The TEA party movement in this country began when Wall Street traders suggested that taxpayers send teabags to Congress and urged a sort of “Tea Party Protest” of the TARP bill. From those early suggestions a number of people began to use and push the imagery of the famous 1773 event in Boston Harbor.
Business News Network Editor Rick Santelli called for a “Chicago Tea Party” from the floor of the Mercantile Exchange and the whole notion of protests by those opposed to government spending to bail out the failed mortgage lenders caught the attention of news broadcasters and talk radio hosts. Soon the idea of a TEA party (an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already”) caught on and was being discussed frequently as a taxpayer protest movement which drew support from all parts of the political spectrum.
Americans attracted to the TEA party movement were driven primarily by concerns over government spending and taxation issues. The movement had vibrancy in large part because it wasn’t driven by support of a party platform or any specific candidate or personality. But that would soon change.
I’m reminded of the scene from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. The town sheriff had just organized a group of citizens for the purpose of raising a posse. Once the crowd was assembled around the common cause of capturing the bad guys, another gentlemen stepped upon the stage and used the opportunity to introduce and try to sell a new contraption called the “bicycle”. I see the TEA party movement much the same way.
The crowds were assembled to protest TARP and the other “porkulus” bills being pushed by the Obama administration. Then those with other agendas took advantage of that assemblage to switch topics, get attention for themselves and harness the energy.
The TEA party movement is not about a single candidate. It is about a philosophy. Candidates may appeal to voters with this TEA party philosophy because they credibly vow to advance it. Rand Paul did that, and is making good on it in the United States Senate.
But others who have been involved in organizing the crowds and who have been identified with the movement for various other reasons, have taken the stage and now want to lay claim that the movement is, or should be, organized behind or against certain campaigns. They do this as if they have somehow become the “leaders” of the movement itself.
No one has any right to claim leadership of the TEA party. And no one has any right to declare a new philosophy or set a new agenda for the TEA party movement. To declare that the TEA party movement has now moved on to become a hard line originalist/constitutionalist, non-inerventionist Ron Paul movement is simply wrong. Some attracted by the original anti-tax and spend energy might have an interest in these things, but not all do, and certainly not the majority.
To declare that the TEA party movement is now working to move back to the Gold standard, or working to see to the repeal of the 17th amendment, or challenging the birth place of Barack Obama, or demanding that our nation adopt a “non-interventionist” foreign policy is simply not true.
Yes, some with these agendas who have perhaps been urging them for years, were attracted to the TEA party movement. Some of them came because they wanted lower taxes, fewer government bailouts and reduced government spending, in addtion to these other areas of concern. Some who came saw the movement as “anti-government” and felt they were among kindred spirits, though their revolutionary spirit was far more zealous than many others.
Some who came to the TEA party movement saw it as a new home for them, having spent most of their lives on the outside of the political process after having been treated dismissively by the two major parties as too “fringey”. They saw this as an opportunity to join with like minded folks and finally wield some real political power.
Are all of the people who attended TEA party rallies, supported candidates who promised to advance TEA party issues if elected and who would still be part of the lower taxes, less spending crowd described above? No.
It is wrong to assume that my description of these folks paints with a broad brush any negativity on the larger crowd of TEA party supporters. But look around. Do you see any of these folks I’ve just described working the crowds? You betcha.
Does this mean that their dedication to push their own agendas makes them bad people? No.
Are their agendas so far out of touch with the majority of Americans that they don’t deserve an audience? No.
But if they want an audience, they need to get one of their own.
Jumping up on stage with the crazy idea of a bicycle when the posse has been organized for a different purpose was funny in the Butch and Sundance movie, but could destroy the TEA party movement in America just like it destroyed the sheriff’s call for a posse ending up with the bank robbers riding around on the bicycle in mockery of how easily fooled the people really are.
I’m not being critical of the Ron Paul crowd, the constitutionalists, the non-interventionists, the birthers or anybody else. Each has the right to voice his/her concerns and to try to build a coalition around them from which to advance their agendas.
I’m just saying that for those of us who like the TEA party, and for those who came under different circumstances, we need to be paying closer attention to who now trying to stir things up.