Friday, April 16, 2010
GLORIA PENNER (Host): Yesterday, as the April 15 tax filing deadline loomed, anti-tax, tea party rallies dotted the county. Even San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn took a swipe at taxes.
BILL HORN (San Diego County Supervisor): Thank you for coming out. You know we’re joining tea partiers and other communities throughout the nation protesting the fact that Washington is wasting our money, Sacramento is wasting our money. We want to send a message loud and clear that there is change coming. That’s what the president requested and that change is coming in November. And we are going to turn them out of office period.
PENNER: Well with me to analyze the political influence of the tea party is Tony Perry, San Diego bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. Why is the tea party movement growing right now?
TONY PERRY (LA Times): Well tea party movement has those three things that you need for a good, strong, growing grassroots movement. Civil rights had it, anti-war in the '60s had it. They have a sense of grievance, they’re angry. They have a sort of unified world view. They’ve got their hero’s, and their villains and their rhetoric. And three they’ve got a place to organize. Civil rights it was in the churches, anti-war the campuses. These folks basically organize on the internet and the radio talk show boys and Fox news. So they’ve got the fixings, now will they be able to wheel the real political power? That’s still yet to be proven. Politics is real hard or more people would be good at it.
PENNER: But before you wheel political power, you have to have political goals. What are their goals?
PERRY: Well that’s true. Their goals are pretty narrow at this point. Just less taxes for things I don’t like and continue those taxes for things I do like. As one tea partier was quoted on I think MSNBC as saying, “I’m proud to be a tax payer but I could be just as proud at half the amount.” So they want less. It’s not very formalized, it’s not very nuanced. On the other hand mass movements need not be when we have an election.
PENNER: Does San Diego provide a good growing ground for the tea party movement?
PERRY: Well I think yes and no. We have that innate conservatism here, that is always here good bad or indifferent rain or shine. On the other hand this is anti tax central. Certainly our local taxation for our city government’s one reason why the city is starving is because we don’t have the taxes other folks have. In one sense yes, the other sense I think it’s hard to build up a sense of grievance, certainly if you look at San Diego and its tax structure.
PENNER: But you heard what Bill Horn said. He said, you know, “stop wasting our money.” Is that the call, the cry of the tea party movement? I would think that they have fodder here in San Diego?
PERRY: Well they are attempting nation wide that most difficult of things. They are attempting to defeat incumbent members of the United States Congress. Nothing is more difficult. The stats show what, 97, 98 percent of all incumbent are reelected? Maybe if you get a weak first term incumbent you might knock them off. But generally speaking the passionate rhetoric of the spring fades considerably by November.
PENNER: So you don’t see them making a difference this June in the primary or in the November in the general, having to do with local races?
PERRY: I don’t see them making much of a difference here locally. Nationwide there are some weak incumbents, I’m told. Also, this should be a good year for Republicans. I know that the tea party is not officially a Republican organ, but it’s certainly affiliated with them in some ways. Nationwide it ought to be a good Republican year. They’re out of power, there’s two unpopular wars, there’s an economy that’s still in the dumper. This ought to be a good year and tea party folks should have a shot at being on of the influencing factors.
PENNER: Well I’m just looking at the USA gallop poll, which I thought was interesting because it says that, “28 percent of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the tea party movement.” That’s a significant number.
PERRY: Well it depends on how you define it of course. Are you defining it as, “I don’t like taxes," well sign me up, sign everybody up. Those polls show you how people answer certain questions, they don’t show the depth of their feeling. Do you feel so aggrieved that you will go into the streets, you will contribute money, that you will organize, that you will sign people up, that you’ll find a candidate. That’s the hard lifting of politicking. Calling a radio talk show while you’re driving to work is fairly easy, going to a nice rally in the sunshine, fairly easy. The hard lifting in politics, is just that, hard.
PENNER: It seems to me that they have more ammunition now. I mean yes they’re against big government, yes they don’t want to see their money wasted, but now they have a president that they are targeting. They have health care reform that they are targeting.
PERRY: Sure, and the party that they are most affiliated with, the Republican Party, is out of power, traditionally the out of power party gains some seats in one of theses elections. So yea, this should be a good year for them. If they’re going to make an initial impact, they ought to be able to do it now. But it's again, going to be very very difficult , particularly when you take on incumbent members of the United States Congress.