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The 5th anniversary of the modern Tea Party

The 1773 Tea Party
The 1773 Tea Party
1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier

Five years after the inception of the modern Tea Party, there are still some that have no idea what The Tea Party is all about. We’ve heard all of the street corner screamers, and the conspiracy theorists, say that The Tea Party is evil, but there are still some that refuse to have their thoughts shaped by others. These people may not be interested in joining, but they would like someone to cut through all of the agendas and propagandas, espoused by both sides, to tell them what The Tea Party is truly about.

The confusing part of the answer arrives when one attends their first Tea Party in Iowa, and learns of their agenda, and attends another Tea Party gathering in Nebraska, only to find another one. There are some inconsistencies in Tea Parties all around the country, but there are five basic principles that unite them: (1) limiting the power and scope of government; (2) reducing government spending; (3) lowering the national debt; (4) and opposing tax increases. Another unstated goal, based on a quote from President Ronald Reagan, is to return the government to the people.

Anyone that doubts that the relationship between the federal government and the people has regressed from the partisan conflict, that used to occur between Republicans and Democrats, to a conflict between Washington D.C. and the rest of the nation, needs only look at the manner politicians from both parties now treat the common citizens involved in The Tea Party.

Even if you’re one of those that have been successfully conditioned to hate The Tea Party, you have to respect the fact that at its base, The Tea Party is nothing more than a collection of concerned citizens that believe that their government has progressively grown out of control over the last couple of decades, and that there should be a grassroots effort that seeks to thwart that expansion.

It is true that most of the conservative, and libertarian, factions of The Tea Party end up voting Republican, but they only do that reluctantly. If there was another party that espoused more Constitutionally limiting principles —and that party had a chance of winning in a national election— most Tea Party members would happily vote for them. As it stands, however, the Republican party is the party that stands for more Constitutional limits on government power. As we’ve seen in recent elections, however, most establishment Republican candidates now face some sort of Tea Party challenger in their primaries, and this has resulted in these establishment Republicans cheering on the dissolution of The Tea Party as often, if not more often, than the Democrats do.

Those that seek to dismiss The Tea Party from public debate have called it a racist union of people, yet most Tea Party members do not focus on social issues, and The Tea Party organizers have stated it would be divisive for the group to take a stand on social issues. They would prefer to keep their focus directed squarely on economic issues. As a result, the racism charge is difficult to refute for The Tea Party because their lack of a position on social issues has allowed its opponents to suggest that this is because their stance is racial by nature. It allows opponents to fill that vacuum left open by taking no stance, by assigning motives that don't otherwise exist.

Some have attempted to persuade uninformed Americans to dismiss The Tea Party by purposely substituting an exaggerated version of The Tea Party’s call for Constitutional limits on government with the idea that Tea Party members are for no government. They then follow this red herring argument to its logical extension by saying that Tea Party members hate government, and they ask the uninformed to try imagine a world without government. “Who will fix your potholes,” they ask, “And police your area, and put out your fires? You’ll have mayhem in the streets, rape, and murder, and economic inequities that will allow the Koch brothers to keep their offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.”

The key to the success of any red herring argument is to have no sensible person on the other side providing clarification. The key is to be at the switches in a newsroom, or on a situation comedy, and repeat the message often enough, until viewers begin to worry that their house may catch on fire, and if it does, who will put it out, and this whole idea that we go to a system without government is silly. The Tea Party is wrong. We do need some sort of government.

This argument seems so silly, on the face of it, that Tea Party members believe that if they just ignore these fallacious tactics, people will eventually arrive at their own logical conclusions. They believe that people will learn of the Tea Party's motives and goals, and those that make such exaggerated extensions of their argument will eventually be exposed for the charlatans they are. To these people, the question some of ask is: Did you think that the “war on women” campaign that Democrats launched against Republicans was silly, and that it would eventually be exposed? How about “The Life of Julia” cartoon on the Obama campaign website? Or the Sandra Fluke charges? Did you think that those arguments were such exaggerated versions of the Republican position that people would eventually see how silly it was and come correct on it?

Other naysayers state that while individual Tea Party members may not be evil, they are dupes for participating in a Koch brothers funded movement that allows these greedy, corporate types to keep more of their money. These people are incredulous when they learn that The Tea Party is primarily composed of middle to lower middle class citizens. The gist of their argument is that a more intrusive government is a government that seeks to resolve the inequities inherent in the capitalist system. The spending that the government puts forth goes to the poor, and tax increases only increase the size of the purse that the government can use to help the poor. Those that make this argument believe that government is an altruistic, charitable institution, and while government officials may not have resolved the issue of poor Americans, their goals are noble.

If you were to attend a Tea Party function, you’d find that very few that have ever heard of the Koch brothers. Those that have, dismiss the very idea that they are “doing the Koch brothers bidding” by saying, that if the Koch brothers ideals are in line with mine, I'm fine with them, but I have never formed my personal constitution on how I would it would benefit any one particular person. I believe that my ideals are best for the nation, and anyone that states otherwise is simply projecting their own faults on me. That fine, these naysayers may say, but Koch brothers are managing The Tea Party in the manner of a Wizard behind the screen.

This argument seems as silly as all of the others, but it enjoys as much success at characterizing The Tea Party as the others. A movement that lacks unification, in the manner The Tea Party does, has difficulty defeating such arguments, however, and they live on in some uninformed halls of America. Yet, The Tea Party continues on, into its fifth year.

The crux of the naysayer argument against The Tea Party is that its members have somehow been conditioned to believe in something they wouldn’t if they would only take the time to understand the rationale of the other side. Yet, these same naysayers launch into a red herring argument of “mass hysteria in the streets” if we were to follow The Tea Party’s vision of a more limited government. They either don’t know what The Tea Party stands for, or they have chosen to characterize their beliefs in such a fashion to lead people to the belief that The Tea Party is filled with a bunch of kooks that want anarchy in the streets, so that you’ll find it much easier to dismiss them as, at least, unserious, if not radical, and not worthy of your attention.

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