If you want to know more about the tea partiers, by all means visit their websites. Some of the event speakers explained their URLs: "…and if you go to vote for the other guy dot com, the four is just the number four, vote four the other guy dot com, vee oh tee ee then the number four, then tee…"
The one person who must be mentioned is Zack Petrick. I met Zack after walking over to ask him if he had to make two trips to bring his sign and his enormous balls to the event or if he was able to do it in just one trip. Zack was the only counter-protester at the entire event. He stood in plain sight, not fifty feet from the tea-folk, at least one of whom was openly armed. He asked where all these patriots and small-government champions of freedom were during the last eight years. Zack works at a store in Grand Forks and probably faces many of the very protesters regularly.
Most tea partiers are not bad people. They're just mad. In many meaningful ways, today's tea party attendees' lives have gotten consistently worse for the last 20 years, regardless of which party was in power. Their comparative purchasing power has declined. Their comparative income has declined. Their standard of living has been stagnant.
There is no better example of this than the precious TV. Last year Americans were given a great deal of confusing information from lawmakers, made more confusing by profiteers looking to prey on misunderstandings ("the market!"), about how their TVs would be broke and they had better get this box. Or get a new TV. An expensive, flat-screen TV. Do one of these things and your problems will be solved. In fact, you will get the best picture of your life. So crisp. So people got the box or the fancy new TV and the day came and they did not get a crisp new picture. They did not get the best picture of their lives. In fact, they got no picture at all. In the past, many received eight or so channels with varying degrees of quality. Now, because digital signals are weaker, and out here people live far apart, they receive four or even fewer channels. What is the value of a perfect, crisp picture you cannot see? "Get cable or the dish" for $50 a month, was what they were told. Or a $200 roof antennae array. And that for sure will fix your problem. This time, best picture of your life for sure. So crisp.
You'd be mad too. But then, many of the tea partiers are, and always have been, mad. They live to complain about something. Weather? It sucks. Hollywood? It's over-sexed. Foreigners? Too many of them. Politics? Liars and crooks. Products? Not made like they used to be. Kids? Unmannered, disrespectful spoiled brats. America? Fat and lazy and whiny. My lawn? Get off it.
Many in the media and elsewhere are trying to understand what tea partiers want. That's a dead end. Mostly they just want to complain. This is not a group of listen and respond; this is a group of respond and respond. The worst of the Culture of My Opinion; Twitter in real life.
Abram Sauer writes about things that are far away.
Previously: Midget Wrestling at Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse.