STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Dick Armey's Tea-Party Coup
By Staff News & Analysis - August 18, 2010

A Tea Party Manifesto … The movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party. It is aiming for a hostile takeover. On Feb. 9, 2009, Mary Rakovich, a recently laid-off automotive engineer, set out for a convention center in Fort Myers, Fla. with protest signs, a cooler of water and the courage of her convictions. She felt compelled to act, having grown increasingly alarmed at the explosion of earmarks, bailouts and government spending in the waning years of the Bush administration. … Today the ranks of this citizen rebellion can be counted in the millions. The rebellion's name derives from the glorious rant of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who in February 2009 called for a new "tea party" from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By doing so he reminded all of us that America was founded on the revolutionary principle of citizen participation, citizen activism and the primacy of the individual over the government. That's the tea party ethos. – Dick Armey (left) and Matt Kibbe/WS Journal

Dominant Social Theme: A glorious revolution grows up.

Free-Market Analysis: A number of month ago, we wrote a good many articles about the Tea Party movement. Along with everyone else we were trying to figure out what it was about and why there seemed to be several different movements and no real way of determining who was in charge or what the message was. It was in fact, a real example of FA Hayek's spontaneous order (something this article above, mentions).

Fortunately, Dick Armey is willing to set us straight. Here is the history, as he recites it in the article excerpted above: "Today the ranks of this citizen rebellion can be counted in the millions. The rebellion's name derives from the glorious rant of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who in February 2009 called for a new 'tea party' from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By doing so he reminded all of us that America was founded on the revolutionary principle of citizen participation, citizen activism and the primacy of the individual over the government. That's the tea party ethos."

Actually, as we understand it, the Tea Party phenomenon was inspired by the libertarian-republicanism of the Ron Paul presidential campaign that created small activist cells. Rick Santelli – and we have seen his "glorious rant" – had nothing to do with this spontaneous manifestation of anti-state protesting. Santelli's TV statement came much later. The reason we have concentrated on this article is because it is a superb example of how the mainstream media reworks memes to make them palatable and useful to the powers-that-be.

The Tea Party, initially, was an amorphous and generalized uprising against the modern welfare/warfare state. It was libertarian in nature and fairly specific about its point of view. Today, that specificity has been mislaid (perhaps the movement is too big for one point of view) and the mythmaking has begun. Thus the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal provides a vast platform for the appropriate tale. And Dick Armey provides it. (In fact Murdoch's media organization is also publisher of a book that Armey has written – "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.")

Here is the insider's insider, a man who served as Majority Leader of the House of Representatives for a number of years and then as a US$750,000 per annum lobbyist (a berth he has now vacated). Yet Armey, by dint of his connections, ability to raise funds and incessant ambition to shape the political horizon to his liking, has attempted to remake himself as political "outsider" and in the process has seemingly launched a takeover of the inchoate Tea Party. (He denies this of course and regularly emphasizes the Tea Party has no leadership – but certainly he is available to help.)

Not only has he somehow become a high profile, de facto leader of a movement and a definer of the history of a movement that deliberately has no organizational core, he has somehow managed to link himself to a Contract From America that many so-called Tea Party political candidates have "signed." The idea is that the Contract From America emerged out of the inchoate opinions of thousands of Tea Party activists and then were codified by Armey and his staff a the Tea-Party oriented Freedomworks, which he founded in the mid 2000s. Here is the Contract From America in its entirety:

The Contract from America

August 11, 2010

We, the citizens of the United States of America, call upon those seeking to represent us in public office to sign the Contract from America and by doing so commit to support each of its agenda items on behalf of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

1. Protect the Constitution

2. Reject Cap & Trade

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government

6. End Runaway Government Spending

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

8. Pass an 'All-of-the-Above" Energy Policy

9. Stop the Pork

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

We certainly have some problems with this contract, just as we have trouble envisioning Dick Armey leading a radical political thought-revolution. Our biggest problem is that it does not mention getting rid of mercantilist central banking (that has so debased US currency) and that it makes no mention of the incessant warring of the military-industrial complex. Since the Pentagon alone admitted (just before 9/11) that it had somehow mislaid, apparently, US$2 TRILLION, this oversight seems fairly significant. The military-industrial complex is one of the largest appendages of the modern American warfare-welfare state. The lack of inclusion of central banking and military expenditures makes this Contract From America fairly useless in our humble opinion.

In fact, from our perspective, this article grants the opportunity to see clearly how a power elite dominant social theme is shaped in modern times. Murdoch provides the platform. Dick Armey poses as a radical Libertarian and rewrites history to his liking. In this article, therefore we have the spectacle of a career politician posing as a libertarian outsider while promoting an essentially meaningless set of limited government objectives.

After Thoughts

The power elite will go to any lengths to co-opt sociopolitical movements it cannot control, and perhaps it has enlisted Dick Armey to do so. But as we have pointed out before, the 21st century is unlike the 20th and "control" is an increasingly contentious issue. It is difficult to co-opt a movement that is essentially amorphous and driven by the accelerating failure of the system itself rather than by populism or personalities.

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