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Revolution is not a Tea Party

Dear Idaho Tea Party,

Congratulations on your April 15 demonstration at the statehouse. As a former radical from back in the bad old days of the Vietnam War, I have to congratulate you for proving that protest and patriotism are not mutually exclusive.

Michael Boss
Michael Boss

In my day, people had a hard time understanding that love of country does not imply the blind acceptance of your government’s every action. Thanks to you, I feel a sense of vindication … and you have to admit, it’s pretty cool to have people calling you a patriot instead of yelling “America, love it or leave it” at you.

As one who marched in the streets nearly four decades ago, I’d like to offer you some advice that may serve you well as you storm the barricades of Big Government.

1) Declare an end to the culture wars. The politics of division only serve the interests of those who are trying to build a power base. Remember, we’re all Americans. So if Sarah Palin shows up in Boise and starts in about “real Americans”, politely point out to her that creating fear and distrust of “the other” in our midst is a tactic straight out of the Totalitarian Playbook. Promoting the idea that (choose one or more of the following) intellectuals, homosexuals, gypsies, immigrants, liberals and/or Jews are not really “one of us” is also the first critical step toward genocide. Remind her that however they do things in Alaska, Idaho is “too great to hate”.
2) It don’t take a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows. My generation of protesters talked a good talk when it came to non-violence, but we weren’t always quick enough to roundly condemn the lunatic fringe in our midst. It’s not enough to say that you don’t “condone” the actions of extremists. Tepid responses such as “we don’t support murdering a doctor in the narthex of his church/flying a plane into a Federal building/planning the assassination of police officers followed by the massacre of their mourners at the funeral/etc., but we understand the passions that led someone to do such a thing” can be seen as a form of tacit approval by the crazies out there. There is no room for violence of any sort, for any reason short of self-defense, in our political interactions.
3) Cool it with the “ism’s” already. Hey, back in my day we also flung epithets like “facism” and “Nazism” at the government. Our parents, many of who actually fought against real fascists and Nazis, told us we had no idea what we were talking about. Guess what? They were right. I know, putting Hitler mustaches on presidents we dislike makes for edgy visuals, but regardless of how you feel about Obama, show some respect for the thousands of patriots who died to protect us from the horrors of the Axis. Like my dad used to tell me, “if America was really a fascist state, you and your other long-haired radical pals would be rounded up and stuck in a concentration camp – or worse.” I hated it when my parents were right.
4) Revolution is NOT a tea party. Boy, that Chairman Mao knew what was what, didn’t he? I know from experience that there is a real rush to “taking it to the streets”, but every true revolutionary understands that meaningful change only comes from the hard work of creating new models of government. I’m sure it was a lot more fun dumping those crates of English tea into the Boston Harbor than it was for our Founding Fathers to draft the Constitution – not to mention freezing their keisters off in Valley Forge, but if the Tea Party really stands for changing the role of government in our lives, ya’ll are going to have to create a platform, nominate some candidates, and decide what you stand for, not just what you stand against.
5) Watch your backs. Which leads us to the next piece of advice. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is not just a good piece of political advice, it begs the question of whether or not the Tea Party can distinguish between the two. Sure, a lot of Congressmen love you for your populist outrage, and they’ll channel it to win votes. But what’s going to happen if you become a legitimate third party and show some potential for actually limiting the power of government? There are a lot of people in Washington who have spent a lot of lobbyist dollars for the right to pull the levers of power, and they’re not going to surrender that power gladly, regardless of which side of the Congressional aisle they sit. As for the media, they may embrace you for the bafo buzz you’re generating, but they also value Beltway access, and they may sour on you if you bite the hands that feed that access.
6) The revolution WILL be televised. Back in my day we chanted, “the whole world is watching” during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. In the case of your demonstrations, thanks to social media and the 24/7 news cycle, this is more than hyperbole, so you’d best model the type of political and social discourse you want our country to stand for. In the words of those arch hippies and radical instigators, Crosby, Stills and Nash, “teach your children well.” Or as Gandhi would say, “be the change you want to see.”

Thanks for letting this old radical rant, comrades. I’ll see you on the barricades. Let’s just make sure that when it all goes down, “we won’t get fooled again”.

About Michael Boss


  1. Hi Mike, Did you, by any chance, ever work for a radio station called XETRA? The reason I ask is because I’m looking for an old friend named Mike Boss who worked there.

  2. Micheal isn’t a hippie, he’s a foodie. Either way, your perspective is insightful. We all know that if you go carrying around pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.

    Here’s how it will translate from grass roots movement to political change. There are people who will either step-up or be urged to take charge of the tea party movement. I suspect that the country is just at the beginning of this shift back to individual freedom, less government, and a greater standard of living for all. It’s pretty obvious that the producers of wealth, that fund this monstrosity, are finally waking up, and they’ve had enough.

