“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” -John Steinbeck

 

Click to enlarge.

(Author’s note: The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

We live in a time of unlimited knowledge. Everything you always wanted to know is now at your fingertips.

You can learn how to do almost anything on the Internet, from how to tie a Windsor knot to changing spark plug wires on the Impala – it’s all there. But when it comes to politics, all bets are off, because it is said one seeks out the answers one wants to hear.

I have been working on a pet project for an entire year now, trying to get to the bottom of the Tea Party’s hold on the brains of ordinary Americans. The goal is to find out how and why certain people vote against their own interests and if there is any hope for them or us as a city, state or country.

Although my work will likely never be completed, I have arrived at a milepost of sorts and am now able to begin filing my report that shall ultimately be my life’s work – defining and debunking Teabaggery.

At first I thought it would be an easy venture -and it has been in some ways- because people love to tell you everything they know about politics.

Especially when they are dead wrong.

Meet “Frank.”

Frank is a guy who works at a unionized manufacturing facility in Louisville. He is 59 years old.

Frank has two kids (an adult daughter still lives at home) and is on his second wife. He was divorced a long time ago after a short and badly-planned elopement. Frank has held many jobs, but none as good as the one he has now.

He has a pacemaker, gets his news from Fox News Channel, lives in a lower-middle class subdivision (“It used to be nice over there,” he says) and drives a 19 year-old pickup truck that “needs tires.”

He admits giving in to a certain amount of “paranoia,” particularly at home. Frank keeps many guns in his home, but feels guns are not a political issue.

Frank was hit especially hard by the recent death of Andy Griffith. Pining for Mayberry, he tells me about the “good old days” that never existed anywhere but in his own mind. While he’s talking, it occurs to me how easily Frank could be taught to repeat something as if it were the truth  – as long as it was on television.

Frank is the type of guy both major political parties would love to court, but while saying he “just doesn’t trust” either one, he admittedly votes Republican and considers himself a “Tea Party guy.”

He tells me his main area of concern is government debt and “out of control spending in Washington.” He cites “the recent government takeover of health care and new taxes” as the main reasons to oust President Barack Obama in November.

When we talk about politics, Frank channels Americans for Prosperity and seems almost hypnotized. It is fascinating to watch because Frank is an ordinary man who doesn’t complete many sentences without ending them with, “ya know?”

I ask him if he knows who Dick Armey is and he says, “Who? Is that a real guy?! You’re making that up!”

Frank used to have a tough time paying rent on the house and putting food on his family, but those days are over- as is his sympathy for others whose misery he used to share.

When we talk about his personal life, Frank admits he once relied on the “safety net,” having received federal food stamp aid and local assistance with paying his heating bill “for years” while working a low-paying job as an auto parts delivery guy.

“I didn’t live on it forever, though,” he says. “I got my act together. Besides, I was owed that help. I had kids. I worked for years and paid those taxes.”

And there’s the whole thing in a nut.

I used the help when I needed it, but I don’t need it anymore. So, you can take it away from everyone.

Frank says he plans to retire in about six years so he can collect Social Security along with a small, company-sponsored pension plan that was negotiated for him by the union.

When I asked him about Republican Mitt Romney’s  choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate, Frank says he likes them both and plans to vote for them.

When shown a graph of what happens to the Social Security system in Ryan’s budget proposal, Frank refuses to believe it.

“They will say anything to get you to vote for Obama,” he exclaimed. Then he asks with suspicion, “Did the union give that to you?”

I explained to Frank that this was a real plan thought up by people like Ryan and Armey and the Koch brothers, and all those people needed was for him to believe that the country can’t afford to pay it out anymore. That is, until after he gets his.

Me: “It’s a plan that virtually guarantees people like you work until they die. Are you prepared to do that? I thought you said you wanted to retire?”

Frank: “I will retire. It will be YOU who has to deal with it.”

I asked Frank again about his past, but he is reluctant to dwell on hard times or “pour piss down the backs of the rich folks … you seem to want me to hate them for being successful.”

He is content and will move on, now that he has a good paying job and a pension.

He is going to buy a new truck in a few weeks –  a Ford F-150.

“Because they didn’t take any bailout money, ya know,” he explains.

Oh wait, Frank, haven’t you heard?

* Although this is a story about one man, there are thousands of “Franks” right here in Louisville. Fight truth decay with knowledge, and spread it liberally.

————————–

Facts on Social Security from Kentucky’s Third District U.S. Representative John Yarmuth:

Social Security is responsible for nearly 7 percent of Kentucky’s economy.

