| Rick Santelli's "Chicago Tea Rant" is the buzz of the righties lately. Michelle Malkin seems especially keen to turn the comments into a "movement" -- although it's kind of weird thinking of building a grassroots movement around a television pundit and room full of stock traders.
Naturally, others have been here already. Some of the better quotes:
Check out this clip from CNBC, where the network's correspondent, Rick Santelli, is literally on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange surrounded by multimillionaire traders railing on the Obama administration for trying to help struggling homeowners, and berating people who are getting foreclosed on as "losers." Santelli is praised as a supposed "revolutionary" and the mob of financial elites around him is whooping and hollering, pretending to be a populist mob of regular Joes...
The revolution has begun. These workaday stock traders are going to take back this country for the laissez-faire capitalists who are entitled to it.
No wonder some of the less sensible among us fell in love with Santelli's faux-populism. It's the precisely the kind of class warfare Republicans have always dreamed of -- the wealthy whining incessantly about struggling families getting to keep their homes.
Obama press secretary, Robert Gibbs:
I've watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so. I'm not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school....I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that...
Yes, there is a simmering discontent and anger out there, and clearly the Republicans are going to try to tap into it, but the problem for Santelli and his crowd is that the anger is not directed at the people who are losing their homes, but at the people Santelli spends every day rubbing shoulders with at the trendy Chicago restaurants the brokers go to these days.
The audacity of Santelli's "revolt" is that a mere 75 billion is being spent to help struggling families repackage loans- a pittance in the terms of the gargantuan amount of money being thrown at the banks, the Wall Street wizards, and the rest of the rocket scientists who are the root of this problem....
Santelli, who is kind of the CNBC version of a right-wing Cafferty, better be careful where he leads his mob with their chants of "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité," because before he knows it, he could be looking down on the mob not as a leader but from his new position mounted at the end of a pike.
That's been the most pervasive slant of the "Tea Party" rant, a cry of disgust that the very same people who got us into this mess are now donning "ordinary joe" garb and leading a "revolt" of the clueless and the wealthy! While this may actually be true, I think Kevin Drum's a little more accurate on how Santelli's revolt might resonate:
It's not fair to say that these folks only get upset when it's homeowners being bailed out. After all, there's been plenty of righteous fury over the bank bailouts too. But there's definitely a different sense to this: it's closer, more personal. Wall Street being bailed out is one thing: it's infuriating, but in the end you just shrug your shoulders and figure this is the way the world works. But homeowners? Your neighbors? The guy who installed fancy granite countertops and a new wet bar and then mocked you for carefully husbanding your money instead of living the good life? He's going to get bailed out? WTF?
This has always been the soft underbelly of bailing out homeowners. It's a good idea both on broad economic grounds and on social justice grounds, but the fact is that there's no way to make it 100% fair. There are going to be some people who get government help who don't deserve it. And some of those people aren't going to be bankers a thousand miles away, they're going to be people you personally know and loathe. And that's hard to take.
H*ll, Santelli's basically just respinning "The Ant and the Grasshopper." While a crude distortion, to say the least, of the current housing crisis, it resonates on a primal level, and it taps human nature. It's easier and more common to hate your neighber than it is to hate an institution.
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Santelli's revolt reminds me of an old Russian joke about the farmer who's neighbor owned a beautiful, fat, and productive milk cow, where he had none. One day he found a lamp, rubbed it, and discovered a genie inside, who gave the farmer a wish for freeing him.
"See that cow over there, in my neighbor's farm?" said the farmer.
"You want one just like it?" asked the genie.
"No," said the farmer, "I want you to kill it."
And that's the way it goes, that's the way the conservative machine has operated over the last 30 years, by driving political wedges between neighbors and turning them on one another while they spirit away progressive reforms that protect the very people they rile up.