banned from Market Square proper, but I was able to find a spot for my chair and cooler in the shade of a golf cart parked on Canal Street adjacent to the Square. I watched the musical group Rio Diamond via jumbotron TV and enjoyed the fellowship of the friendly crowd, sipping a can of soda from my cooler and reading the AARP Bulletin that had arrived in the mail that day.

Right on schedule, 5PM, the headliners arrived and I left my seat and found a great place to stand. It was about 10 feet from the pavillion, on the west side where the sun would not be in my eyes.

Introductions were quickly accomplished. In addition to Romney and Scott, they included Scott's wife of 38 years; his running mate Jennifer Carroll; Florida AG candidate Pam Bondi; plus some local politicos. Romney's talk was short and direct. He has been in The Villages several times before. I actually shook hands with him along the rope line after his 2008 talk.

Scott gave a nice speech, starting with his childhood in public housing. His first business, while in college, he said, was selling the donuts his mother made. He sold to airlines and other commercial customers and got to the point where his mother had to start making them 8PM the previous evening and work all night. As expected, he did not mention his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA, where he was ousted by the board in the aftermath of a big Medicade and Medicare fraud.

And then it was over and we all went home.


I though about how easy it would have been for me to have hidden any kind of disgusting sign in my car or golf cart and unfurled it at the rally. That is why I think it is totally unfair to blame the organizers for the inappropriate display of racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive signs that happen to show up at any event in a public place. (See Huffington Post for an opposing opinion.)

Ira Glickstein


Howard Pattee said...

Ira, you are really being naïve and credulous to think of the Tea Party as just a grass roots movement. There are more careful studies of the Tea Party. Follow the money!

Dick Armey, former Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, spent much of the last year promoting the new movement through FreedomWorks, an organization he helped to create with Scaife and Koch money. Richard Mellon Scaife’s wealth was inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, uranium and banking fortune. Koch Industries is the largest privately owned company in the United States. Rupert Murdoch is also in the act with the Tea Party being opportunistically promoted by Fox News.

Alan Brinkley, professor of history at Columbia, says, “We should not be surprised that so many Americans are angry. Almost four decades of growing inequality have left most of them no better off than they were in 1970, and many worse off. The recklessness and greed of much of the financial world — the principal causes of the crisis — have done far more damage than taxes or the deficit. The corruption and dysfunction of Congress and much of the rest of the government have disillusioned many. The Tea Partiers are right to be angry. But the objects of their outcries — taxes, deficits, immigration and supposed violations of the Constitution — are of far less consequence than the great failures that plague the nation.”

Jill Lepore, a historian of the American Revolution and a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a brief but valuable book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History. Contrary to Justice Scalia’s conservative view of the Constitution as an immutable “dead document,” Jefferson insisted that “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.” Madison asked in Federalist 14, “Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?”

In her book, Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, Kate Zernike did not find bigotry, or racism openly expressed, but she found, “there are many self-identified Tea Partiers who detest immigration and fear the prospect of an America in which white people will be a minority. Older white men, who seem to constitute the majority of the movement, often rally around the cry ‘Take Back Our Country.’ There is little doubt as to whom they wish to take the country back from.”


Ira Glickstein said...

Money is the Mother's Milk of politics!.

Despite a high score on the qualification exam and an exemplary record as a letter carrier, and being elected head of the postal union in his local post office, my father had to make a contribution to the party in power to get a promotion to field foreman.

So it should come as no surprise that the Tea Party movement has some fat cat supporters. The Koch brothers made their money suplying energy-related technology and services. They are life-long free market advocates and libertarians using their legally-earned money to press their views.

Richard Mellon Scaife is a newspaper publisher and heir to the Mellon fortune and supports conservative causes.

Murdoch made his money in the publishing and broadcast industries by noticing and filling a void in an industry dominated by leftish coverage.

They made their money legally and are entitled to spend it (after paying taxes) however they want.

Do you think the Tea Party is disproportionately supported by monied interests compared to the Republican and Democratic parties? What proportion of funding do you think the established parties get from big labor and big industry.

I believe the Tea Party movement gets a higher proportion of money and - much more important - feet on the ground at rallies, than the establishment. That will play out in the upcoming elections.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

Howard, I would appreciate some help here. I'm scheduled to give a talk about the tea party movement in few weeks. I've seen comments like yours on every liberal blog I've looked at, and from many other liberal reporters like Kate Zernike. What I'm unable to fathom is why as a tea party member or an ordinary citizen I should care. Is less viabl cause George Soros is a billionaire? Should the American revolution be invalidated because Hayam Solomon provided funding? I just don't get the logical point.
Why should I care that Nobel prize winning economist F.A. Hayek is dead and gone when I consider his notions? I seem to remember that you referenced his "Road to Serfdom" in a previous post. Could you explain why those on the left make this an issue rather than his ideas? Thans.

Mark Brinton said...

There is so much money in national politics because the stakes have become so high. With a properly circumscribed federal government - one that exercised far less control over the lives of its citizens; one that respected and adhered to the principle of subsidiarity - the stakes then would be much lower and the money correspondingly much less a factor. We do not have that type of federal government so the hope that we can tamp down on attempts to influence through tons of money it are futile. Madison understood this and it pervades all of his writing. What we have now with the "democratic" leviathan that we have called into being is basically Hobbes war of all against all played out in the electoral area. The stakes have become that high for each side.

Ira Glickstein said...

Right on Mark!

All interest groups have to make political contributions to both major parties because the government is now involved in virtually everything of importance in this country.

We know that "power corrupts" and "absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Lord Acton). The government, at all levels, should be pared down to absolutely minimum necessary functions. Smaller federal government will unleash the state, county, city, and towns to do what is best for the people to whom they are closest. Less government involvement at all levels will unleash private capital and individual labor to do what they think is best in their spheres of knowledge and influence.

Efficiency and hard work will be rewarded directly, with little need for political contributions (which amount to legal bribes). That will make us more efficient and help us compete in the globalized economy.

Ira Glickstein