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The Rise of the Tea Party
by David Huntwork
03/09/10
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In less than a year well over a thousand independent groups have sprung up around the nation to organize and demonstrate against the attempted government takeover of entire industries, high taxes, crippling debt, and the agenda of President Barack Obama. While many have ridiculed and guffawed about the “teabaggers,” these motivated and angry voters have very quickly shown the ability to raise millions of dollars, target specific political races, grab headlines and media exposure, stage large rallies, and mobilize volunteers.

The Tea (Taxed Enough Already) movement has been defined as populist, conservative, and libertarian in tone. It is a movement diverse in leadership and organization but united in its defense of liberty and the constitution. Its members are technologically savvy and able to mobilize in a moments notice. It is anti-elitist, anti-big government, and anti-big business. It is a revulsion and revolt against perceived corruption and politics as usual. And it the most recent public face of the Liberty Movement that resides on the right side of the ideological spectrum.

It is the winning combination of the common sense principles of less government, fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, state’s rights, and strong national security that is uniting the Tea Party into an effective force to be reckoned with. The mad as hell Teaparticans are the modern-day serfs smashing down the castle gate in an attempt to overthrow their feudal overlords. It is a popular uprising against the political establishment.

The members of the Tea Party first came to national attention when they crashed townhall meetings and held spontaneous rallies and protests around the nation. Couched in terms like “the second Revolution” and “the uprising,” while touting the imagery of the American Revolution, the Tea Party movement is really just a vast amalgamation of factions and independent groups acting outside the old party establishments and organized everywhere from facebook to the fellowship hall in the basement of the church on the corner. But they are mad as hell, and history shows that righteous indignation and the howling mob can definitely threaten entrenched interests and the ruling elite. Whether that energy and drive can be wielded effectively and wisely still remains to be seen.

Those who jeered and poked fun at the 9-12 and Tea party groups just a few months ago now greatly worry about these shock troops of an aroused and angry conservative movement that has dedicated itself to practicing “guerilla conservatism” and challenge the progressive ideology that seeks to regulate, tax, and control nearly every aspect of your daily life. The fainting, worshipful Obamanite crowds of a year ago have been replaced in the street by those who have had enough of a government, and governing party, that is out of control.

With their sea of signs and Revolutionary War flags this particular face of the larger Liberty Movement descended onto Washington D.C. in the hundreds of thousands this past summer (the Million Mob March). It was the announcement to a corrupt establishment that a movement, not a party, was here to contest the agenda, power, and business as usual of the entrenched rich and corrupt that infest both Wall Street and Capitol Hill. It is a movement equally disgusted with corporate bail outs and the socialization of medicine. And in many ways it is not just the Right against the Left, but the little guy against the big guy, the average American against the elite, and the lover of liberty against those who seek to replace it with authoritarian regulation.

The real influence of the Tea Party movement, despite all the media coverage, is yet to be seen. There is a major and nation wide effort to prepare to mount a conservative takeover of the Republican primary and caucus process. Few show up to these important but often neglected grassroots meetings and the fired up and angry rank and file are not just here to oppose the Democratic Party but to make serious inroads into the Republican Party. A third political party is not seen as a viable option at this particular point in time but the takeover of one of the existing ones is seen as possible.

The country club elite and RINO (Republicans In Name Only) who have held sway in the GOP and controlled much of the party apparatus and candidate selection process has no idea how to harness, control, or otherwise exert much pressure on this grassroots uprising against politics as usual. The conservative resurgence is happening despite the GOP, not because of it. Hopefully a rising tide will lift all boats. It was not the conservative movement that lost in November but perceived Bush Republicanism with its poor prosecution of two wars and own policies of big government and big spending. And the Republican presidential nominee was no conservative but in fact the embodiment of traditional party politics and seen as the poster boy of those who sacrifice principle for the sake of expediency and political power.

It will be interesting to see if the momentum fueled by the Tea Party has already peaked or if we are seeing the birth of a long-standing, broad-based, and truly influential phenomenon in the American political process or just a short-lived outburst of frustration with Barack Obama.

The 9-12 Project and Tea Party groups are still in their political infancy but have shown they do have some staying power, the ability to raise millions of dollars to target specific races, and now the attention of both political parties. Not bad for just some ordinary citizens using the internet to organize some rallies and “crash” some townhall meetings on health care. Good for them. I’m glad someone, anyone, is standing up and saying the kind of things that need to be said. One can continue to wallow in ignorance and blind faith in the agenda of the government or one can boldly stand in opposition and declare such things unacceptable for a free people.

There have been complaints that the members of the Tea Party movement are mostly white. Does it matter? Is perceived “diversity” now the only benchmark by which we measure legitimacy of a cause? The movement is an uprising of the ignored middle class. They are the ones who have the most to lose under Obama. All races are welcome in the Liberty movement. You just have to be willing to detach yourself from the teat of government handouts and dependency to be a member.

If anything, the Tea Party rebellion is more about class, not race. In the Great Recession it was the middle class that took a huge hit with severe job losses and foreclosures in the millions. The middle class is the heart and soul of the nation and when it feels ignored and betrayed it will strike out at those who it sees as having abandoned it. It is they who are feeling the greatest effects of both the recession and government policies. The rich will always be rich, and the poor will be poor, (but not too much poorer due to the wide social safety net we have constructed), but it is the middle class who have watched big government bail out big business with their money even as they lost their jobs, their savings, their retirement, and their homes. At the same time they see a massive grab for power by a government who sees them as little more than someone to be taxed and controlled. And occupying the oval office is the most leftist and radical president to every hold the office.

It is upon such fertile ground that the message of the Tea Party and 9-12 groups has fallen with amazing results. Their anger at Washington, big business, and big government has provided a third force in politics, at least for the time being, that scares the Left and challenges the political class and politics as usual.

Stunned by the virtual overnight mobilization and organization of an angry, high-tech, middle class, right-wing uprising against Obama’s rapid march towards European socialism, the Left has crashed from its hopey-changey high to find itself faced with some serious problems. Progressivism is an ideology of continual movement and motion. It is protest speeches and gatherings, lesbian brown bag lunches, and marches about “the struggle” for (insert favorite pet cause here – no blood for oil, civil rights, gay rights, animal rights, gender equality, nuclear disarmament, saving the polar bears etc). With the pinnacle finally reached by what they saw as the election of one of their own they seemed to have finally collapsed from exhaustion as they declared a paradigm shift, the exile of anyone to the right of Hillary to wander in the political wilderness for a generation, and the much heralded thousand-year reign of He who would slow the rising of the oceans.

They seemed to have passed the mantle of energy, rebellion against the status quo, and anti-establishment anger to the peasants who had been toiling in the fields and serving as the backbone of the state even while the agitators agitated and the community organizers organized. The Tea Party types have emerged from their “exile” in the political wilderness with a righteous indignation that has frightened the ruling classes and shaken the corrupt cabal that controls the capitol. Armed with tweets and facebook, pitchfork and torch, they are the most visible image of the uprising of the Right against those who would force us down the road to serfdom.

Latecomers, politicians, and opportunists attempt to glob onto any movement but that doesn’t diminish the validity of their anger, the righteousness of their outrage, or the power of their principles. The Tea Party movement is now a vast amalgamation of political novices and virgin activists working side by side with professional opinion setters and grizzled conservative veterans of the culture wars. The question really is whether or not it is all “too little, too late” or a popular outrage and uprising that is “just in nick of time.” That answer is not yet known and remains to be seen.




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