Who And What Is The Tea Party--Really?

No political movement in America has received more media attention over the last two years than the TEA Party (that’s Taxed Enough Already). For many Americans it is their new or second political home, but for many others it is misunderstood, disdained or feared. A close friend who is also a strong Republican, a former elected official and very successful, brilliant professional, shared her view at our recent lunch that “The Tea Party scares me to death.” That statement, a sentiment shared by some elected officials in both parties, further inspired this writer to dig in and report on --- what is the Tea Party really all about?

Based on my interviews of local Tea Party leaders, and conversations with countless supporters, a few insights emerge:

  • The word “Party” can send the wrong signal, because the group does not seek to become a third party in America. It takes its name from the original 1773 Tea Party, a foundational piece of American history and thinking. 
  • Because the Tea Party is not centrally organized, and has no national, state or even local elected heads, no one person can speak with unequivocal authority for the group. Tea Party organizations around the country and even around Dallas County vary. 
  • The core commonly held tenets appear to be fiscal conservatism, limited government, strong national defense and sovereignty, following the Constitutional structure of government, and support for the rule of law.
  • In the same way that Second Amendment advocacy groups seek to shape public opinion and legislative outcomes, the Tea Party is dedicated to promoting its tenets, most especially fiscal conservatism which includes reducing spending, lowering taxes, and limiting the scope and size of federal government. 
  • The ideals embraced by most Tea Party supporters are more akin to the Republican rather than the Democrat platform, but the Tea Party is made up of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and many who are newly active in politics, who are concerned about the direction the country is headed. The Tea Party stands for ideals, not party-affiliation, again, akin to advocacy groups on many issues in the American political landscape.

CNN Analyst Gloria Borger handed the Tea Party high (albeit back-handed) praise recently, when she admitted that it is the Tea Party that has prevented President Obama from making the kind of transformation of America he wanted to make. For those millions of Americans who were not enthralled with the transformation President Obama intended to bring to America, the Tea Party’s ardent advocacy for limited government as opposed to big government, fiscal restraint and not blockbuster budgets, is cause for at least gratitude, if not celebration.

I will submit reports of my interviews with Tea Party leaders and supporters in Dallas County, (which is recognized as one of the areas where the Tea Party is strongest), so that conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and all others, can form their own opinions on what the Tea Party really is.

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Q posted a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the "Tea Party Threat" today --  the emphasis is on the debate over "Cut Cap & Balance" approach to debt reduction.  No doubt some pinheaded progressives will take it seriously... but Texans know how to have fun.

 

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