A lengthy NYT article on the Tea Partiers — which Sam comments on below — does a good job of sheding light on what this movement is all about. The Tea Party is obviously one of the biggest topics in American politics right now. Their recent convention showed that they are here to stay for quite a bit. But how long will that be? This is a ‘party’ that insists it is not a party after all, so where to they go from here? Depending on who you ask, you might get several different opinions about this ‘party’ that insists it isn’t really a party. Where do they go from here?
The woman featured by the article claims that she “fears” her government. Recently “she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated — even manufactured — by both parties to grab power.” The article goes on to explain how this is one of the many frustrated (and retired) individuals who felt deeply affected by Glenn Beck’s words or suddenly felt a strong desire to be involved in politics. She even studies “the Constitution line by line. She has the Congressional switchboard programmed into her cellphone. “I just signed up for a Twitter class,” said Mrs. Stout, 66, laughing at the improbability of it all.”
That’s what is so paradoxical about the Tea Party movement. These are dedicated citizens who are willing, apparently, to threaten violence against the state. Richard Behney, a Republican candidate for the senate, informed the party members that in case the midterms don’t go well for him, he’s “cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.”
Things only get more intense from here. An assessment from the Department of Homeland Security last April said that the state of the economy and the Obama presidency would only fuel the fire for right wing extremists and that some were already “stockpiling weapons and food” and preparing for martial law. If this sounds extreme, this is only the tip of the iceberg for some of these people. The woman they feature later states that she believes that a civil war may be imminent and that she’ll do anything to protect her country. All of this sounds a bit intense, and quite unrealistic, so one really has to wonder how these groups are growing in numbers. But until we have some cataclysmic war, what will there plan of action be?
The problem for them is that there really isn’t one single Tea Party. In fact, “The Tea Party movement defies easy definition, largely because there is no single Tea Party.” This isn’t all that bad for them, as some leaders of the group are insistent that they have no intention of becoming a third political party. This makes sense for two reasons of course – 1) third parties usually don’t perform that well anyway, and 2) it’s obvious that if anything, they would only take away from the Republican candidate. Oh, so they prefer Republican values over Democratic ones you say? Well, that’s a bit of an issue for them too. The original purpose of the group was to protest against large government and the ridiculous spending. While it’s true that these may be more characteristic of Democratic ideals than Republican ones, the founders of the Tea Party were upset with the entire political system and had the goal of protesting our government in general. So how did we end up having them mostly protest the current Democratic administration? Unfortunately for the original party members (and the Democrats), many decided that it would be better to hijack this group and use it as a weapon against the current administration. This is what we all saw last year during those town hall debates for health care reform (good thing we’re done with that now…. Wait, what?!?) when all those people decided to scream in Arlen Spector’s face about things that weren’t really even true.
Also, the group has claimed in the past that they are against the large amount of money involved in politics and campaigns in general. But, you know, they just had that giant summit which was for profit by the way. And then they have Sarah Palin speak about how Obama needs a teleprompter, while reading notes right off her hand (she had to remind herself that American spirits need to be lifted?) Ok, so they’re hypocrites, but most politicians are at one point or another. Senator Chris Dodd recently brought up a good point during a chat with Stephen Colbert. He mentioned that he was surprised that the Tea Party hasn’t attacked the Supreme Court’s turnover of the law that prevented corporations from funding political campaigns. This seems right up their alley, doesn’t it? But they don’t seem bothered by it. Is this perhaps because Obama is bothered by it? Who knows.
One also has to question the moral values of these people. While they claim to be as American as it gets, it often seems that some of their views are a bit outdated. In a move that surprised me a bit, the article says that one man “shared his vision of the ideal sheriff. The setting was Montgomery, Ala., on the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white passenger. Imagine the local sheriff, he said, rather than arresting Ms. Parks, escorting her home, stopping to buy her a meal at an all-white diner.” This sounds great and all, but I wouldn’t have known that this was said at a Tea Party event. Of course, later on, a woman adds that “what stands out are the all-white crowds, the crude depictions of Mr. Obama as an African witch doctor and the signs labeling him a terrorist.” We appear to have a bit of a contradiction here too.
While some think (or hope) that the Tea Party will never grow into anything more than an interesting news story, there is still quite the chance that it could successfully impede the current administration, and the political process in general. So what will be the eventual fate of this group? Will they revitalize the Republican party? Will they continue to expand? Will they start another civil war? Right now it’s too hard to tell, but it’s quite obvious that we’ll at least be hearing from them for quite a while.
Photo credit: dbking’s flickr stream