A fascinating New York Times feature about the Tea Party movement in the US. To ignore it is foolish but we shouldn’t be under any illusion why growing anger exists in the US. Race, the economy, disillusionment and fear. A toxic mix:
Pam Stout wakes each morning, turns on Fox News, grabs coffee and an Atkins bar, and hits the computer. She is the hub of a rapidly expanding and highly viral political network, keeping a running correspondence with her 400 members in Sandpoint, state and national Tea Party leaders and other conservative activists.
Mrs. Stout forwards along petitions to impeach Mr. Obama; petitions to audit the Federal Reserve; petitions to support Sarah Palin; appeals urging defiance of any federal law requiring health insurance; and on and on.
Meanwhile, she and her husband are studying the Constitution line by line. She has the Congressional switchboard programmed into her cellphone. “I just signed up for a Twitter class,” said Mrs. Stout, 66, laughing at the improbability of it all.
Yet for all her efforts, Mrs. Stout is gripped by a sense that it may be too little too late. Yes, there have been victories — including polls showing support for the Tea Party movement — but in her view none of it has diminished the fundamental threat of tyranny, a point underscored by Mr. Obama’s drive to pass a health care overhaul.
She and her members are becoming convinced that rallies alone will not save the Republic. They are searching for some larger answer, she said. They are also waiting for a leader, someone capable of uniting their rebellion, someone like Ms. Palin, who made Sandpoint one of the final stops on her book tour and who has announced plans to attend a series of high-profile Tea Party events in the next few months.
“We need to really decide where we’re going to go,” Mrs. Stout said.
These questions of strategy, direction and leadership were clearly on the minds of Mrs. Stout’s members at a recent monthly meeting.
Their task seemed endless, almost overwhelming, especially with only $517 in their Tea Party bank account. There were rallies against illegal immigration to attend. There was a coming lecture about the hoax of global warming. There were shooting classes to schedule, and tips to share about the right survival food.
The group struggled fitfully for direction. Maybe they should start vetting candidates. Someone mentioned boycotting ABC, CBS, NBC and MSNBC. Maybe they should do more recruiting.
“How do you keep on fighting?” Mrs. Stout asked in exasperation.
Lenore Generaux, a local wildlife artist, had an idea: They should raise money for Freedom Force, a group that says it wants to “reclaim America via the Patriot movement.” The group is trying to unite the Tea Parties and other groups to form a powerful “Patriot lobby.” One goal is to build a “Patriot war chest” big enough to take control of the Republican Party.
Not long ago, Mrs. Stout sent an e-mail message to her members under the subject line: “Revolution.” It linked to an article by Greg Evensen, a leader in the militia movement, titled “The Anatomy of an American Revolution,” that listed “grievances” he said “would justify a declaration of war against any criminal enterprise including that which is killing our nation from Washington, D.C.”
Mrs. Stout said she has begun to contemplate the possibility of “another civil war.” It is her deepest fear, she said. Yet she believes the stakes are that high. Basic freedoms are threatened, she said. Economic collapse, food shortages and civil unrest all seem imminent.
“I don’t see us being the ones to start it, but I would give up my life for my country,” Mrs. Stout said.
She paused, considering her next words.
“Peaceful means,” she continued, “are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice.”