It was about two years ago that a grass roots organization emerged on the political landscape. You’ve heard of them – The Tea Party. Officially they were known as the Tea Party Movement (TPM). They are an eclectic group of folks who provided strong support for candidates who were conservative and libertarian in the 2010 election. “Some commentators have referred to the Tea in ‘Tea Party’ as the backronym ‘Taxed Enough Already’.”
When I first heard of this group I will admit that I was very attracted by the name. Having grown up in New England where stories of the Revolutionary War were part of the local fabric, and my grandmother was born and lived in Concord, Massachusetts most of her 94 years, I loved the stories of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Washington crossing the Delaware, and of course, the Boston Tea Party.
I’ve wanted to attend one of these meetings for some time out of curiosity, but either the timing was wrong, or the location of the meeting was impractical (e.g., Las Vegas). So last week there was a meeting in my area of California. Laura, my oldest, currently works for California Assemblymen Bill Berryhill, and mentioned she’d like to go as well. I picked her up and drove to the rally where we spent the evening together listening to a handful of speakers. There wasn’t anything noteworthy in the evening other than I saw none of the criticisms of the Tea Party Patriots that have been so forcefully presented in the media. There were no racial slurs, no hate speech of any kind, no call for someone of opposing views being eliminated, or any other odious thinking that would have jettisoned me out of there in a heartbeat. Instead, “An October 2010 Washington Post canvass of local Tea Party organizers found 87% saying ‘dissatisfaction with mainstream Republican Party leaders’ was ‘an important factor in the support the group has received so far’.” In fact, “the Tea Party's most noted national figures include Republican politicians such as Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Eric Cantor, and Michele Bachmann.”
There are numerous Tea Party groups in cities and states around the country, and each can establish their own platform and philosophical principles. The group Laura and I were with the other evening posted three items as their mission statement, remaining consistent with the Tea Party Patriots across the land. Those items are: 1) Fiscal Responsibility, 2) Constitutionally Limited Government, and 3) Free Markets.
I have learned much of this about the Tea Partiers because of my own dissatisfaction with our leadership in Washington, DC, and certainly here in California. My state has become a byword in a pejorative way!
But when I began to hear the assault by many liberal politicians against the Tea Party I thought, “What’s their beef? The attacks grew increasingly more vicious to the point that I felt these folks must be doing something right to cause such hateful reactions from those whom I believe are trying to ruin our nation.
From all of this brouhaha over the Tea Party movement there has emerged a derogatory term currently used by commentators, the media, Tea Party protesters, and even the president. The term is “teabaggers.” It is used as a put-down of anyone who is conservative in their political, social, religious or philosophical views.
I follow politics with great interest, and those of you who have followed my “Roots in Ripon” column for a while know that I write frequently about political issues, but I have never belonged to any political group or affiliated with a particular party. Neither am I interested in getting involved, even at the local level, although I think about it more these days than I ever have before. What I am interested in is the health and survivability of my country that I love. I will always stand in defense of “The Grand Experiment” known as the United States of America.
I can easily support a local group of patriots who are for fiscal responsibility, smaller government (much smaller!), and free markets (i.e., lower corporate taxes). And I would add that I support the national Tea Party Movement (TPM) in its mission statement, stating that they “endorse reduced government spending, opposition to taxation in varying degrees, reduction of the national debt and the federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the United States Constitution.”
I can live with that, can’t you?