April 18, 2009
The Wrong AnthemBy C. Edmund Wright
Folks all over the media have been trying to brand John Rich's song "Shuttin Detroit Down" as "the anthem" of the tea party movement, such as it is. I'll even include the New York Times in that group.
Am I missing something here? "Shuttin Detroit Down" as the so-called anthem of the movement.? Are you kidding me? That makes no sense at all. And if my take on the video from the end of the Atlanta party Wednesday night is accurate at all, many in that audience share my confusion.
To be clear, I doubt many folks enjoyed tea party day more than I did. Heck, I was one of the tiny number of Americans who actually witnessed Rick Santelli's tea party rant from the Chicago Merc as it happened live on CNBC's Squawk Box show back in February.
Moreover, I was so moved by it that I emailed the video (including time stamps of key segments from Santelli) to some big time connections in the world of talk radio and prominent websites and the next thing I know, Santelli is a household word. (Or a four letter word, depending on whether you are asking someone current with their mortgage or asking Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.)
And for the record, I promised on this very site in October that I would shut down my 17 year old business if Obama won, and we are some 80% through that process now.
In short, when it comes to the tea party spirit or the shrugging of Atlas, I am "down with the struggle" more than most.
(I will get to John Rich's song, I promise).
This is not to say that Santelli's remarks about the moral hazard of "having to pay losers' mortgages" and his idea of a "Chicago Tea Party" were the sole and absolutely defining parameters of the entire tea party movement. They were not.
Conservatives and libertarian types are not bussed to a demonstration as part of a union work day and handed pre -painted signs and synchronized talking points. Generally, there is by definition no single message that is universal per se.
Conservatives, and freedom lovers who prefer not to be called such, after all are not only individuals, they are by nature individualists. I do think a good case can be made however that Santelli's rant -- magnified in chronological order by Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, the rest of the NBC networks, Robert Gibbs and then the entire media -- was the single most important catalyst.
And as such, I submit that Santelli's fears of government intervention into the free enterprise system, rewarding failure with the money of those who were successful and of efforts to reward irresponsibility with the gains of the responsible -- can be identified as some of the key defining motivators for most of the party goerslast week (and in the past number of months.)
I understand many could not find CNBC on their cable box and have never heard the name Rick Santelli. It's irrelevant to my point. You can love your IPod whether you can pick Steve Jobs out of a lineup or not, but the fact remains Job's influence is all over your toy.
Thus, at the risk of throwing cold water on a movement I fully support, I just do not find any of the mainstream tea party sentiments expressed by Rich in his song. Quite the contrary in fact. Consider the following lyrics and some comments:
Now I hate to quibble, but it is not Wall Street or D.C. that is shutting Detroit down. In fact, there are forces on Wall Street and in D.C. that are trying to make sure the rest of us pay for Detroit's failing business model. The bail out talk related to Detroit is precisely part of what the anger at the tea parties is all about. And for the record, when the boss man jetted his "lazy ass" out of town, he was jetting to D.C. to lobby against "shuttin Detroit down." And instead of getting a bonus, he got fired by the President. Pardon me for being a buzz kill, but do relevant facts and lyrics matter anymore?
Here are some more:
Again, these are the fantasy words that could have come from a union PR machine and simply have nothing to do with "shuttin Detroit down." An old man workin' in the plant most all of his life? Well if he's old, I am pretty sure he's not a UAW worker in a Detroit auto plant. They tend to retire way before they are old and continue to get huge pensions and benefits. Why do you think Detroit is in trouble John? And can't afford to die? Please. The fact is, if Obama makes the taxpayers pick up the union benefits, the rest of us cannot afford for him to live.
I mean, take away the red blazer and the big cowboy hat and the soft cadence of Rich's voice, and you have something damned close to union talking points. Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not identify Ron Gettlefinger and the UAW as the inspirations for these tea parties.
And frankly, the main difference between any old man who "can't afford to die" and the "lazy assed" boss man jetting around all over the place are the decisions made by both before they became either calloused or lazy assed. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the tea parties were about trying to preserve an America where the choice of being one or the other should be made by effort and ability, not government fiat.
But what do I know? I can't croon and don't look good at all in a cowboy hat.