A Few Bothersome Tea Party Concerns
I am personally acquainted with some local tea partiers. I share some of their sense of alarm, and I respect their willingness to get off their duffs and make their feelings known so publicly.
Still, there are a few specific things that bug me about the whole tea party thing in general. Allow me to get them off my chest:
First of all, we in the (shudder!) mainstream media never know how to handle the name of the movement. Grammatically, I mean.
According to the dictionary, a party is either “an organized political group which seeks to elect its candidates to office and thus to direct government policies” or “a gathering for social entertainment.” This thing is neither, though it has elements of both. So we in the media have fits figuring out how to apply the term in our news accounts.
It’s just a coincidence that the movement has the word “party” in it, but we’re not talking about a party in the traditional sense, as in Republican, Democratic or Whig Party. That’s why The Associated Press Stylebook, our bible on such matters, has decreed that “tea party” is not capitalized. Still, it looks funny that way, used as a common noun.
There’s also the matter of what to call members of said movement. Most of us have pretty much settled on “tea partiers,” though I tend to think it should be hyphenated. Whatever you do, don’t call them “teabaggers.” They’re very sensitive about that.
Here’s the second thing that bugs me: Tea partiers complain about not being taken seriously, yet they go around wearing funny hats and holding up kooky signs.
If you want to be taken seriously, isn’t it generally best not to show up at a rally in a silly Revolutionary War costume or a hat that has tea bags dangling from the rim? Or to hold up signs reading “Shut ’Er Down” or making President Obama look like the Joker from a Batman movie?
Third, tea-partiers constantly portray themselves as representing the American people, but who says they do any such thing?
After the movement flared up in the summer of 2009 in opposition to the Obama administration’s health care plan, tea partiers and their sympathizers were always asserting (and sometimes writing on these pages) that “the American people [as embodied in the rallies] have said loud and clear that they don’t want Obamacare shoved down their throats,” or whatever.
Yet every credible public-opinion survey I have seen indicates that maybe 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. public identifies with or supports the tea party movement. That sounds more like a distinct, noisy minority.
Fourth: I’m glad the tea party Republicans have discovered the Constitution. But where was their sense of outrage when the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration was trampling all over it?
They are right to be alarmed about deficit spending, too. But I don’t remember hearing a peep out of them while the previous administration, which had inherited a budget surplus from Bill Clinton, was spending all those years running us into the ground by fighting two costly wars while simultaneously cutting taxes.
The fifth and main problem I’ve had with the movement from the beginning has to do with the troubling implications involved in the choice of the very term “tea party.”
Why do the tea partiers call themselves that? Obviously because they like the connection with the Boston Tea Party, a precursor to the American Revolution. That, along with the Founding Fathers regalia, strongly suggests (heck, many of them come right out and say it) that they’re itching for another American Revolution, presumably involving the overthrow of the Obama administration.
But wait. The real Founding Fathers fought the original Revolution to set up a new system of government free from the arbitrary control of an unelected monarch who imposed taxation without representation. Our current government was elected by the people under the very constitutional system those Founders so wisely established. And the only kind of taxes it can impose are those that are voted on with representation.
In all seriousness, I don’t believe the tea partiers are really talking about overthrowing our duly elected government, since that would be treason and advocating it would amount to sedition. If they were talking about that, they would have to accomplish their purpose over the bodies of a lot of other patriotic American citizens, including mine.
If they’re not talking about that, why flirt with such inflammatory terminology?
I’m just sayin’.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story