    My Father told me that back in the 60’s he and some friends tried to go to business owners an get them to appose a tax that was being instituted in Ohio. He said nobody cared to say “no.” They were all too busy to worry about it. Well, they ain’t so busy anymore(recession).

    What do people want? I don’t think it’s a hand-out. I think it’s fairness. I’m not anti-government, I’m pro-individual. The freedom to fail is just as important as the freedom to succeed, and there’s nothing wrong with either, and if we as a people decide that we’re not going to let anyone fail then we’ve lost the incentive to succeed; to be great. I’ve said this before – A government that takes from one citizen to give to another, inspires neither. Perhaps the time has come to put our incentives back in order.

  3. Steve,

    My reference to Chairman Mao was tongue-in-cheek, but he makes a point that when one is serious about political change, on has to do more than demonstrate. I admire the Tea Party greatly for its grass roots momentum. My question in the blog was one of how that momentum translates into political change…hence the quote from Mao. No offense intened, my friend.

  4. Mr. Boss,

    I don’t see that you really understand the Tea Party movement if you, as it seemed in your comments, actually referenced Chairman Mao as one to immulate concerning revolutions. He is the opposite of what the Tea Party stands for. Your hippie perspective is still a part of you, it seems, which I understand is sympathetic to Communism, and most certainly what the Tea Party is standing against.

  5. What would you call it when the government takes over lending, the health care industry, automobile manufacturing, makes laws that don’t let you speak out about disgusting food production practices? Walk, talks and quacks…

    Federal, State, County, City, and Households each have their own systems of governing. In the US, at least, there is a system for each by which they vote on policy. In the household we vote with our dollars. Clearly this is the arena by which individuals have the most control over what and how much gets spent. This begs a question in my mind. “How do you choose to spend, or vote with your dollars?” Do you vote/spend with your emotions or through careful reasoning? When the phone company over charges you, do you not protest? If you think your city, county, state, or country is over charging you or spending your money unwisely should you remain silent? I think not.

    Weather it’s tea or a sign in front of the capitol or on the phone with qwest, it’s all the same; showing displeasure with the product of your vote – cast or spent. It says, you aren’t representing how I’d like the money I willingly or not so willingly contribute to be spent. The CBO said the federal debt is going to be 20 Trillion dollars by 2020. Feel represented, now?

    So, Mr. Knowledge, if that is your real name, they have quite a bit in common.

  6. Good points, Mike, it is unfortunate that we’ve gotten to the point in this country where people who want to be our political leaders talk about “real Americans” and “real America” and try to increase their political power by dividing Americans along religious and political lines. I am an Idaho democrat and have been one my entire life, having lived here since the early 1970s. Most of the kids I went to school with were certainly republicans but we were all Americans (and boys) first and got along great, and I wouldn’t for a second have considered not having a friendship with someone just because he was from a republican household. It saddens me that many Americans (left and right) now feel the need to live in separate communities and wall themselves off from other points of view. Many of us live in echochambers, and the echoes we hear are from those screaming the loudest in them for their own pecuniary gain. (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, etc.)

    It’s too bad we don’t seem to be able to disagree without loathing each other anymore. The thing that bothers me about the Tea Party movement is that a lot of people in it seem intent on demonizing those they disagree with. Saying that the country is headed toward socialism or communism, or equating Obama with Hitler, or the policies of the federal government (elected and run by fellow Americans) as those of a police state, is as wrong as it is offensive.

    What the Boston Tea Party protested was taxation without representation. Like it or not, we have taxation with representation, and the federal government’s power to tax is in the Constitution. If you don’t like the tax policies of the federal government, fine, protest all you want and do what needs to be done through legitimate political avenues to affect change. Don’t act though like your movement has much in common with maybe the most famous revolt in American history.

  7. One other point that I meant to make regarding George’s comments is that while victims of genocide have been the historic target of tyrants, Hitler could never have launched the holocaust without the silent consent of Europeans (not just the Germans). When we refuse to repudiate hatred and prejudice, and the fear of “the other”, we make it easier for totalitarian elements to use the targets of our prejudice to manipulate us. If there hadn’t been a history of anti-semiticism in Europe, Hiter could never have so easily united people around the belief that the Jewish Conspiracy was the cause of their economic suffering.

  8. George, I quite agree with your points, and I always appreciate your thoughtful take on things. My take on the need for a viable central government isn’t that it should be a “granny state” but a means of harnessing the collective will to address issues that transcend our power as individuals or even regional entities to address. These include obvious infrastructre requirements from highways to broadband access (at least in cases where vast discrepancies between communities exist that don’t lend themselves to private sector investment).

    Your point about Hitler mustaches is precisely why I took people to task for those characterizations of Bush and Cheney, even though I voted against Bush (and frankly, Cheney scares the living **** out of me). And you’re damn straight that just like Timothy McVeigh, the Weather Underground were domestic terroists. My generation should have been as vocal in condemining them as we were in condeming the war in Vietnam.

