Thursday, August 13th, 2009

A Primer for the Coastal Elite: What Do The Tea Party Folks Want?

Crush the LeftThose who watched and mocked the national Tea Parties back in April would find a different bunch of tea partiers today. The truly lunatic fringe of opportunists is now largely gone. But owing to the froth kicked up months ago, the movement's name, "Tea Party," still has currency and momentum, so why not use it? It's a branding conundrum the United Negro College Fund surely appreciates. A day after one of North Dakota's largest-ever tea parties, at the courthouse in Grand Forks, the only thing I can say with certainty about the movement is that it's mostly about making funny signs and producing lots of unintentional irony. And anger. Plentiful, seething, soul-rooted and only vaguely-focused anger. And maybe racism. But not really that much racism!

Far, far less racism than in April. (And far less than found at many of the tea party website message boards.) During the entire two hour evening event, featuring dozens of everyman speakers and dozens more signs, only one guy mentioned Barack Obama's illegitimate birth and that he's Muslim. And that was only in passing on his way to a point about something, I forget. Probably "socialism."

An Obamacrat Dog

So, you people of the coasts: what do they want? They want Washington to "listen." They want to not be "treated like sheep." They want better education (maybe). They want Ronald Reagan bon mots. They want jokes about moving D.C. to North Dakota because the cold would "force politicians to keep their hands in their own pockets." They want to sing God Bless America. They want, in one speaker's words, "to take it back for the United States Constitution for liberty." They want, more than anything, lower taxes.

This last item is where the irony begins, because North Dakota is one of the greatest of all federal welfare states. It receives over two dollars back for every one paid in taxes. If anyone has reason to complain, it's the Minnesotans, who get back only around seventy cents for every one of their tax dollars. Minnesota, by the way, is only about a quarter mile away from this particular tea party.

North Dakota is home to protectionist policies ranging from agriculture co-ops to state-run insurance to a law demanding that all pharmacies be locally owned (banning the only advantage of a Wal-Mart: cheap drugs). There is the state-run Bank of North Dakota, which in a year that saw private banks taking federal bailouts, returned $30 million to the state's general fund. More importantly, these state organizations operate in competition with private business, a fact that keeps everyone honest and is a system that, while quite successful and popular here, is clearly going to destroy America if partly implemented on any national scale, such as with health care.

So this "Anti Tax Tea Party" is a bit like a grunged-up trust fund kid begging for change on the street-at the Mexican border crossing.

63 Comments / Post A Comment

sunnyciegos (#551)

Abe: What are you doing in North Dakota? Seriously, now.

KarenUhOh (#19)

You aren't going to change these people. Not ever.

Oh, well, maybe there'll be a glacial change–it's like Evolution, only it's not, because God controls it, and it involves a glacier.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Ha ha "Change." Senator Dorgan slipped in a GREAT one today about some people he was meeting.
Young North Dakota Man: "wow. you're 85 years old. You must have seena lot of changes in your lifetime."
Old North Dakota Man: "Yes and I hated every single one of them."

HiredGoons (#603)

My latest hobby is counting the carpet fibers in my office. I've begun to set small attainable goals for myself, and I feel it's more productive than trying to reason with these fuckwits.

Mindpowered (#948)

Oh yes. Even better than wanting Obama to fail they hate change.

If the system's broke don't fix it.

Matt (#26)

Oh wow. Peanut butter in a can is the epitaph for the libertarian way of thought.

Bravo, sir.

brent_cox (#40)

Nice job reporting on them instead of going for the joke/rant. Nothing wrong with jokes/rants, but I think you just made yourself useful.

Awesome. More please.

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: Zack Petrick is very hot.

Delta (#1,314)

Agreed, completely. He's my American hero.

Abe Sauer (#148)

You have no idea. Up close, no shit, he is Orlando Bloom's little brother. EXACTLY. He had on all dirty clothes (from his blue collar building management job) and one of his shoes was literally duct taped together. I had a hard time believing he lived here. He could walk onto a photo shoot tomorrow. No joke.

HiredGoons (#603)

Well, it was freezing in my office, but you've successfully gotten me all hot and bothered, Abe. Thnx.

Delta (#1,314)

Well, what are you waiting for? Send him out to the city, and we'll get him in a Calvin Klein ad STAT.

I also feel a need to confess that I am using his relatively high placement of "gay rights" on that board to fuel my own fantasies.

HiredGoons (#603)

As am I, Delta.

davidwatts (#72)

Honestly this whole thing has me kind of flummoxed. Racism combined with small-mindedness combined with fear-mongering. . . but what I don't get is why they're suddenly so ACTIVE, with the rallies and the signs and the what-have-you. These are people who can barely be bothered to effectively brush their teeth, and they're suddenly turning up en masse to protest . . . stuff.


I mean, honestly, honestly, whether or not they say anything racist, i can't help but feel racism is the root of al this. What better way to sum up how different "those Washington types" are from regular Americans than by,you know, looking at the president? And why do these people ONLY get this riled up about shit that WOULD ACTUALLY HELP THEM? I mean it's one thing not to vote in your own self-interest, but to be this incensed against programs specifically designed to help bloated diabetic olds like these people. . . . honestly I just don't get it.

I mean I guess they have some idea of America, like they have some idea of Jesus and Regis Philbin, and any change to that idea, no matter what it is, is just fucking terrifying to them.

BlinkyMcChuck (#202)

The thing is, the country changed well before Obama was president. They didn't notice until after.

BlinkyMcChuck (#202)

But I agree, it's so freaking racist.

KenWheaton (#401)

Good work, Mr. Sauer. Makes me proud to be a reader of The Awl, even if everyone else here is a change-promoting hoped-up hippie!

But seriously. Good piece.

Meeg (#309)

The good thing about these people being in North Dakota is that that automatically makes them irrelevant and we do not have to listen to them. it's true.

Morbo (#1,288)

I do hope this is being meant in an ironic fashion. being Midwestern, its hard to tell sometimes, 'cause we're all so sincere.

HiredGoons (#603)

all the ironic ones move to New York.

KarenUhOh (#19)

The dog spelled his or her (sorry, Rover or Rovette, you're kind of hairy) sign correctly, and wants his/her poop picked up.

Yes. A Democrat.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I wanted the retard with the sidearm to shoot the asshole that did this to his dog. A bungee cord?! What a human piece of shit.

HiredGoons (#603)

My thoughts 'zactly.

spanish bombs (#562)

"the only time of the night I was genuinely moved"

What does it mean to be moved ingenuinely? Would being moved by the irony of something qualify? I'm asking seriously, not trying to be a writing jerk.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I guess it's a way of telling the reader that I'm not just saying "it was moving." Of course by not just doing that I'm tipping my hand that I don;t necessarily think the reader will trust me if I just say "I was moved" so I say "I was genuinely moved." But more than anything I blame Choire because he edited me and cut other stuff but left that. So… not my fault.

Choire —-> Under Bus.

I don't know, you wrote it, but I kinda took it differently and assumed you actually trusted us! It's possible to go through the motions and kinda be moved (cf: Project Runway Season 3; Michael Jackson's death; Funny People; current version of Obama), but then get hammered with something and find yourself really, truly, surprisingly, genuinely moved (cf: Project Runway Season 4; the deaths of John Hughes and Mink Deville; The Wrestler; current version of HRC). I think that distinction is worth holding on to.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well it was "genuinely" moving. Her voice broke and she started to cry in front of all those people and she was clearly terrified and CONVINCED tat if this passed she was going to get send to the Barack Obama Socialist Old Lady Pogrom execution chamber.

spanish bombs (#562)

Hmm. I think that I am opposed to the use of "genuinely" or "truly" to modify moved. It seems like a substitution for "very", which it isn't really. I understand what you and Sweetness mean, but if this is a matter of degrees, then I don't think that "genuine" adds a lot of actual meaning, despite its common usage.

As for signalling your sincerity to the reader, what about "actually"? Okay, now I am trying to be a writing jerk. I'll stop.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I genuinely agree with you.

Now I am just a jerk, writing. But seriously. You are right.

El Matardillo (#586)

The problem with people on the hard right or left is that a large percentage of them fall into the categories of "people who think they can run your life better than you" and "people who use ideology as an excuse to steal everything not nailed down."

To intelligent and reasonable people, these miscreants are easy to spot, but to the average person it's not so easy. Thus, the birthers, racists, government contractors, union "leaders", and most politicians of all stripes manipulate their chosen side of the electorate.

I suspect it has ever been thus.

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

Damn. Just want to echo all those saying 'great post' and 'whoa, Zack'!

Grievance (#1,330)

I grew up in North Dakota, for reals! In high school i would write letters to the editor of the crappy local paper trying to talk sense, but it's like fighting endless waves of zombies.

But also, Dear The Awl: why did you break this story up into four pages? Did you want me to read only the first page? Please, please, please either put stories all on one single long page like Honorable Gentlepersons, or at least indicate in the RSS feed when a story has Extra Goodness.

hman (#53)

I fucking love goddamned America.

HiredGoons (#603)

A summary: we want the ability to shoot each other, and to not receive medical treatment for it.

hman (#53)

Or the injuries that result from you and me fighting over Zack Petrick.

hman (#53)

Oh shit, you said were recently jumped and beat up, didn't you? Sorry for the tastless joke. (Really.)

HiredGoons (#603)

You're only hman.

HiredGoons (#603)

No worries. I can dish it out, and I can take it :)

NinetyNine (#98)

Some of our most tragicomic tales come from North Dakota.

El Matardillo (#586)

At first, I thought this said "Some of our most trigonomic tales come from North Dakota."

thefeeling (#927)

Excellent, excellent piece, even though my Peanut Better idea is now worthless. I should've had Abe sign an NDA, as my attorney advised.

wiilliiaamm (#225)

Noble writing.

I am humbled by Zack.

