Who Is the Tea Party?
by Jan Reed
At best, many people have just shrugged and said, “I don’t really know” or at worst, gritted their teeth and said, “Oh, I don’t want any part of them!” When asked why, they never know the answer. Well, I can tell you the answer.
It’s simple. The power base, the Washington Elite, discovered that a groundswell movement back in 2008 was more effective than any movement since the 1960’s. But the difference between this movement and the tumultuous 60’s was not a repudiation of government, but rather it was a questioning of government actions.
Specifically, in 2008, you’ll recall that the massive Bank Bailout occurred, when we, as a country, were asked to fork over $700 Billion from our national treasury to bail out banks. There was no audit, no accounting, just the bill to the American Taxpayer. It made us take notice, to ask questions, to become alarmed about the financial health of our nation. Many of us lost between 40% and 50% of our life savings in 401K plans as the stock market plummeted that September. And I might remind those who aren’t aware of the details, it was during the last administration. Another difference between 2008 and the 1960’s was the Internet. People began blogging, checking internet sites, chatting with folks across the nation and sometimes across the backyard fence. And in this technological age, groups formed throughout the country, consisting of Independents, Democrats and Republicans, and they wanted answers from our Representatives.
I remember polling people around me at these local events, asking them their party affiliation. They were a surprising cross-section of our nation, actually forming a moderate faction. They remembered that the Boston tea party was a protest against taxation without representation. And the name caught on because essentially, this is exactly what happened. We were “Taxed Enough Already.” The Tea Party groups soon realized that the reason the government had gone awry was that the Constitution, our working Document, had been ignored during this Bailout debacle and for decades prior.
Gradually, government was becoming more bloated, less efficient, more centralized, meaning States had less power – in direct conflict with the founding of our country. D.C. had become a “club” of sorts, with powerful elites calling the shots. The people realized that our great Document began with the words “WE The People” to remind us that WE are the government. It’s not the government’s government.
In the next year, the Tea Party backed those candidates who wanted to get back to basics, the Constitution, our founding document. That was and still is the Mission Statement of the Tea Party. It also explains the big turnout in the 2010 elections, putting people in Congress who had those same goals in mind. But wait, that caused a tremor in those ruling “establishment” elites in Washington! These multi-term politicians realized that the People were taking their power. I remember seeing Town Hall meetings on You Tube with everyday folks posing questions to their representatives that they’d never heard before. This was new stuff! The people are asking what we are doing!
What to do? Denigrate the group, call them troublemakers, racists, a Republican plant by Big Business…anything to take their effectiveness from them. And in the ensuing years, many disparaging comments about the Tea Party came from both parties in Congress. Sound-bites like “They are blocking legislation…They are extremists bent on shutting down government…They want to eliminate government altogether…they want to destroy everything we are working so hard to do for the people” were heard far and wide. With the help of the mainstream media, these accusations were so effective in their denouncements, the Tea Party itself is now thought of by many as a “far-right crazy wing” of the Republican Party! The group that had originally formed from both parties and Independents, now had the People believing that their own movement was as radical as those ’60’s student movements! Those old enough to remember those demonstrations will remember that they were violent and destructive, their only goal had been the tearing down of our government. That is not the goal of the Tea Party. It wants our government to be working for its citizenry, not for the Lobbyists, or Big Business, Special Interest groups or powerful Unions.
That is why it has backed and continues to back candidates with those goals in mind. The Tea Party had started without a political thought but soon realized that it was impossible to struggle with an over-regulated government bureaucracy in our daily lives without paying attention. Politics matter. It affects our children, their children, and generations to come. So, in closing, I’d like to answer the question. The Tea Party consists of people you see every day, the lady in Walmart, the guy at the gas station, someone in your church group, your gym. We are the citizens of this country, wanting the best for our nation, wanting our government to work to keep this nation strong and as great as it has always been!