Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Populism! If You Can Afford It...

A Tea Party convention billed as the coming together of the grass-roots groups that began sprouting up around the country a year ago is unraveling as sponsors and participants pull out to protest its expense and express concerns about "profiteering."

The convention's difficulties highlight the fractiousness of the Tea Party groups, and the considerable suspicions among their members of anything that suggests the establishment.

The convention, to be held in Nashville in early February, made a splash by attracting big-name politicians. (Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech.) But some groups have criticized the cost — $549 per ticket and a $9.95 fee, plus hotel and airfare — as out of reach for the average tea partier. And they have balked at Ms. Palin's speaking fee, which news reports have put at $100,000, a figure that organizers will not confirm or deny.

There's a certain irony that a supposed "grass roots movement" would price itself out of hearing the voices of the people it supposedly represents, like working and middle class voters, afraid and angry at the targets of the rhetoric that the real voices represented, the coal and oil industries, the rich and powerful, have been waging.
Interestingly, they have taken a page out of American history: the original Sons of Liberty (you might recall them as the Boston Tea Partiers) were an elitist group of wealthy Northeastern landowners and middle class merchants who were tired of taxation by the British crown.
You know, the liberal coastal elite!
Indeed, the American Revolution, the spawning "Of the people, by the people and for the people", was in reality a movement of the artistocracy in this country, and the laws passed by the Continental Congresses reflected this, particularly when it came to human rights (votes were limited to white males who owned property, as an example).
The SoL did eventually expand their ranks because, let's face facts, a revolution goes nowhere unless it has popular support. Even at its height, the American Revolution had plenty of people, rich and poor, who really preferred to remain status quo. Chapters of the Sons opened in every colony, and recruited a fair number of men (and a few women) to their ranks.
But, I doubt they would have charged the equivalent of $450 to attend a Tea Party!