SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
So what do we hear about? Fringe elements. Crazies. People who’ve attached themselves to the movement for one reason or another, including those doing it for personal benefit.
Every movement has a fringe element that the other members would rather disown. In August of 2009 a far left whacko caused $11,000 in property damage to the Denver headquarters of the Colorado Democratic Party, in an attempt to make it look like right wingers did the damage. In August of this year a disgruntled liberal activist firebombed a Democratic Representative’s office in Missouri, vandalism instantly blamed on the right. The average liberal doesn’t want to claim those dingbats.
I’m not a member, and this is a diverse group, but after studying both the members and their beliefs I'll try to give you a representation of the average Tea Partier.
Like the original Tea Party, the movement doesn’t stand on ceremony, political correctness, or orders from on high. You might remember that in 1773 a group of about 200 men in Boston disguised themselves as Native Americans, invaded three ships docked in the harbor, and dumped the cargoes of tea into the water to protest taxation without representation. So much for being PC: They dressed as Indians and contributed to water pollution.
The result, ultimately, was the overthrow of a government that didn’t represent the citizens, and its replacement by a new government designed to be both of the people and for the people. I heard a clueless person once say that the Tea Partiers didn’t know what they stood for: Well, there you go.
On February 15, 2009, a lady named Keli Carender started a grass-roots protest in Seattle. Unaffiliated with any organization or lobbyist, she simple wanted to voice her opposition to pork barrel government spending and a swollen federal budget. About a hundred people showed up, energetically voicing their disapproval and making hogs everywhere quake in fear.
So it began.
What is the average Tea Partier like?
The media has characterized them as being all white, hinting and sometimes outright saying that the group is a racist organization. Yes, the majority are white – so are the majority of Americans – but far from all. Frankly, most Tea Partiers couldn’t care less what your skin color is, as long as you’re a productive member of society and believe in their true aims, limited government and lower taxes.
The false accusations have gotten so bad that a Facebook group called Black Tea Patriots was formed, as an “in your face” to their haters. On a sort of related note, I’m now being followed on Twitter by a brave young conservative who goes under the name “GayPatriot”. In your face, haters.
On another related note, at a February gathering blogger Michelle Malkin brought a roasted pig to feed the crowd, as a symbol of the pork they were fighting. I discovered recently that Malkin waded into that “lily white” crowd with a distinct disadvantage: she’s Asian-American.
Yes, some Tea Partiers are socially conservative. Some are socially liberal. Some are socially moderate. Something you need to understand – and something that should have Republicans as well as Democrats shaking in their boots – is that they don’t follow any party platform. They’re all over the place on social issues, and although most are strongly anti-illegal immigration, they don’t see that as a social issue at all: They see it as an issue of law and order, national defense, and common sense.
So what do the Tea Partiers, as a whole, believe in?
Well, if you haven’t figured that out by now I’ve probably lost you, but I’ll give it a shot anyway:
The Tea Party believes the government is there to serve the people, not the other way around. They believe the swollen government bureaucracy and out of control spending are poised to bankrupt the nation they love, and that it might well take the rest of the world down with it. They believe the only way for us to survive is to slash the government, not with a razor but with a butcher knife.
They believe in personal rights and choice, and that the more power the government gains, the more liberties will vanish into its cavernous maw. They believe in personal responsibility, and that cradle to grave federal control of our lives is nothing more than another form of slavery. They believe that our representatives no longer represent us, and that taxation without representation is tyranny.
This is where Republicans need to be very cautious. Tea Party support has led to the dumping of incumbents, and local Tea Parties have even supported Democratic candidates. The Republican Party doesn't speak for the Tea Party – in fact, if anything the average Tea Party member is closer to a libertarian than anything else. If they don’t join the Libertarian party, it’s because they aren’t joiners by nature: They just want to live their lives with minimal interference, to be responsible for themselves and their families, and to have a government that lets us pursue our dreams, rather than telling us what our dreams should be.
If the Republicans take back control of Congress this year, they need to realize that the Tea Party supported throwing out the Democrats only because that’s who was in charge. If the new Congress doesn’t take action and put their houses in order, you’d better believe they’ll be ready to throw the next group out just as quickly. They want fixes and accountability, not bickering.
That’s what the Tea Party is all about.