A recent column about the Tea Party movement got lots of comments, most critical. The essence of my column was that the “Tea Party” is more a protest against the status quo than a unified movement. That is important because I fear that politicians courting the Tea Party will take its support as a mandate, when there is not enough consensus within the group to discern a mandate.
Two of the more intelligent responses challenged my assertions.
You are right in that they are a disparate group on many peripheral issues. They are, however, firmly united in patriotism and pride in country. They universally have a distaste for: (1) an elitism that seems to believe they don’t know what is best for themselves (2) what they consider to be arrogance on the part of the media establishment and Congress (3) the unkept word of a president who promised openness, but whose party created the all encompassing health reform bill behind closed doors (4) financial policies that are contrary to the way they run their homes and businesses (5) the deafness of a Congress that cannot or will not hear what they are trying to say on most pocketbook issues, and (6) a government that seems to think that it is entitled to any tax it chooses on their wealth.
As an active Tea Party participant, I can tell you there are at least two common beliefs which are prominent throughout tea party organizations. At the core of the Tea Party movement is confidence in the U.S. Constitution and the beliefs of the Founding Fathers. We see our elected officials ignoring their oaths to “Protect and Defend” the constitution. Instead they expand governmental authority beyond the limits established by the constitution. They distort and pervert the very fundamental principals our country was founded on. A glaring example is the separation of church and state. Our founding fathers understood the formation of our great nation could not have occurred without divine influence. They never intended the radical interpretation that has lead to banishing God from public places and our schools.
The second common trait prevalent thru-out the tea party organization is a strong Conservative thinking. It is a belief in personal freedoms given us by our creator, not given to us by any government. Therefore, we believe government does not have the right to take those freedoms away. Our government abuses it’s authority in its endeavors to expand its size and increase its financial burdens on Americans.
You are correct when you say “there is a growing frustration with the nation’s status quo”. No administration has misled voters with promises for change and then totally ignored those promises more than the current administration. But Tea Party activists are not just dissatisfied with the current administration. They are disenchanted with both political parties as well.
I hope to comment soon on these and other responses.