LOS ANGELES, October 15, 2013 — In political fights from Obamacare to the government shutdown to raising the debt ceiling, the Tea Party is a prominent player.
While the Tea Party is reviled by Democrats and some liberal Republicans, it remains one of the most mischaracterized movements in American politics. In some cases the movement is misunderstood, while in other cases political opponents have deliberately demonized the movement to blunt its influence.
Tea Partiers have been called terrorists, Jihadists, suicide bombers, hostage takers, anarchists, arsonists, extremists, racists and hobbits. They have been accused of trying to burn down the government and of putting a gun to the head and a knife to the throat of President Obama. These same critics also call the movement “irrelevant.”
What is the Tea Party?
The Tea Party is a movement of citizens, not an actual political party. While officially non-partisan, the movement consists mainly of conservatives who believe the Republican Party has become too liberal on fiscal issues and government spending. Tea Partiers want spending restraint and reduction of the national debt and deficits. They oppose big government spending programs.
Who created the Tea Party?
The movement was inspired in January of 2009 when an internet tirade by CNBC trader Rick Santelli went viral. Santelli disliked the spending proposals of the incoming Obama administration. He jokingly suggested Americans protest by dumping tea in the harbor as the Founding Fathers did.
Six women who saw Santelli’s rant met and floated the idea of holding an actual tea party rally. These women for the most part had never been active politically, but felt that they had to start getting more involved. These ladies included Ginni Rapini of Sacramento, Dawn Wildman of San Diego and Jenny Beth Martin of Atlanta. Thousands of people attended their original rally on February 27th of 2009. Several weeks later, April 15th anti-tax day rallies took place nationwide.
The acronym “tea” stood for “Taxed enough already.” Excessive taxes and government spending were opposed, with Obama’s healthcare proposal, which would later become the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, becoming a key focus of opposition.
Who leads the Tea Party?
Nobody. Organizations such as Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express and Tea Party Nation all help promote the movement. No one person runs it.
How does this differ from the Ron Paul movement?
The Ron Paul movement has him as leader. His supporters are Libertarians. On economic issues, there is overlap. Yet Paul supporters also take stands on everything from non-interventionism on military matters to drug legalization. Many Tea Partiers are Neoconservatives totally opposed to Paul’s foreign policy. The Tea Party is only about fiscal issues, not foreign policy or social issues. Paul supporters want a third party while Tea Partiers want to fix the GOP.
Is the Tea Party the mirror image of the Occupy Wall Street movement?
No. Tea Party protests have been peaceful. Occupy protests contained significant violence including rapes, vandalism, drug overdoses, and even murders. Zero reported instances of this behavior has occurred at Tea Party events.
The Tea Party focuses solely on reining in government spending. Occupy was a collection of leftist groups with differing activist causes. Occupy was started to address income inequality, but soon became a home for gay rights activists, anarchists, and race and gender activists among others. There was no cohesive or coherent philosophy, which is why Occupy petered out while the Tea Party thrived.
Is the Tea Party movement violating the law in any way?
No. Citizens have a right to participate in the political process legally and peacefully. Nobody has claimed that the Tea Party has broken the law.
Did the Tea Party shut the government down?
No. This would be impossible. The Tea Party holds zero elective offices. A few congresspeople share Tea Party ideals but are registered Republicans. Tea Partiers are private citizens. All they did was call wavering representatives and senators and threaten them with primary challenges. This citizen activism is the heart of the democratic process. Democracy is healthiest when politicians are accountable to their constituents and fear being fired. The shutdown is confined to the executive branch. Only the Chief Executive can shut down his own governmental branch. Obama also had the most to gain politically from a shutdown.
Isn’t Obamacare settled law, the law of the land?
This argument is meaningless. Neither overturning or defunding a law is unique. Liberals attempted to defund the Iraq War, backing down only because public opinion was against them. Liberals successfully defunded the double border fence. Liberals are still attempting to overturn Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law that Governor Scott Walker signed into law and the state Supreme Court upheld as the law of the land.
Why do so many on the left hate the Tea Party so much?
Liberals deny it, but many of them cross the line when dealing with conservatives from disagreement to hatred. Society benefits from as much free speech as possible. Speech we disagree with is the very speech that must be protected.
The left often sees the right as enemies rather than political opponents. The right sees the left as wrong. The left sees the right as evil. This explains the incendiary language directed at Tea Partiers that should normally be reserved only for actual killers. The Tea Party is a politically conservative movement, and many “open-minded” and “tolerant” liberals do not want conservatives participating at all in the political process.
Attempts to intimidate Tea Partiers are coming to light. IRS agents deliberately delayed their applications for tax-exempt status. Members were targeted for “random” audits. Confidential records were released to political opponents. Since the targets were all exonerated (or the matter was dropped), the only reasonable explanation for targeting law abiding citizens is to silence them permanently.
Whether a leftist, Libertarian or conservative, reasonable minds can agree that vandalizing state capitols as Wisconsin unions did is not what democracy looks like.
The Tea Party really IS what democracy looks like. The Tea Party is not a threat to democracy. The Tea Party is the very heart of democracy. Standing up against a government that has become oppressive, bloated, unresponsive, inefficient, irresponsible, overreaching, and perhaps even corrupt is exactly why the Founding Fathers had their original Boston Tea Party. Those issues are precisely why the current Tea Party movement matters.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS. Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter.
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