The Tea Party, once it would bring up visions of Bostonians dressing up as Native Americans committing vandalism by throwing tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of unfair taxes against King Richard’s government.
Now the Tea Party represents, depending on who you talk to, crazy right wingers, patriots, old white people, Libertarians, Christians, religious extremists, an attempt to bring American values back to politics, a media influenced corporate funded political con, to some the start of the revolution, and others the beginning of the end.
To understand the Tea Party you must first understand the different parts of the republican base and the right wing, starting with Libertarianism.
Libertarianism, in short is the belief that the federal government should only do things like defend our borders and regulate trade between governments. Any interference with individual freedom to do whatever one wants is a violation of the constitution. Most Libertarians believe in legalizing drugs, eliminating most of the federal government, and deregulation of industry.
Today’s version of libertarianism has its roots in states’ rights in the civil rights movement and Ayn Rand. While there is a separate Libertarian party Ron Paul has led a movement to make the Republican Party more Libertarian. Now his mantle is taken up by Rand Paul (Ayn Rand : Rand Paul…) pushing this agenda.
Then there is religious right. This group I have never truly understood. Christian principles of caring for others and forgiveness are countermanded by being against the safety net, and for guns and strict judicial system. It is a very powerful group that should never be ignored in the situation. They push for the government to promote their Christian values of pro-life, anti-gay, pro-Israel, and anti-others.
Another big part of the Republican Party is the Neo-Cons. Coming into their own during the Regan years and reinforced during the George W. Bush presidency is now the republican establishment. (Because they won elections) This groups guiding principles including a strong military leads to strong country and don’t be afraid to use it; and that less taxes helps everyone.
Increasing spending and decreasing taxes has been what the Republican establishment has been doing for the past 30+ years. Don’t worry about the national debt because economic growth and inflation will make it irrelevant.
Then you have the closed media consumers. This group overlaps most other groups. You listen to Rush tell you everyone else is lying to you for 30 years and you believe it. In a feedback loop the “truths” told by the closed media gets narrower; narrow ideas pushes out a broader audience; audience gets small but listens more; listeners reject media’s attempts to keep broad appeal; closed media gets narrower.
You could see evidence of the loop after the last presidential election. Some right wing media tried to push for emigration reform. This push has been rejected by many in the right wing.
These 4 main groups of the republican coalition have been working together since the Carter administration to empower the Republican Party. The principles of which have been socially conservative, less taxes, deregulation, and strong defense has garnered support from other groups. Wall Street and the rich like fiscal policy. Industry likes selling guns to the government.
Now take the financial collapse in 2008. Banks and business get bailed out upsetting the Libertarians. Pushes to regulate Wall Street left business men in the establishment upset. People losing jobs and money gets the masses upset. The USA is ripe for new movements. The rights response is the Tea Party.
Groups on the right that were not satisfied with the establishment of the Republican Party took to the streets. The original start of the movement is not as important as how it evolved since its beginnings. The rank and file of the Tea Party consists of libertarians, closed media consumers, and some of the religious right. Many of the big money supporters of the Republican Party saw this as an opportunity to push conservative (Or their own) ideals. Purge some of the establishment that have become ‘soft.’ It worked.
Lead by the Tea party movement, 2010 elections were big for the republicans. Red states pushed laws to make their states redder. Many Neo-Cons have been pushed to the sidelines. And the drive to make the federal government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub went into high gear.
Many republicans ran on shutting down the government. If your goal is to make government smaller above all else, why would you move to reopen it? The Sequester was a good first step. If you don’t raise the debt ceiling it limits the size of government.
The old establishment has no leverage against this movement. You can’t negotiate a release of a hostage if kidnapper’s goal is to kill the hostage. There have been moves by states to reopen national monuments like the Statue of Liberty, showing that the states can handle things. The house republicans have passed bills to reopen certain parts of the government. The parts they want. Fund parks and defense and they can sit back and watch the carnage without departments of education, urban development, transportation, and others can just rot on the vine.
Many people I know call the Tea Party everything from stupid racists to terrorist. To do so ignores the real goals and true ideologies behind the leaders of the movement. Many republicans believe in what they are doing. Many others are scared of what’s happening to their party. Did the people who threw the tea in the harbor know the significance? I think some saw it as a simple way to fight the system one night while others saw it as part of a bigger plan to end the tyranny of the English Crown.
What happens next is up to all of us.