Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Do We Mean by "Tea Party"?

I like my terms tidy and in order and I like taxonomies that allow me to see subgroups inside larger groups.  Sometimes that is easy and sometimes not.

The term "Tea Party" has been bandied about recently, including connected to the term terrorist, which drew the response that the connection wasn't there or President Obama would have them as his friends (alluding to that couple in Chicago).

I am often confused by who is meant when the term "Tea Party" is flung around.

Is it the 87 Freshmen Congresspersons, elected last year?  They represent some 20% of the US Congress and thus some 20% of the Congressional voting districts across the fruited plain?  If we were, as someone this weekend suggested we should be, a Parliamentary Democracy, that would be a block big enough to be considered in a coalition government that was right of center.  If it is those 87 Freshmen members of the House of Representatives, it is not a "fringe group".

On the other hand, is it the 60 members of the "Tea Party" Caucus in the US House of Representatives.  A much smaller group.  Only about 13% of the US Congress and thus 13% of the US population.  But, still if we were a Parliamentary Democracy like Italy or Greece, that would be a block to be reckoned with.  On the other hand, that small group could be easily dismissed by any coalition of more Centrist Republicans and Democrats.  How could this small group amount to much?

Then, it might mean those unconnected, but like minded small groups of voters across the nation who gather in libraries and other meeting places to get together and talk about the US Economy and where the nation is headed.  Some, like commenter Jack, gives us a hint that he thinks of the Tea Party as the modern day "Brown Shirts".  "He should work to quickly kill it off before it comes after him."  As I recall, the "Brown Shirts" were young men, just back from the war, and many believing the fable about the Dolchsto├člegende.

The Tea Party folks I run across tend to be older, often in their 60s, and not lean and fit.  They are not complaining so much about past problems as future problems.

There is talk that the "Team Parties" across the fruited plain are all being run by the Republicans (or as someone suggested to me this afternoon, by Karl Rove himself).  Frankly, I haven't see such coordination.  As Kad Barma likes to point out, correlation does not equal causation.  Then there is the assertion that the "Team Parties" are being financed by the Koch Brothers.  If so, why is the local "Great Lowell Tea Party" only locally funded?  Maybe Massachusetts has been "written off" by the Koch Brothers.

So what do we really mean by this term "Tea Party"?

Regards  —  Cliff


nealcroz said...

The term "Tea Party" is perhaps one of the most overused, misused, abused political terms in modern America. First and foremost, it is not a political party, even in any conventional sense. It is a MOVEMENT that derived much of its name from the famous Boston event protesting the unfair tea tax imposed by King George. And that is where the similarities tend to end.

The MOVEMENT is actually composed of at least 4 main 501(c)(4) organizations. The first, and the largest BTW, is the Tea Party Patriots, having well over 1000 affiliates across the country. Following is Americans for Prosperity, with over 1M members, organized by David Koch (who does't financially support the other "Tea Party" organizations. Its focus has been largely on Obamacare issues. Then there is FreedomWorks led by Dick Armey. Finally, the Tea Party Express which is a national bus tour organized by the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. There are two "coalition" type organizations that are quite informal and do not constitute any sort of political bloc; the National Tea Party Federation and the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition.

In fairly broad terms, the tea party movement is an American populist political movement that is generally recognized as conservative and libertarian. It endorses reduced government spending, opposition to taxation in varying degrees, reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.

The so called Tea Party caucus in the House is much more a misuse of the term Tea Party. While the so called TP caucus members espouse similar objectives, they are not by any means a formalized political block. In the simplest terms, they are a bunch of folks with like minds....who were elected by folks "back home" who are of like minds...and they are now doing their best to implement the desires of THEIR respective electorates. That this could be considered evidence of a national dissatisfaction or movement, I believe it could...and should. That those holders of that set of views are terrorists, I suggest that they are merely patriots whose views are obviously counter to perhaps a larger and much more vocal (and well funded) group.

In many, many ways, the Tea Party movement has been going on subliminally ever since FDR attempted to ram his New Deal through the Congress and onto the people during his first term of office. (As a historical note, much of the New Deal didn't survive a combination of SCOTUS decisions as well as growing resistance in the Congress. Thus, by the time FDR began his second term, the only things left of his New Deal were some massive social programs that were being implemented in one form or another from his first well as the rising winds of war.)

Demographically, the largest number of folks who espouse the tea party philosophy are dissatisfied Republicans, but there are also Libertarians, Independents and a smattering of Democrats as well.

The reason for the media assault on the Tea Party is traceable to the incumbent Democrats who are truly threatened by this grass roots movement. Thus, in order to attack it effectively, they must first give it tangible form and once defining the bogey man, then go about demonizing and vilifying it. The problem is, the TP movement is much like trying to quantify and qualify Indian attacks on invading settlers by making them all Apache...or Comanche....even though neither tribe has made a single attack...or did along with 30 or 40 other geographically dispersed tribes.

Jack Mitchell said...

I meant being Catholic isn't good enough, Cliff. Sure, they'll start with the Muslims and then the Jews. Eventually, they'll be coming for you.

The Evangelicals predicate their salvation on your conversion.

That twist carries over to their politics.

nealcroz said...

So Jack, you're saying that the Tea Party folks are religious persecutionists???? That at some point in the future, they will stage a sort of Kristalnacht?

I guess I am MY evangelical circle........there is no hatred for anyone.....sure wasn't Jesus's way......but then....I suppose many don't believe in Jesus the Christ.

C R Krieger said...

At the risk of talking out of school, for the Greater Lowell Tea Party it may be the other way around.  A number of members and leaders are Jewish and I have seen a Rabbi at at least one meeting.  But, your mileage may differ.

Regards  —  Cliff

nealcroz said...

I guess for mainstream America Cliff....the Lowell Tea Party must be regarded as full of Jewish extremists.....I mean....after all.....isn't that what the Tea Party is full of??? Even the US VP said it is a party of terrorists.....