  9. Tea Parties are a symptom of governmental disease. Responsible individuals don’t need or want government to take care of them womb to tomb. What they really want is an environment where every individual is responsible for themselves. The welfare state gets in the way of this. It’s kind of like raising children. If you are constantly there giving them everything they need(bail-outs) without the responsibility to get for themselves, they’ll never become responsible productive adults, and you’ll forever be a slave to their needs.

    Mike, On culture wars – it’s a double edged sword. That kind of talk cuts both ways, so we should beware of it from all directions. Those groups you mention that aren’t “really one of us” were targeted by tyrants. I think we’ve all had enough of those “isms.” How many Hitler mustaches did Bush (no more a nazi than obama) get pasted on? Weren’t the Weathermen domestic terrorists?

    Rick, What was Eisenhower supposed to do, stop paving and go to gravel at the state border? More people, i.e. the coasts, require more goods from the productive lands. We don’t get the big potatoes (did I spell that right?) Yes, we got the cash for these projects, but who is benefitting the most from these projects? My guess would be the places with greater populations.

  10. Mike well said!
    Ironically the “Original” Tea Party people were Progressives(Patriots), not Status Quo people(Loyalists). Otherwise we would all still be loyal English subjects. Of course today no one would be considered an English Loyalist, but many of these Tea Party people that I have spoken with, think this is the same issue. Mike is also spot on with the Tax issue as well, here in Idaho we are subsidized many times over. Just ask the farmers! Maybe we should look at a Parliamentary style government, then every party would have a chance to hold an office? Any way let the “civil” debate continue, we have no need for fear mongers, and intimidators.

  11. Very nicely done Mike. Some great advice for people on all sides of an issue.

    To the bigger point. The Tea Party movement is completely dead in the water unless they can find leadership and establish a platform. If you listen to the issues espoused by people in these rallies you’d have no idea that they were all part of the same movement. One woman intervied by Boise State Radio on the 15th wanted to “bring back fairness, stop the meaness and stop floridating the water”. This is not the sort of platform that lasting political movements are built on.

    Taxes seem to be something that is discussed a lot in these rallies but no one, including the media have bothered to ask, what these people think the tax rate should be. Right now our tax rates are the lowest they have been since before WWII. When Eisenhower was President the top marginal rate was 90%+. When Nixon was President the rate was 70%+.

    The other issue they want to focus on is spending. People are always wanting to cut spending until its a program they personally feel needs funding is up for cuts. Just this week we saw a Tea Party rally in Florida where they were perturbed that Obama was considering cuts in funding for NASA. Not one person there could give a good reason not to cut funding other than it would cost jobs. What do these people think happens when you cut funding for government programs? Of course it cuts jobs and cost the tax payers in those areas money because now they have to find other forms of funding to keep up with whats already in place.

    Last point. We live in a red state. Red states, at least the majority of them including Idaho recieve much more back from the Feds than we contribute in tax revenue meaning all our anti government rhetoric and hatred of Obama is being subsidised by states like Massachusetts, New York and California who pay more in to the Feds than they get back every year. If anything red states should be arguing for higher taxes at the federal level since that would mean we would benefit even more for federal tax dollars. So the next time someone tells you spending is evil tell them to enjoy that interstate highway they drove here on.

  12. Ida D, although I’ve been accused of dissing the Tea Party, I truly appreciate the concerns they raise over issues such as government intrusiveness, the national debt, and balancing more local descision making in our political lives with the role of the Federal Government. My concern, however, is that our elected political leaders have chosen to engage in scoring political points when dealing with these issues, rather than trying to lead a more honest and substantive discussion about the role of government. One thing that really doesn’t help is tossing around words like “socialism” without any apparent critical thinking about what those terms really mean in the context of our country’s history and system of government and economic policy.

    To quote my favorite singer/songwriter, Steve Earle, from his last visit to Boise: “I’m a socialist, and believe me, Obama is no socialst.” :-)

    You might enjoy reading a blog I wrote for IBR a year ago called “If the free market’s so smart, why ain’t I rich.”

  13. The problem with most of the tea party rhetoric is it makes its members appear ignorant. The goals of a non-intrusive gov’t and fiscal responsibility are sound, and most Americans (in widely varying degrees) agree with the spirit of that message.

    However, it loses a little steam when you see a rally with people toting signs that claim Obama is a socialist and compare his governance to that of the USSR and/or Hitler. When people make themselves look ignorant it makes it hard to take their message seriously.

  14. Thank you!
    You have put into words what many of us are thinking!

  15. Nicely done MB,

    The real difficult choice I think is whether Tea Party becomes a political party of influence or a de facto lobby group.

    The problem with new parties is that they can never attract good candidates for office. As a conservative I am more libertarian than Republican, but it takes mainstream confidence to vote for a fringe candidate – and that seldom happens. So the status quo happens.

    The Tea Partiers are certainly having their go, and it will either be 15 minutes of fame, or the beginning of real change. It is fun to watch.

    Thanks for your look at it.

  16. Mike, that is great; well said.