Understanding the Tea Party movement

Published 9:34 am Friday, March 5, 2010

One of the engaging things about American politics is the sheer unpredictability that imbues the system with excitement.

The Tea Party movement came seemingly out of nowhere and into our jargon. But it is worth examining, for it is making a difference in American politics.

It began last summer with public meetings advocating lower taxes, more adherence to the constitution, and opposition to all things Obama.

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Since then it has disrupted town hall meetings, lost a safe N.Y. House seat, held a conference with a $500 attendance fee and a $100,000 speaking fee for Sarah Palin, and failed in Texas to influence a Republican Party primary.

Makes one think the movement might be in Shakespeare’s words in Macbeth “ … a tale told by an Idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Of course that is a harsh assessment of a movement trying to influence American policy, but the assessment is certainly justified upon reflection.

The Tea Party movement is a sub group of the Republican Party, the Dick Cheney wing of the party, or the Sarah Palin wing if you will.

Cheney is famous of course for never getting any issue right. You may remember his famous Iraq quote, “We will be welcomed as liberators.”

There were many more, too many to mention, but all holding in common the Cheney uncanny ability to nail the issue, any issue, incorrectly.

And then there is the Palin influence.

Sarah Palin came into national politics as perhaps the most underprepared person in the last half century.

But the far right of the Republican Party fell in love with Sarah, political ignorance and all, she became, and remains, their spokesperson and idol.

With leaders like Palin and Cheney, what can this sub Republican Party group be all about? Well, consider the issues they advance to understand them more completely.

Tea Partiers demand lower taxes. Perhaps they do not know American taxes are at their lowest point in 30 years. Maybe they do not know that the only way to reduce the debt and deficit they believe is out of control includes taxation.

We cannot reduce spending enough to balance the budget because entitlements and our military consume most of the budget. So it will require both spending controls and taxation.

But Tea Partiers cannot grasp that and think somehow that lowering taxes will balance the budget.

Tea Partiers demand more adherence to the constitution, but attend town hall meetings, a core element of democracy, to shout down free speech, the cornerstone of our constitution. Their actions are not those of patriots, but those of an unruly mob.

Finally, as good Republicans, Tea Partiers uniformly dislike the President, an African American Democrat occupying their White House.

Would it surprise you to discover that the strength of this organization lies with Southern white people?

Would it surprise you that the angst they express over spending was not voiced when George Bush was president? Would it surprise you that the very same policies advanced by Bush when continued by Obama are called socialist or communist?

The Tea Party movement does not understand the very issues they project as their concerns, and their informal leaders, those in politics they respect, are the ill informed and the uninformed, the Palins and the Cheneys.

The movement is, unashamedly, the far right collection of the uneducated of the Republican Party.

The Tea Party folks would have us see them as independent voters seeking core principles of democracy. They are not.

They are what Shakespeare wrote of, seeing the future with his words of wisdom. Just sound and fury, that’s all.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.