The other day, someone who doesn’t follow politics very closely said to me, “It’s amazing how the Tea Party has grown from just a bunch of people parading in the streets to being a force in national politics. Who’d have thought?”

If your regular daily intake of news doesn’t involve heavy doses of political info, that view is probably held by many folks. But if you follow the antics of the political crowd closely, if you also follow the money in our system of governance and if you’re a bit wonkish about it, there really is nothing “amazing” about the T-P presence. Here’s a scenario that works for me.

The Tea Party – so-called – did not spring up in the streets without a great deal of planning and funding from mostly corporate sources. Corporate or from the deep pockets of those who own the corporations. Chief among them: David and Charles Koch and their Koch Industries fortunes.

The easiest way to think of the birth of Tea Partying is to picture a herd of cattle about to stampede. You can sense from the nervousness that it’s about to happen. When it does, almost instantly one portion breaks a certain direction and all the others follow. In the T-P case, you had small groups of dissatisfied Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated people – feeling ignored and frustrated – who wanted to make their frustrations known. If they could be linked together, a herd about to stampede.

The Koch’s enlisted former Texas Cong. Dick Armey, some of his political friends, contacts and some lobbyists to come up with an organizational plan to harness what was building up. They wanted to get out front of the “herd” and set the direction. All this talk about how the T-P is “grassroots people acting on their own without structure or planning” is just so much B.S. Ignition for the spark (money) and control of the direction (organization) were there in abundance at the “birth.” In the hands of pros.

One other factor was also well-planned. For access to election ballots in the 50 states – without independent or third party hassles – the “herd” was run straight into the Republican Party corral. Creators of the T-P needed an established “host” to attach themselves to so they could put up candidates without having to jump election law hurdles in 50 states to create a third political party.

Notice none of the herd moved into the Democratic corral. All went Republican because, for the last few decades, the G-O-P was moving further to the right. With many of the local worker positions already in the hands of people who would be attracted to the Tea Party theme, there was a ready-built organization. Take the rightward movement of the G-O-P and shove it just a little more to the right, using all that frustration – lubricated with lots of money – to do the job.

So now you have the G-O-P-T-P. Most people active in Republican Party organizations have given up protesting the charge the two are tied together. The symbiotic relationship of money, administration and sponsorship is too readily apparent to be denied.

It would be wrong to say the Tea Party has not been effective. It has. To a point. But there are questions. Effective in what way? Has it become a force for positive change or a major contributor to anger and gridlock in our national politics? Does it put forth responsible solutions to problems which many Americans have expressed frustration with or is it a front for self-serving individuals who want to alter the social fabric of a nation?

My own view is that those at the top of the T-P – and those putting up the big bucks – have all but turned their backs on those in the streets they badly used to gain political power and access. The marching feet and the waving flags are unnecessary now. The Koch’s and their friends have picked up support on the “inside” of Congress from a handful of members who were largely previously ignored and left out of the halls of leadership. They’ve got presidential candidates on television daily trumpeting the messages they want to change the national discourse their way.

The Tea Party is anything but “grassroots.” It’s a highly controlled and carefully orchestrated concentration of money and far right ambitions a handful of very rich people want to use as hammers to reshape this nation. Reshape it to privilege for a few and access to power limited to them.

What worries me more is, because it’s become mainstream as the Republican Party, those driving the agenda – those who are paying for it – have a status that adds a phony legitimacy to their efforts to take control of this nation’s direction.

If there’s an Achillies heel in their efforts to control it may be the demand for ideological purity; a demand everyone agree on their singular views or face expulsion from the movement. That’s nearly always fatal politically.

In a truly ironic twist, the undoing of those who would control eventually may be the street people they used to gain power; folks who don’t like to be controlled; folks who want more individual freedom. Like you and me.

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