Sen. Orrin Hatch, who courted the peasants while seeking re-election to his Senate seat, said they were “just crazy.”
Peggy Noonan, whom we will always admire for the unforgettable words she fed to Ronald Reagan, chose the cute but condescending tack of pretending to interview “Mr. Republican” himself, late Ohio Sen. Robert Taft. In her weekly column, she filled Taft’s mouth with disparaging words. Referring to peasant hero and leader Ted Cruz, Taft remarked in the pretend interview, “That fellow is a little self-propelled.”
What a terrific, backhanded compliment for the peasant leader. In other words, Cruz doesn’t take his orders from the political class. He speaks for the peasants. Would that it were so for more of his Washington colleagues, especially those who were placed there by the peasants.
Noonan made it clear she thinks the peasants are less than intelligent. She (speaking as the deceased Sen. Taft) advised the peasants: “Don’t be the fool of radio stars who rev you up for a living. They’re doing it for ratings.” In other words, peasants Hannity and Limbaugh don’t really believe what they are saying. They’re after ratings, and fame. (Let us pause for a collective guffaw from peasants everywhere who know that Hannity and Limbaugh already have the ratings and the fame and are not about to lose either.)
The Wall Street Journal has pelted the peasants relentlessly. Invoking Alfred Lord Tennyson’s great poem, “Charge of the Light Brigade,” WSJ columnist Kimberley Strassel compared the Peasants and their leaders — Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee, the Heritage Foundation, and other Peasant-supporting groups — to the hapless (and “suicidal”) 600 British troops who charged the mighty Russian army during the Crimean War. The brave Brits lost the battle decisively.
Fortune Magazine, that mighty megaphone for capitalism, couldn’t resist either. In an editorial titled “Squandered Blessings,” editor Andy Serwer, referring to the peasants, wrote, “We are the most blessed nation on earth … and we’re allowing a disruptive minority to squander it all.”
And just who are these peasants? In 2010, I twice traversed the state of Georgia running for a statewide office. Speaking in every major city and countless hamlets, I met the peasants. They were and are of different races, of all ages, of varied religious persuasions and everywhere well-informed. The first such group I visited called themselves the Tift County Area Patriots. They informed me they were Tea Partiers and said Tea stood for Taxed Enough Already.
The Peasant groups were filled with teachers, lawyers, ministers, farmers, homemakers and local elected officials. To describe them as anarchists or insurrectionists would be laughable. Rather, they were classical Jeffersonians and were and are determined to be heard.
Journalistic or party elites who think the peasants are politically or tactically challenged have forgotten 1964. In that year’s presidential election, GOP candidate Barry Goldwater, like Cruz, spoke plainly, addressed issues forthrightly, and almost scared the Grand Ole Party out of its wits.
The morning after the election, the landscape looked dreadful. Goldwater had carried only six states. But there rose from the demoralization a cheerful communicator who 16 years later continued the task Goldwater began, particularly the plain speaking
It will not take 16 years for the peasants to win their victory. They are still motivated by a health care law that applies to the peasants, but not to their elected officials, or to Big Business, or to union leaders. They are motivated by a president who has no more sense than to continue his scorn for the peasants instead of at least trying to be winsome.
The peasants also have leaders who can communicate effectively. One reason for their 16-year drought between 1964 and 1980 was the lack of leaders who could put words together. That is no longer the case.
Establishment leaders say the peasants are hampering their party. Party? The peasants are conservatives first and Republicans second. Their party is as guilty of advancing the big, regulatory state as is any other (No Child Left Behind, the prescription drug entitlement, bail-outs).
Their party leaders best remember that new wine can’t stay in old wineskins. The new wine — an informed and newly-engaged peasantry — is bursting out. The GOP best not spurn it.
Nor are the peasants about to stop fighting. Incidentally, neither did the British of whom Tennyson wrote, “Honor the charge they made; honor the light brigade.”
Yes, the British lost the battle, but they won the Crimean War. The 600 dead troops emboldened all of the others. Tea Partiers are not down and out either. They, too, are emboldened by the few true-believing leaders who took a stand.
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.