Tea parties -- populism or GOP plot?
There's been a lot of debate on this blog and elsewhere over the last few days about whether yesterday's tea parties were genuine grassroots populism or a partisan ploy by the Republican Party, Fox News, et. al.
Let's assume for the moment that Rush, Bill O'Reilly and company were in fact using their powers for cynical and opportunistic reasons. Let's say they don't really believe any of this and are just trying to gin people up to boost their ratings, embarrass President Obama, help launch a GOP resurgence or whatever.
I say, so what? Even if they were talking up the events and their significance for the wrong reasons, I have no doubt that at least the vast majority of people standing out in the rain yesterday believed what they were saying. Take, for example, the manifesto I posted a few days ago by Betty Nottrodt, a 76-year-old Towson woman who compiled 70 theses (last I heard from her, she'd run out of time before she got up to 95, but I have no doubt she's probably well past Martin Luther's mark by now). Anybody think she did that because Bob Ehrlich or Jim Pelura told her to? Look at the comments here. They're not cookie-cutter regurgitations of talking points. People are expressing their own grievances in their own way. Good for them.
Now, it remains a fair question whether the people who protested and wrote comments represent a passionate minority or, as many of them believe, a suddenly not-so-silent majority. Time will tell. But either way, I see no cause for insulting them by suggesting they're just acting as lemming dittoheads.
There's a rule in Maryland's legislature (and maybe in others too, for all I know) that you are not allowed in debate to question another person's motivations for making a vote or an argument. The idea is that you should debate points on the merits. I think that should apply to this issue as well.