Delta (#1,314)

I really wasn't being facetious above when I, and please excuse the Bush-era rhetoric, called Zack an American hero.

I find it hard enough to go against the political opinions of my family and hometown friends, from where I live now, at a liberal arts university on an entirely separate land mass. I find it tremendously inspiring to see this young, uneducated* man standing up for what he knows to be right, against such overwhelming adversity and social pressure.

I think we all need a bit of Zack Petrick in us, mostly in an ideological way, but also a bit in a totally gay way too.

* (I'm going to assume this, based on his job)

oatsmoats (#310)

Yes, more please. Thanks.

Delta (#1,314)

From: (and possibly the best lie I've heard all day)

"This Site Currently Under Intelligent Design"

zack petrick (#1,335)

Hey Abe, thanks for the kind words, haha. The guy next to me in the pic comes into where I work every week and he "loves me". I just wish there were more people out there with a little less Rush in em.

hanna (#644)

Zaaaaack! You raaaawwk.

Sometimes one American against the grain makes me so proud that I think our whole damned lot is worth something again.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Zack: And you told me you don't really use the internerds. Yeaaaahh; you've got the Google alerts on you, don't you?

I hope putting you up here full name and all is Ok. Going for myself, and clearly many here, you deserve the admiration.

zack petrick (#1,335)

Well thanks, and my name is cool. I dont have google alerts,I am no hero (and yes its nice to hear it just the same), If I am so damn good looking then why cant get a god damn date?… I said I dont use my email….. and yes I did go to school for two and a half years at the Tech! All of that said I thought it was a good story and its all good! I plan on looking around here a lot more now! BTW if you would like to have a beer and so on I will be going out to O'Reallyes at 8 pm.

Delta (#1,314)

I feel like I should apologize, the uneducated line was a crude way to make a self-deprecating point. "Blue-collar" would have been a better word choice.

We, on the left, can sometimes fall into the trap of dismissing anyone who doesn't have a liberal arts college education or a creative-class job in a coastal state as a member of this blind, discontented tea party mass of individuals. It makes it harder for our supporters who do not fit in our social norm to self-identify, and really, it's stupid on our part, especially when we need to present ourselves as a party of inclusiveness.

Good luck on the dating front. I'm sure the women* of North Dakota will eventually open their eyes.

* (That doesn't at all sound like the name of a gay bar, so I'm going to assume that you're just a straight man supporting gay rights, which is actually totally fantastic, if not heartbreaking to about 50% of the commenters on this blog. Cue the longing sighs.)

HiredGoons (#603)


msjessiemeghan (#1,342)

Zack, you would fit in over here in Portland, ME. It would be slightly less frustrating but we have our moments…

Also, it is where I live and I would totally date you. But that doesn't exactly mean much without my photo to follow up. Oh well :(

msjessiemeghan (#1,342)

Weird…guess this website automatically grabs my photo from gmail (I am guessing).

HiredGoons (#603)

I will go on a date with you Zack. Please note, however, my geighness an non-proximity to you.

BoHan (#29)

Actually, the California Proposition system is a mind-blowing example of tea parties at work. We vote and vote and vote to spend on things that we like, but when it comes time for the legislators and the governor to balance the budget every year, also written into California law, heads will roll off the dudes (and ladies) who mention a tax increase, let alone mention Prop 13, the holy grail of the Proposition System and the catalyst for the present dismalness of the California infrastructure. It's mind-blowing that ordinary people can grasp a credit card limit in their mailbox, but can't grasp the same concept at the voting booth.

zack petrick (#1,335)

HA HA HA! You guys are awesome! And I didnt mean to come off as some smug prick about the school thing, just sayin is all. Sorry to say but I love my town even though I dont even like half the people, but I am here to stay!

Abe Sauer (#148)

Zack. email me abesauer @ and I promise to get you a beer one of these days.

blatanville (#860)

Abe: great article. Writing like this is truly necessary.

blatanville (#860)

Tea Party chant:
"What don't we want?"
"When don't we want it?"

Excellent report. This is the first thing I've read about the town hall protesters that didn't focus on caricature — either for the purpose of satire (which I generally approve of) or in order to ramp up the hysteria by giving more attention to the loudest craziest wingnut in order to create a media event. But generally there isn't an interest in providing any empathy and understanding.

Like how easy it is to manipulate older people who lack sophistication with regard to the media. It IS "genuinely moving" [bite me] to see an old woman in North Dakota be made terrified by the thought of how little she really matters in this world.

I encourage you to do more of this.

I would especially like an in-depth investigative report on Zack Petrick. A day in the life, sort of thing. Likes/dislikes. Turn ons/turn offs. Does he work out or does he just stay in shape carrying around his enormous balls? Be specific. And pictures, please. For the purposes of journalistic documentation, of course.

Names4things (#1,365)

Sadly, most tea partiers ARE evil.
To want people to die, just because your candidate didn't win an election, is evil. Race hate is evil. Fanny packs are evil.
Check, check, and check.

josh_speed (#97)

Zack Petrick is the first great folk hero of the 21st century. Swear.

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