DENNIS SEID: Tea party participants have real concerns

If you attended last week’s “tea party” in Tupelo – or one of hundreds of other gatherings across the country – you are a bunch of clowns, right-wing cranks and goofballs.
At least, that’s what Paul Begala wrote in his online column for CNN. Begala was a political consultant for former President Bill Clinton and was a counselor in the Clinton White House.
Conservatives expect such barbs from the “left-wing, liberal mainstream media,” of which I am a member by default.
To be sure, the tea party gatherings had a conservative bent, despite organizers’ claims they were bipartisan.
Some independents, Libertarians and perhaps even a few Democrats were in attendance, but the parties were organized and directed by mostly conservative Republicans.
And there’s no denying that the tone and tenor at the parties clearly played to conservatives.
But if Democrats and liberals can gather en masse, tea partiers said, then why can’t those who have opposing views also gather without being labeled a bunch of crazies?
They are no less concerned about the country than their critics.
Begala wrote that “patriotism is putting your country ahead of yourself – which is the precise opposite of what the tea party plutocrats are doing.”
The tea party folks would, of course, disagree, saying they are indeed patriotic, that what they’re doing is defending their hard-earned rights – and money.
The 800-strong crowd in Tupelo didn’t seem to be part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Nor were they a bunch of nut jobs looking to overthrow the government.
No, these people were friends and neighbors, business owners and retirees, students and teachers, all wondering why government spending has gotten out of control.
They are genuinely concerned about what’s happening.
Republicans did not escape the wrath of some tea partiers. Former President George W. Bush’s spending spree drew criticism, as did the pork-barrel spending of our two Republican senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker.
But clearly, President Barack Obama and the congressional Democrats were the favorite targets.
Whether or not this is a grass-roots movement doesn’t matter. Thousands of people from all walks of life got together to vent their concerns and frustration.
For average citizens and business owners, paying taxes comes with the territory. Having fire and police protection, roads for our vehicles and schools for our children are among the many services for which our taxes are used.
But we – government included – could all learn to spend our money more wisely.
And that’s an idea on which tea party supporters and critics can all agree.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/Daily Journal