What In Hell Is The Tea Party?
By James Donahue
Understanding the politics behind various movements throughout the United States gets somewhat confusing
amidst all of the propaganda, paid political advertising and twisted journalistic reporting. And one of the strangest movements
has been the sudden rise of the Tea Party.
We have all seen images of Tea Party meetings. Most memorable are the people with silly straw hats
on their heads with teabag tags dangling down from around the brim. Its members have managed to make a lot of noise and even
get a few representatives elected to office, which may have had a strange impact on the way our government operated in the
last four years. The movement certainly helped tip the Republicans into more conservative territory than ever before in that
So has the rise of the Tea Party been beneficial to our nation, a hindrance, or has it all been a
complete waste of time for those who got involved?
Conservative GOP Congressman Ron Paul may be credited for launching the concept of conservatism under
the Tea Party banner. It was in December, 2007 that Paul hosted the two hundred and thirty-fourth anniversary of the Boston
Tea Party as a fundraising event for looming presidential primary elections. The event brought forth speakers calling for
an end to the Federal Reserve System, upholding state’s rights and a shut-down of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
In January, 2009, Trevor Leach, chairman of the Young Americans for Liberty in New York, organized
a "Tea Party" protest against excessive taxation proposed by New York Governor David Paterson. Also protested in this event
was government overspending. People attending wore Native American headdress depicting what the colonists were said to have
been wearing when they raided the British ships in Boston Harbor and threw a cargo of tea overboard.
Just one month later, television personality Rick Santelli spoke out against a government plan to
help homeowners facing mortgage foreclosures while reporting live from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. During the broadcast
Santelli called for the organization of a Chicago Tea Party so capitalists could dump "some derivative securities" into Lake
Michigan. A video of his call went viral on YouTube. Within weeks Tea Party protests began occurring all over the nation.
The protests were disorganized at first. But eventually a party platform was published and the Tea
Party began taking on the appearance of a real third political party. That platform might have been taken directly from the
Independent Party playbook. Somehow, however, it was adopted by a number of Republicans seeking office in 2012.
In a nutshell, the platform called for: The elimination of excessive taxes, the national debt, deficit
government spending and big government. It also promoted the nation’s free enterprise system, supported all parts of
the Constitution, promoted grassroots involvement in government, called for the end of lobbyists who manipulated the wheels
of government and supported state and local government autonomy.
On the surface, brandishing a platform like that, it would seem that the Tea Party might have had
a lot going for it. But like all political movements in the US, this one got tangled up in some controversial areas that soon
made the party and its members unpopular with the media and the general public.
The Pew Research Center took a recent poll in which it was learned that while a majority of voters
want representatives in Congress to put local issues ahead of what they believe is best for the country, 76 percent of elected
Tea Party Republicans said they would vote against a bill opposed by their constituents.
The Tea Party congress promoted smaller government, even to the point of dismantling popular federal
programs like Medicare and Social Security. They stood opposed to national health insurance. They fought against any additional
national debt, even to the point of threatening to put a cap on government borrowing and consequently shutting down the government.
They want to deregulate Wall Street, something that is the exact opposite of the call by economists
who warn that loose regulations in recent years were the cause of the serious recession of 2008.
Other controversial issues supported by the Tea Baggers: They want to outlaw abortion and same-sex
marriage, they are calling for more oil and gas drilling, do not support climate change science and want more guns in private
From the surface, the Tea Bag movement looked good at first. But after a second look, it appears to
be a party of the illiterate.