Ramble On

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tea Party Irony

I’ve stayed away from political commentary this election season on the blog, readers pretty well know where I come down in the spectrum (for a refresher, just click the “inauguration” label below…or let me help you this way: Mary and I met during the 1992 Clinton campaign, after an introduction from a fellow volunteer). But, I saw something Sunday that begs a comment. As I started writing, two or three other things came to mind - and then, a message from an old friend.  So now I’ve got to post a two-parter - I'll try not to rant.

Last Sunday I was driving on Skyline Drive on my way to Blackrock. Up ahead, I saw a large RV winding its way along, pulling a car. Soon enough I caught up, and when I did, I saw the membership bumper sticker for some Tea Party organization in Illinois. The irony just began to hit me as I thought about how the Tea Partiers claim they aren’t an organization, but for some reason we often see this kind of organizational identification association with them.

Turning my thoughts to the RV, I remember seeing a recent lifestyle segment on some news program about these vehicles, about how when gas prices went up during Bush to $4 per gallon, these vehicles went out of style. Now that gas is back in the mid-$2 range, they are making a comeback.

That same segment told me the average price of a used “Class A” RV is around $90K, although you can find them for less (a search this morning shows one for sale in California for $65K). An analysis of cost of ownership tells me that the life-cycle cost of one of these vehicles shows that as an owner you will spend the purchase price on maintenance every 6 to 8 years…

…so the Tea Party couple tooling along Skyline drive effectively has in the neighborhood of $15K to $20K a year to spend on recreation. Now, I started to wonder if this lifestyle is made possible because they are collecting Social Security, or using Medicare. Are they benefiting from the prescription drugs programs for seniors? I’m going to make an assumption here that they have not rejected taking benefits from these programs, despite the Tea Party’s frequent assertion that they aren’t Constitutional, that the provision of programs like this isn’t an appropriate governmental role.

My thoughts came back to the drive and maintaining a safe distance, since I had caught up with the RV.

We passed a sign that said, “Overlook closed ahead.” For those who aren’t familiar with Skyline Drive, the overlooks are the pull-offs along the way that feature often monumental views of our beloved Page Valley. As we passed the closed overlook, a sign at the entrance and exit points reminded us, “Your stimulus dollars at work…”

Back to my well-off fellow travelers driving along in their federally subsidized life-style…another Tea Party contention is that the stimulus program was a stretch for the federal government, an overreach. Many economists now say it likely should have been bigger, even though it put the brakes on the recession we were skidding into at the time.

Still waiting for an opportunity to pass, we passed by another overlook, again closed for stimulus-funded renovation. Now I was getting angry and impatient. Fed up with the irony that this pair of jerks espouses membership in a Tea Party organization when the evidence that we have a great country here was right there in front of them – indeed, they are living it!

Don’t even get me started on the statements that many of these unprepared Tea Party candidates have made about elements of the Constitution they would repeal – that is the next place my thoughts went as we continued along:

  • Rand Paul, who would repeal civil rights provision. 
  • Christine O’Donnell, who claims the establishment clause of the first amendment does not separate church from state. 
  • So many of them, who believe this country can be governed by taking a no compromise stand with those who – with the same commitment to keeping this country great – disagree with them.

…and that one in ten of their supporters, in this day and age, says that the President’s race is an issue.

Finally, we came to an overlook that is due for renovation in a future phase of construction. The RV pulled off. For a moment I thought about following them, parking in front of them, my “Veterans for Obama” bumper sticker showing in full glory.

But then, a confrontation of that sort wasn’t what I was after on Sunday. And protecting their right to an opinion is part of what my USAF service was all about.

Still, as I drove on, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the irony from my fellow travelers. I hope that some Tea Party candidates are elected next week - it appears inevitable in any case. They will caucus with the Republicans, and that leadership will have to deal with them and these viewpoints. They won’t have the opportunity to make an unwise change to the Constitution, I can’t imagine they’ll even have the opportunity to discuss it for long. They’ll serve their two years and this “movement” will be flushed into the history books.

And any damage that they do won’t last long. The rest of us – the majority of us – will see to that.

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