– 1 out of 5 Kentucky residents receives Social Security, with an average benefit of $12,350.

– 1 out of 5 women in Kentucky received Social Security benefits in 2010.

– 411,000 in Kentucky were lifted out of poverty as a result of Social Security in 2008 – 138,000 of them are women.
[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Brian Tucker is a lifelong Louisvillian. He is the founder of The Valley Report, and has been writing on Southwest Louisville's political environment for several years.

23 thoughts on “When ignorance becomes a movement: Meet 'Frank' from Louisville, a 'Tea Party guy'

  1. If you think the tea party is the only political group to lie and have misinformed supporters, you just might be more delusional than Frank.

  2. Brian, your ersatz case study of a tea bagger (which lefties can
    call righties, without sanction, but if a righty calls a lefty a tea bagger, he’s
    implying the homosexual meaning and suffer ye not that double standard) is as
    one-sided and narrow as a right wing Fox News story. Maybe you should desire balance and offer up an equally narrow-minded person from the lunatic fringe of the left, who are just as depressing as this guy. Stating the obvious isn’t at all illuminating, nor is using this sad example as archetypal. You’re far smarter and more perceptive than this post implies.

  3. Brian, your ersatz case study of a tea bagger (which lefties can
    call righties, without sanction, but if a righty calls a lefty a tea bagger, he’s
    implying the homosexual meaning and suffer ye not that double standard) is as
    one-sided and narrow as a right wing Fox News story. Maybe you should desire balance and offer up an equally narrow-minded person from the lunatic fringe of the left, who is just as depressing as this guy. Stating the obvious isn’t at all illuminating, nor is using this sad example as archetypal. You’re far smarter and more perceptive than this post implies.

  4. That’s completely right. So why isn’t that reported? Why is the slant always, “The right is completely amoral and debased, and the left is pure as the driven snow”? Neither statement is remotely true, yet that’s the way it’s reported by mainstream media. And to be fair, Fox is just as biased toward the right and chooses to ignore the right’s flaws.

  5. That’s completely right. So why isn’t that reported? Why is the slant always, “The right is completely amoral and debased, and the left is pure as the driven snow”? Neither statement is remotely true, yet that’s the way it’s reported by mainstream media. And to be fair, Fox is just as biased toward the right and chooses to ignore the right’s flaws.

  6. I don’t know about your double standard with regard to teabagging, but I always presumed the political nuts to be one word while the vulgar “other meaning” to be two words. This story contains the word “Teabaggery” and only appears once, near the beginning.

    I like this guy I’m writing about. I care about what happens to him, even if he doesn’t give a damn about what happens to me or you. His life is a raging torrent of contradiction and he is totally blind to it. That’s an interesting phenomenon to me. This man is no lunatic. He’s the average guy. And that’s why this whole thing should be terrifying to you.

    Frank’s story isn’t told here as some representation of the larger group. He really thinks he’s a patriot. He really believes the billionaires of America are suffering. He puts his own interests aside for theirs. I think that is insane.

    Frank has been turned into a robot by television and a parrot by right-wing political groups. So, he’s a robotic parrot of sorts.

    This is a story of how a regular guy ends up following a radical agenda while thinking there’s nothing radical about it. This stupid sh!t will be the downfall of this country.

  7. I don’t know about your double standard with regard to teabagging, but I always presumed the political nuts to be one word while the vulgar “other meaning” to be two words. This story contains the word “Teabaggery” and only appears once, near the beginning.

    I like this guy I’m writing about. I care about what happens to him, even if he doesn’t give a damn about what happens to me or you. His life is a raging torrent of contradiction and he is totally blind to it. That’s an interesting phenomenon to me. This man is no lunatic. He’s the average guy. And that’s why this whole thing should be terrifying to you.

    Frank’s story isn’t told here as some representation of the larger group. He really thinks he’s a patriot. He really believes the billionaires of America are suffering. He puts his own interests aside for theirs. I think that is insane.

    Frank has been turned into a robot by television and a parrot by right-wing political groups. So, he’s a robotic parrot of sorts.

    This is a story of how a regular guy ends up following a radical agenda while thinking there’s nothing radical about it. This stupid sh!t will be the downfall of this country.

  8. Point to where it says the left is pure as the driven snow. Show me, because I can’t find any of that in what I wrote. That is only your reaction.

    I think I’ve said more negative things about Democrats than anyone else on here. In fact, I know I have. There’s your ‘balance’.

  9. Point to where it says the left is pure as the driven snow. Show me, because I can’t find any of that in what I wrote. That is only your reaction.

    I think I’ve said more negative things about Democrats than anyone else on here. In fact, I know I have. There’s your ‘balance’.

