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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Tea Party Might Make For a ‘Wonderful Life’, Too

September 26, 2010

One of the great themes in Frank Capri’s 1946 Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, is the struggle of the common man to survive against the town’s powerful elitist who wants to hold them down by professing to know what’s in their best interest.

The theme plays out early in the film when powerful Bedford Falls banker and town scrooge, Mr. Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore), complains that home loans are being granted to ordinary folks, “rabble” as he called them, by the Bailey Building and Loan Association.

Mr. Potter says such loans make for a lazy clientele, not a thrifty working class that he says is in the best interests of the town. George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) played a pivotal role in getting those loans approved.

In a dramatic scene that follows, Bailey stands up to Potter, defending the neighbors, and the loans, saying, “Just remember Potter, this ‘rabble’ you’re talking about, do most of the living, and paying, and dying around here …”

With less than six weeks until the November 2 mid-term elections, this scene is being played out in the political world. Most Washington elite insiders are bracing for election results that will be determined by voters very different from themselves, the so-called tea party voters, who live in ‘fly over’ states between Washington D.C. and California.

Many favorite Congressmen of K Street lobbyists are all but certain to go down to defeat in November, and many challengers, perhaps dozens, who never in their wildest imagination thought they could ever be elected to Congress, will wake up with a new title on November 3rd, they will be called ‘The Honorable’.

‘The Honorable’ is a distinction given to all elected members of a legislative body, federal and state, and one that will be soon bestowed on dozens of newly elected members of Congress.

The reason for this sea change isn't clear to the Washington insiders, the self-described ‘important people’, including members of media, career bureaucrats, appointed officials, lobbyists, consultants, academia, and Washington think tank community.

The elite believe tea party voters are misunderstanding the Obama agenda, and that somehow these folks don’t understand how Washington works, and therefore, they have not respected their point of view.

Such is the vast disconnect between the Washington elite, and the rest of the nation. The tea party activists, a collection of ordinary citizens who will change the course of the country with their votes, did not receive as much as an acknowledgement from the mainstream media just a few short months ago.

For their part, President Barrack Obama and his political operatives have not helped themselves. They are impotent at dealing with the onslaught headed their way, and refuse to campaign on their record, which they should.

Instead, the President continues to politicize his policies, and criticize Republicans, which adds credence to what tea party activists say about the President, that he hasn’t changed the ways of Washington, but in fact, has added to the divisiveness, he once pledged to end.

House Democrats and the media have ridiculed the tea party movement, characterizing its members as racists, extremists, and ‘tea baggers’. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once referred to their movement as ‘Astroturf’, an attempt to render the voting bloc illegitimate.

Former President Bill Clinton tried to marginalize the movement when he insinuated that there are rich-wealthy and self-serving individuals in the shadows, and behind the scenes, who are actually funding tea party organizations.

Unfortunately, personal attacks only increase the likelihood of success for the tea party, and serves to motivate voter turnout among the group.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, Potter criticized and marginalized the Bedford Falls “rabble” when he realized they posed a threat to the profit margin at his bank.

Democrats, too, are feeling threatened by the tea party movement, which is poised to elect Republicans, and jeopardize their power in Congress, and in the White House.

They too are lashing out against their adversaries, as Potter did, hoping to keep power centralized, and rally support against the perceived threat.

In the movie, Jimmy Stewart, and the ‘rabble’ of Bedford Falls, had other hopes and dreams, and through an unlikely plot, saw them to fruition.

It’s a Wonderful Life became an important film for years after its original release. Time will tell if the tea party movement will be remembered in much the same way.