Thursday, May 29, 2014

Texas, The Epicenter Of the Tea Party

First Published in DelawareLiberal on 5/29/2014 by ProgressivePopulist
Graphic from Madeline Kerwick, Corpus Christi, Texas
Always has been.  Or, at least from the day Dick Armey became chair of Citizens For A Sound Economy in 2003.  That's Dick Armey, Republican from north Texas.  CSE was a pretty nondescript political funding vehicle for the anti-tax movement when founded by the Koch brothers from nearby Kansas in 1984.  But Army gave it brainy fire and brimstone, however plain spoken.

His plain speech hid his PhD pretty well and worked great with Tea Party types. And Armey quickly worked out a pretty brainy scheme to gain better funding as the 501c4 arm of the Koch operation a year later when he created the subsidiary organization, FreedomWorks.   Koch managed the Americans For Prosperity Foundation.   Thus the early launch of the Tea Party in 2004 in a Texas where a confluence of influences he readily recognized as a favorable climate for hard right ideology existed.  And both Armey and Koch built alliances across the country as well.

A native libertarianism prevails  among white, born and bred Texans....the don't fence me in mentality.  As well as a  native and non-native racism among Texas anglos....against both black and hispanic Texans.  Rural Texas white populists  built great animus against railroads seizing their cattle land in west Texas and New York banks foreclosing on their cotton and timber land when they could no longer handle outlandish interest rates. The federal government supported both the rail and bank barons so they got a hate on for the feds too.  A laissez faire capitalism is  appreciated by both the oil industry and white transplants from places like Michigan and other rust belt states rushing to Texas to begin anew when the plants closed up there.
And then you have in the mix the conversion of previously pretty moderate southern baptists (the very people who gave Texas to Jimmy Carter in '76), who among other things, once favored abortion theologically, to a more hard edged conservatism when the right took over their church/seminary leadership.  Big churches became mega-churches preaching prosperity theology.

Add to that a Perot like populism, making money off the federal government but talking against it, just like the oil industry.

Armey began building their Koch funded/grassroots appearing movement and soon regional Texas anti-tax/government leaders emerged in places like Houston in the form of the King Street Patriots and True The Vote, whose racist agenda sold well in ex-urban and suburban Texas who resented the more ethnically diverse cities like Houston, Austin and Dallas where minorities and liberals  dominated elections and city hall.  As they refined their voter suppression tactics, they exported them with training and national organizers.
In 5  short years,  the Tea Party was introduced nationally and the the stage was set nationally for the 2010 sweep of congressional seats and statehouses, after much field testing of the Tea Party idea with school board, county, city and state legislature elections.   The defining event?  The election of our first African American President.  Was he raising taxes?  No.  Was he pushing a Black agenda? No.  He was too busy saving the collapsed economy and trying to stem massive unemployment and bring home their kid's broken bodies from stupid wars?  Yes. 

All they saw was a Black man saving their sorry asses.  This was simply somehow  too much to take.  An insult to the white people "who built this country".

Then, in 2012, the Texas Tea Party elected Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate, the Tea Party's wet dream.  No, and it doesn't end there.  Virtually all the Texas state office and congressional candidates in the Republican party ran on harder right Tea Party planks  and they took over most of the significant Republican Party offices at state and county levels.  This includes the Harris County (Houston) Republican Party Chair seat, one of the biggest in the nation. And he is from my home precinct, where I kicked his ass for about ten years.

Have they peaked yet.  Nope.  This past Tuesday the Texas Tea Party won the nominations for their candidates for Governor, mentored by Ted Cruz, Lt. Governor and Attorney General.  Cruz is flying high in Texas and Senator Cornyn, the senior Senator is sounding just like him.   By the way, the whackiest of these, the Lt. Governor candidate, Dan Patrick is originally from Maryland and worked in Pennsylvania before migrating to Houston as a sportscaster and sports bar owner.

This Tea Party saga is far from over.  Especially in Texas.  I doubt it's over nationally anytime soon as well.  Texas is pretty good at exporting political ideas and creating national leaders.  And their gun culture.  Remember the book depository?