  10. you can laugh at Frank all you want, sure… he’s not good at articulating why he is angry, his case for why he is angry may not make sense, but I think that article yesterday regarding the “gold plated greed” pretty much sums it up: That’s Why He’s Angry! That’s why he is a tea bagger and all that other stuff. This is just the beginning. Wait until the general public sees one of two things happen: (1) taxes go through the roof to pay for this massive govt debt (2) inflation goes through the roof to minimize the impact of our debts and obligations. Both of which will mean LESS for everyone. There will be pain.

  11. you can laugh at Frank all you want, sure… he’s not good at articulating why he is angry, his case for why he is angry may not make sense, but I think that article yesterday regarding the “gold plated greed” pretty much sums it up: That’s Why He’s Angry! That’s why he is a tea bagger and all that other stuff. This is just the beginning. Wait until the general public sees one of two things happen: (1) taxes go through the roof to pay for this massive govt debt (2) inflation goes through the roof to minimize the impact of our debts and obligations. Both of which will mean LESS for everyone. There will be pain.

  12. I’m not laughing at Frank.

    He is not angry.

    I know these attributes are always attached to people when writers go after the tea party types, but I didn’t do that. He isn’t an angry guy. He’s quite pleasant, actually. He just doesn’t understand complicated things and likes his politics to fit on a bumper sticker.

    That is how we got to where we are, and I am asking- via this post- for someone to tell me how to reverse the dumbing-down of our society so we can make a little progress.

    I am not denying that governments all over the country are broke. States are broke because the feds quit collecting taxes on super rich people and big companies. So, there’s less to give out. But why is it always the Franks who have to pay the tab? And how did he get so jealous of people on food stamps when he used to be one?

  13. I’m not laughing at Frank.

    He is not angry.

    I know these attributes are always attached to people when writers go after the tea party types, but I didn’t do that. He isn’t an angry guy. He’s quite pleasant, actually. He just doesn’t understand complicated things and likes his politics to fit on a bumper sticker.

    That is how we got to where we are, and I am asking- via this post- for someone to tell me how to reverse the dumbing-down of our society so we can make a little progress.

    I am not denying that governments all over the country are broke. States are broke because the feds quit collecting taxes on super rich people and big companies. So, there’s less to give out. But why is it always the Franks who have to pay the tab? And how did he get so jealous of people on food stamps when he used to be one?

  14. You ask an excellent question of how we will reverse the dumbing-down. I think the answer is for our culture to move back towards thinking for ourselves. That also means respecting the right for others to think for themselves as well. And finally, it means being willing to admit that what we think for ourselves may just be wrong too. That comes from true dialog–seeking to listen and understand before we judge and condemn. In our media-driven culture this may, unfortunately, be a pipe dream.

    You say that “His life is a raging torrent of contradiction and he is totally blind to it.” That is likely true, but the same can be said for what you’ve said in your original post and in your responses. From my perspective, it seems you don’t really want to understand what tea partiers believe–your attitude here is one of condescension, almost like a scientist looking at a really interesting bug. To say that every tea partier is a right-wing lunatic is no different than saying that everyone who supports sustainability is a left-winger. The stereotype may be generally true, but the reality is much more complex than that. We shouldn’t take Fox News’ definition of what the tea party is, any more than we should take MSNBC’s.
    If one does real research, they’ll find that at it’s origin, the tea ‘party’ could probably have been more closely aligned with libertarianism than it is either of the mainstream parties. It is not about social conservatism, but rather fiscal conservatism. Don’t spend what you don’t have (both parties have blood on their hands on this), and tax fairly (which means limiting progressive AND regressive taxes–again, both mainstream parties are guilty). But both parties have sought to relabel the tea party movement (and what it stands for) for their own gain. There are, btw, strong adherents to these concepts within BOTH parties.

    You also say that “This is a story of how a regular guy ends up following a radical agenda while thinking there’s nothing radical about it.” Yet one could make the same argument for the many basically conservative union members who still vote blindly liberal even though it does not, on true introspection, align with what they believe. Interestingly, Frank appears to be an anomoly in that regard.

    Finally, don’t make fun of those who want their politics to fit on a bumper sticker, as that seems to much more a leftist than right-wing habit. In my experience, the cars covered with bumper stickers are way more likely to be filled with liberal slogans.

  15. You ask an excellent question of how we will reverse the dumbing-down. I think the answer is for our culture to move back towards thinking for ourselves. That also means respecting the right for others to think for themselves as well. And finally, it means being willing to admit that what we think for ourselves may just be wrong too. That comes from true dialog–seeking to listen and understand before we judge and condemn. In our media-driven culture this may, unfortunately, be a pipe dream.

