To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, there is no such thing as the Tea Party. There is only a collection of individual billionaires.
Back in 2009 and 2010, during the debate about Obamacare and during the mid-term elections that swept Republicans into power in the House of Representatives, Americans first caught a glimpse of a monster. That monster has now taken over the halls of Congress and shut down the government that George Washington had three horses shot out from under from him to create.
That monster was, of course, the Tea Party. At the time, many in the establishment media treated the Tea Party like what its proponents in the right-wing echo chamber said it was: a genuinely grassroots movement, like the one that created this country way back in the 1770s.
They pointed to the big crowds outside of the Capitol Building and on the Mall in Washington, D.C. and said, “the people are upset about President Obama’s policies and now they’re taking to the streets!”
With Fox So-Called News pumping out pro-Tea Party propaganda, and other news outlets either too cowed or too busy laughing to look closely at who was really behind it all, it seemed, for a while at least, that the Tea Party was, indeed, a grassroots popular uprising.
But as the smoke cleared, it became clear that the Tea Party was far from a democratic grassroots movement and even far from reflecting traditional American values. In fact, it was the very opposite of grassroots and democratic. It was the creation of billionaires intent on destroying our government, preventing Americans from getting access to healthcare, and sabotaging any attempt to regulate Wall Street or the oil industry.
The small handful of oil and Wall Street groups behind the Tea Party, groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, were all front organizations for the billionaire oil tycoons and banksters who wrecked the economy.
And if you need any more proof of whose interests the Tea Party actually represents, consider this: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks actually began as parts of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was created in 1984 to defend the interests of big tobacco companies. They even started something they called a “tea party” in the 1980s so that smokers could have a “smokers’ rights” group.
The billionaires behind these groups weren’t trying to save democracy, they were trying to hijack it, and they were rich and powerful enough to be able to essentially buy their own politicians and dupe a few thousand “American” activists to do their bidding.
The Tea Party’s astroturf roots should have been obvious to anyone paying attention to their rallies. Back in 2009, for example, Americans for Prosperity, the pet-project of the oil-rich Koch Brothers, actually bussed Tea Party “activists” around the country to protest President Obama’s proposed healthcare law.
Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990 once said that “There is no such thing as society, there is only a collection of individuals.”
A similar thing can be said about the Tea Party: there is no such thing as the Tea Party, only a collection of individual billionaires and their front groups.
And in January of 2010, five right-wing justices on the Supreme Court handed that collection of individual billionaires a big gift with their decision in the Citizens United case. Their decision declared money as speech and stripped the government of many of its powers to restrict corporate electioneering. The Supreme Court essentially gave the billionaires behind the Tea Party the power to hire their own army of politicians to wreak havoc in Congress, politicians who said they fought for “liberty,” but were really working in the interests of the corporate billionaire class.
That’s why the number of actual Tea Party “activists” has declined so quickly from the heady days of 2010. Now that the Kochs and their allies and can buy their own lawmakers, they don’t really need any more of those spunky “activists” dressed in tri-corner hats or people to harass liberal politicians like they did back in 2009 and 2010. They can now count on people like Pete Sessions and Ted Cruz to do their bidding on Capitol Hill. Both received ample campaign donations from groups like the Club for Growth and Koch Industries.
And right now, those bought politicians are towing the “Billionaire Party” line to a tee. They’ve shut down the government in what seems to be an attempt to sabotage Obamacare and prevent the media from informing Americans about how to use its insurance exchanges.
Make no mistake about it, this has always been the end goal of the Tea Party monster. It wants to destroy government’s ability to protect middle-class working people, pad the wallets of its billionaire sponsors, and erase the legacy of the New Deal.
But thankfully, just like all monsters, the Tea Party has an antidote.
And that antidote is rolling back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United doctrine that corporations are people and money is speech.
If we want to take back our hijacked democracy from the billionaires and their lackeys in Congress, then we need to take away their lifeblood: the uncontrolled flow of corporate money into our elections.