The moment in history from which our so-called “Tea Party” movement of today takes its name was a singular event; refusing to pay Parliament’s levy on tea (because doing so would be to acknowledge Britain’s authority to tax the Colonies) was the Colonists’ way of standing up against the tyranny of a King and his Parliament. It was a symbolic gesture on the part of a “handful” of people to lay claim to “control” over their own lives and destiny, and not allow a few men on the other side of the Atlantic to determine if for them. The “standing up” part is where the parallels with our modern-day Tea Party(s) can be drawn, and where the similarities end.
Today’s movement, be it of the Express variety or the Patriot one, more reflects a rejection of the Government by which we are already represented and for which our disdain has reached a point of no return. The Tea Party of today symbolizes the complete lack of trust many Americans now have in their Government and its leaders, and the collective unwillingness of its membership to sit quietly by about it any longer. This is not a Democrat or Republican truth, it is an American one, and for the moment at least, the Tea Party’s purity of intention remains intact.
This Tea Party “movement” has garnered a great deal of attention from Politicians and Media alike, and this serves its organizers and “Party” membership well-they are doing their jobs admirably. You know you’re making an impact when you are ridiculed and marginalized; especially so when aspirants and has-beens, alike, want to sit on your shoulders and lay claim to your message. And as much as I, personally, more closely align myself with the Patriot flavor of Tea, I am troubled by where the movement now finds itself in contrast with where it appeared to be headed not so many months ago.
More and more, the Tea Party movement is becoming a rallying cry for a third party in the political landscape or is being looked at as the blunt-force trauma instrument to be used as a tool for punishing (replacing) the Republican party (rather than punishing the failed leadership of ALL of our elected officials in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike). Conservatives are increasingly associating themselves with it as a response to feeling abandoned by the GOP through its sponsorship and support of increasing numbers of “moderates” or “Progressive Republicans”, or – gasp – RINOs. Folks that feel betrayed by having only Obama or McCain to choose from in ’08, and feeling the need for a shower after having pulled the lever for McCain, see the Tea Party(s) as the path to follow in order to abandon their own significance, meaning, and impact with our Political Heroes in Washington… and feel good about it.
I suggest that hiding within and behind a movement that represents everything you believe in, while ensuring even less say in how you are governed (as the smallest of what would be three), will give you everything you asked for and none of what you wanted.
An article in the Washington Post unwittingly brings this conundrum to light:
“The tea party movement has grown out of a sense of frustration about government here in Washington,” senior adviser David Axelrod said Friday in an interview that will air Sunday on C-SPAN. “It’s not isolated to Democrats or Republicans. . . . There is a sense that this town is consumed by politics, that people are consumed by their own ambitions and that we’re not dealing with the real problems.”
It should be lost on no one that Axelrod is a Democrat. To his credit, Axelrod recognizes the growing dissatisfaction Americans have with how their Government is managing itself…and the lives of those they are paid (by us) to serve. What Axelrod also sees is an opportunity to keep the Democrats in power while promising to address the issues and complaints of the Tea Party…legitimizing them while marginalizing them…and keeping the Democrats’ hold on power as they pat the Tea Partiers on the head.
The bad news here is that the Democrats, and the Republicans hoping to co-opt the growing relevance of the Tea Party movement, are seeking to hold (or acquire) power – ostensibly – through it, and the Tea Party movements are becoming unwitting accomplices so long as they direct their energies toward displacing someone else’s power with their own rather than focusing on un-doing the things that got the country where it is today in the first place.
Washington is all about power…who has it and who wants it. The strength of the Tea Party has been its ability to communicate their dissatisfaction with Government. When they become another party in a long line of parties, they become part of the problem, not part of the solution. The ideal next step for the Tea Party movement is for them to grow their ranks…not only with more Republicans, Conservatives, and Independents…but with Democrats as well. Whether the strength of their convictions lies in taking back control of their country, or in assuming power over it, remains to be seen.
Should the “Tea Party” movement ever become another Political party fighting over scraps and crumbs from the table of power they will eventually become just another part of the problem…and they will have destroyed the last vestiges of what the “idea” of the Tea Party was at its origins.