So, it was no surprise to me that Ben's latest project is the Nashville Tea Party (which has received criticism for not being actually based here in Davidson County) and the pressure it potentially might bring to bear on the Metro Council. Yes, Metro Council, which is already stocked with both conservative and progressive members who seem willing to give big business every break imaginable while generally ignoring the large majority who create but don't capture most of the wealth.
So, the presence of the Tea Party is not good for those of us in the community who do not enjoy the patronage of wealthy donors, who have to rely more on organizing and mobilizing human capital, who look to the grassroots in the absence of deep pockets. The lawyers and the lobbyists of Nashville's elite are legion. They do not require the Nashville Tea Party working to leverage even more breaks that defy the general interest.
Then, there is the Tennessee Equality Project who seem to be welcoming the Nashville Tea Party because they seem to believe that the qualifier "Nashville" makes them friendlier on the social issues:
Chris Sanders, an organizer of the gay rights organization Tennessee Equality Project, released a YouTube video Tuesday in which he said he expects the Nashville Party to “take a slightly different approach and tone” than the Tennessee Tea Party. He said he believes the new group will focus less on social issues.
The Tennessee Tea Party was roundly criticized in November for how the organization weighed in on the resignation of Massachusetts U.S Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat who is openly gay. “Good riddance you perverted sodomite POS!!,” the Tennessee Tea Party wrote on its Twitter account.
“Only time will tell how they will get involved, but I would expect a different tone coming out of this group than we’ve seen from the Tennessee Tea Party,” Sanders said. “As with any group of citizens that gets engaged, I wish them well.”
Wish the Tea Party well? Metro politics is conducted as a zero sum game: convention center construction took tourism taxes from the Nashville Predators/Bridgestone Arena, which took revenues from General Fund programs for the rest of us. Challenging economic times don't mean the Chamber of Commerce will not get their subsidies from Metro. They mean that parks, sidewalks, and libraries will get slashed. Stormwater fees are capped for businesses and stormwater projects that affect everyone else lag. It is already local government by the wealthy for the wealthy.
So, the Nashville Tea Party showing up to leverage more plums for Nashville's elite class is not good news from where I sit. Wish them well? Hardly. And I intend to do what I can to help them fail. Because if they win it means less resources and less services for regular Nashvillians.
I am at a loss to comprehend TEP's welcome mat. Perhaps Chris Sanders and TEP are willing to welcome the Tea Party because they do not see them as a threat. Maybe when it comes to harrowing class disparities and economic inequality of opportunity, TEP and Tea Party share common ground. As long as the social issues are not raised, as long as the Tea Party focuses on money, there will be no fight. There is still a lot of cash and private growth opportunities to be leveraged from Metro Council that lobbyists can pass around without letting the culture wars wreck the gold rush.
In the meantime, the rest of us are going to have to scrap and fight for any crumbs that might fall from the power brokers' tea service. Wish the Tea Party well? I don't think so.