    You say that “His life is a raging torrent of contradiction and he is totally blind to it.” That is likely true, but the same can be said for what you’ve said in your original post and in your responses. From my perspective, it seems you don’t really want to understand what tea partiers believe–your attitude here is one of condescension, almost like a scientist looking at a really interesting bug. To say that every tea partier is a right-wing lunatic is no different than saying that everyone who supports sustainability is a left-winger. The stereotype may be generally true, but the reality is much more complex than that. We shouldn’t take Fox News’ definition of what the tea party is, any more than we should take MSNBC’s.
    If one does real research, they’ll find that at it’s origin, the tea ‘party’ could probably have been more closely aligned with libertarianism than it is either of the mainstream parties. It is not about social conservatism, but rather fiscal conservatism. Don’t spend what you don’t have (both parties have blood on their hands on this), and tax fairly (which means limiting progressive AND regressive taxes–again, both mainstream parties are guilty). But both parties have sought to relabel the tea party movement (and what it stands for) for their own gain. There are, btw, strong adherents to these concepts within BOTH parties.

    You also say that “This is a story of how a regular guy ends up following a radical agenda while thinking there’s nothing radical about it.” Yet one could make the same argument for the many basically conservative union members who still vote blindly liberal even though it does not, on true introspection, align with what they believe. Interestingly, Frank appears to be an anomoly in that regard.

    Finally, don’t make fun of those who want their politics to fit on a bumper sticker, as that seems to much more a leftist than right-wing habit. In my experience, the cars covered with bumper stickers are way more likely to be filled with liberal slogans.

  16. As I have always said, this is only Frank’s opinion of what’s happening in the world. But his opinion is not based on facts…only hearsay and editorialized “news entertainment” shows.

    I’m asking if that makes his opinion valid. Disregard my opinions. Talk about our subject’s views.

    Bumper-sticker politics is the kind of thing that got us into trouble. We need to reignite the intellectual conversation without falling back into calling each other “stupid”. But this only goes to show how far the needle has moved to the right in America, that even the moderate Republicans lose primary elections.

    If you want to run for office these days, nothing will make you lose faster than being a policy wonk. Explaining the intricacies of things like the health care law will put an audience to sleep and confuse them, so it is easier to say it’s a “government takeover of healthcare” than it is to say “I don’t like the health care law because I think the individual mandate – although thought up by the right wing Heritage Foundation- interferes with my liberty by forcing me to purchase a service that I do not necessarily want.” The latter argument takes a long time to explain and requires some actual working knowledge of the actual bill. So, we’ll just stick to “government takeover”, or the bumper sticker that says “Obama = Socialist”. That is not a political debate based in any form of reality, but it is Frank’s opinion. He really thinks the president is a socialist.

    But that is what we get when people no longer look for the smartest guy anymore. They vote for people they’d like to be or people they’d like to hang around with. The details are for “them” to worry about. Not everyone, of course. But Frank does.

  17. As I have always said, this is only Frank’s opinion of what’s happening in the world. But his opinion is not based on facts…only hearsay and editorialized “news entertainment” shows.

    I’m asking if that makes his opinion valid. Disregard my opinions. Talk about our subject’s views.

    Bumper-sticker politics is the kind of thing that got us into trouble. We need to reignite the intellectual conversation without falling back into calling each other “stupid”. But this only goes to show how far the needle has moved to the right in America, that even the moderate Republicans lose primary elections.

    If you want to run for office these days, nothing will make you lose faster than being a policy wonk. Explaining the intricacies of things like the health care law will put an audience to sleep and confuse them, so it is easier to say it’s a “government takeover of healthcare” than it is to say “I don’t like the health care law because I think the individual mandate – although thought up by the right wing Heritage Foundation- interferes with my liberty by forcing me to purchase a service that I do not necessarily want.” The latter argument takes a long time to explain and requires some actual working knowledge of the actual bill. So, we’ll just stick to “government takeover”, or the bumper sticker that says “Obama = Socialist”. That is not a political debate based in any form of reality, but it is Frank’s opinion. He really thinks the president is a socialist.

    But that is what we get when people no longer look for the smartest guy anymore. They vote for people they’d like to be or people they’d like to hang around with. The details are for “them” to worry about. Not everyone, of course. But Frank does.

  18. “ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM has been a constant thread
    winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that
    ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
    -Isaac Asimov

  19. “ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM has been a constant thread
    winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that
    ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
    -Isaac Asimov

Leave a Reply