It was bad enough that the tax man had been yanking their chain: Everyone knows the IRS is a bunch of jerks. But the NSA combing through people’s phone calls and emails? That’s a whole different level of sinister.
“I read threads all day long by Tea Party people nationwide. I talk to dozens and dozens of people on a daily basis,” says Ken Crow, the Iowa-based editor of the Tea Party Tribune and cofounder of the activist hub teapartycommunity.com. “They’re all afraid.”
The mood among Tea Party Patriots is equally tense, reports the group’s cofounder Jenny Beth Martin. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Wait a minute, we seem to trending much more toward a police state than we ever imagined.’”
For a political movement largely driven by the specter of government run amok, the NSA snooping news is, to borrow a Bidenism, a big fucking deal, a smoking gun akin to Donald Trump unearthing Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate.
Indeed, Tea Partiers’ reaction to the news of late may be best summed up in four words: We told you so! “They say that those of us in the Tea Party wear tin foil hats and we’re out there and all that,” says Crow. “But take a look around!”
“This is definitely not an isolated thing,” says Jackie Bodnar, communication director for Freedom Works. “It’s part of a huge list of Fourth Amendment violations that have been happening for years.”
But almost as outrageous to many Tea Partiers as the NSA snooping itself has been the lack of outrage by Republican leaders. Even as a sprinkling of folks like Rand Paul and Glenn Beck decry the government’s assault on the Constitution and declare Snowden a “hero,” most party players have been more in tune with Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who have been quick to remind people of the hard realities of fighting terrorism, and Speaker John Boehner, who called Snowden “a traitor.”
“We’ve given up on McCain and Graham,” says Crow. “It’s obvious to us that they are not going to carry the banner of freedom and liberty.” As for the speaker? “A marshmallow,” says Crow. “With a lot of these scandals, there is overwhelming evidence of perjury by senior officials in the administration—overwhelming evidence that criminal activity transpired. Nothing is being done, and we want to know why!”
Not that Tea Partiers expected much more from a GOP elite that many members have long held in disdain. “The political establishment voted to allow these things to happen and for government to get this large and out of control,” says Martin, adding sadly, “At this point, very little surprises me.”
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