MUHAMMAD: Dread the 'Tea-Locks'

Askia Muhammad | 6/25/2014, 3 p.m.
Picture this: A tiny caucus — one that represents one-seventh of the total members of one branch of two houses, ...
Askia Muhammad

We all know that the “locks” are the tresses, the curls, or the ringlets of hair. We remember Goldilocks, the little blond girl who had the adventure in the forest with the Three Bears.

An earlock is a lock of hair worn in front of each ear by Hasidic Jewish males in accordance with the Biblical prohibition in the book of Leviticus against clipping the hair at the temples.

And then there are “dreadlocks.” Dreadlocks are a hairstyle worn especially among Rastafarians, in which the hair is worn in long, rope like locks. In some ways their dreadlocks are meant to be seen as fearsome, like the huge mane of a lion.

But I have seen even more dreadful locks on the heads of people all over this country. Technically, their “locks” are not really hair, but I see from the hats they wear on their heads, tea bags – yes tea bags – dangling the way the Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl wore store tags from her hats. But these tea bags are not worn as a joke, but as a warning to identify the wearers as members of the Tea Party just as locks of hair are worn by various people.

What is “dreadful” about the “locks” and other paraphernalia worn by members of the Tea Party is that they symbolize a power held by an apparently leaderless “posse” of White Americans who are able to convince other White Americans to side with them, against their own political best interests.

The 60-member “Tea-Lock” (Tea Party) caucus has managed – through the fear of their wrath among other Republicans in Congress – to shut down the federal government. They nearly forced the United States for the first time to default on its debts. And they forced the congressional leadership to convene that august body 43 times in a useless charade, voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they nicknamed “Obamacare.”

Dread the “Tea-Locks.” Their 60-member caucus in the House of Representatives represents about one seventh of the total House membership of 435. The House of Representatives is one of two Houses on Capitol Hill. The other House – the Senate – is controlled by the Democrats.

The two houses of Congress comprise the legislative branch, one of three presumably equal branches of the government. The executive branch – the presidency, the military and the federal agencies – are a second branch. The judiciary – the federal courts – are the third branch.

So picture this: a tiny caucus which represents one seventh of the total members of one branch of two houses; of one of three branches of government is able to paralyze the entire government, dozens and dozens of times. Dread the Tea-Locks.

The Obamacare legislation was duly enacted by Congress, signed into law by the president, and upheld on appeal by the Supreme Court.

What’s more, they have convinced many, many, many people to agree with them against their own best interests. If you go today, to many rural communities in the Ozarks for example, some where White men slaved for decades in coal mines, bringing up from the depths, pollution for the entire community, and black lung disease for themselves. Would you believe that in those dirt-poor stretches of humanity where the people’s health is fast deteriorating, they are opposed to Obamacare? Ironically, if you ask them individually they will admit that they agree with some of the features of the Affordable Care Act, but if you ask them how they feel about Obamacare, they will quickly tell you they hate it. Dread the Tea-Locks.

I will say it again, and again, as I have said often since I learned this from Craig Wilson of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government at the Democratic Convention in 2008. Until 1968, when Republican Richard Nixon flipped the script with his “Southern Strategy” the Democratic Party led by southern “Dixiecrats” who ruled Congress with their seniority, based on telling White people (the only eligible voters) six “truths.” 1. The federal government is a threat; 2. Federal courts don’t understand the Constitution; 3. Taxes are bad; 4. Unions need to be eliminated; 5. You have a lousy hospital; 6. But at least you’re White. And it worked like a charm.

Today, the Tea Party is reiterating those same six truths and White Americans are swallowing it, hook, line, and sinker: 1. the federal government’s the enemy; 2. taxes are bad; 3. the federal courts don’t understand the Constitution; 4. unions are bad; 5. you may have no health insurance – Obamacare; 6. but at least you’re an American.

Anyone who can convince poor people to support wealthy people against their own interests – the interests of the poor – those people are to be dreaded.

Dread the Tea-Locks.