"There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." From the song "What it's Worth" by Stephen Stills, 1967.
By HOPPY KERCHEVAL
MORGANTOWN -- The political punditry is working overtime trying to define the Tea Party movement. Much of the analysis reflects the perspective of the pundit as opposed to the true nature of the campaign.
Many on the left dismiss the Tea Partiers as bigoted bumpkins, or worse. One example: Author Rick Perlstein wrote in the New York Times Thursday, "They are the same angry, ill-informed, overwhelmingly white, crypto-corporate paranoiacs that accompany every ascendancy of liberalism within the U.S. government."
And that's the polite stuff.
A New York Times/CBS News poll finds that people who identify with the Tea Party movement tend to be white, male Republicans over 45. Most send their children to public schools and describe as "fair" the amount of taxes they paid this year.
Sarah Palin is not their overwhelming choice for President and, according to the Times/CBS Poll, they are not for getting rid of Social Security or Medicare.
So, what's all the anger about?
The poll found—and the Times could have learned this by listening to the Tea Partiers—that they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. At the top of the list of grievances are government spending and the debt.
Tea Partiers are at the forefront of the growing concern in America that the country is on a fiscally unsustainable path. They're plenty angry at Obama and the current Congress, but many are also furious with former President Bush and previous Congresses for the profligate spending.
Yes, the Tea Party movement has its unhinged fringe, but so do all movements. The anti-war effort during Vietnam included Timothy Leary whose solution to the tumult was for everyone to take LSD.
His mantra to "Tune in, turn on and drop out" caught plenty of media attention, but it wasn't the spine of the movement. Eventually housewives, businessmen, preachers and presidential candidates joined with their sons and daughters in opposing the war.
It had been easy in the early days of the Vietnam War to categorize the protesters as pot-smoking-draft-dodging hippies. This dismissal, which turned into denial by some in power, was a critical misjudgment.
By 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson finally realized what everyone was so angry about it was too late. His presidency was in tatters and the country was so bitterly divided it would take years to repair.
Vietnam War protests lasted nearly a decade. The Tea Party movement has only been around about a year. It may eventually cool, but I don't think so.
I suspect more Americans are going to get mad and start asking why Washington is spending us into a perpetual and insurmountable debt that will cause the country to be less than what we have promised our children.
What's happening here ain't exactly clear, but something is happening.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.