Ambrose: Saluting our tea party saviors

Scripps Howard News Service – By JAY AMBROSE

Like a hero rescuing a damsel tied up and lying on the railroad tracks as a train approaches, the tea party movement has been trying to save America from runaway leftism. But this hero, instead of being applauded, is taking it on the chin from critics who will invent any calumny and revise any truth to make their case.

The movement consists of ignoramuses, it’s said. It’s a tool of the Republican party, some contend. The comedian Bill Maher, who thinks all Americans are stupid, calls it a cult. Its lineage is traced by a Prospect magazine article to Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. We’ve now had a tea party terrorist, we’re informed. Some critics point to kooks in the party and others to haters, and at the end of the day, we are all left to shudder in fear of this dreadful thing.

First, of course, it’s true that any movement with millions of followers will have some oddballs and worse in the mix. But anyone who has ventured to a rally or paid close attention to the speeches knows the tea party fringe does not come close to summing up the whole, that there is nothing racist in its rhetoric or accusatory in a McCarthy style.

A CNN poll tells us those involved are middle class, mostly middle aged or beyond and that 75 percent are college-educated. These are not uninformed citizens in pursuit of dingbat policies, but people mostly worried about a killer debt, President Obama’s spendathon tactics to resolve the recession and a health plan that would be unaffordable while giving us a society ever more run by Big Brother in D.C.

Most ‘tea party’ followers are baby boomers reliving the ’60s

LA Times Opinion – By Jim Spencer and Curtis Ellis, February 24, 2010

A poll debunks assumptions about the movement, showing that it’s largely middle-class, college-educated, white and male.

Oceans of ink, terabytes of blog space and an eternity of television time have been devoted to the latest object of media fascination, the “tea party” movement. Now (finally!), a poll conducted by CNN gives us some hard data on the Tea Party Nation.

Neither “average Americans,” as they like to portray themselves, nor trailer-park “Deliverance” throwbacks, as their lefty detractors would have us believe, tea partyers are more highly educated and wealthier than the rest of America. Nearly 75% are college educated, and two-thirds earn more than $50,000.

More likely to be white and male than the general population, tea partyers also skew toward middle age or older. That’s the tell. Most came of age in the 1960s, an era distinguished by widespread disrespect for government. In their wonder years, they learned that politics was about protesting the Establishment and shouting down the Man. No wonder they’re doing that now.

Look closely at the tea partyer and what you see is a famil- iar American genus: a solidly middle-class, college-educated boomer, endowed by his creator with possessions, opinions and certain inalienable rights, the most important of which is the right to make sure you hear what he has to say.

The tea party is a harbinger of midlife crisis, not political crisis. For men of a certain age, it offers a counterculture experience familiar from adolescence — underground radio, esoteric tracts, consciousness-raising teach-ins and rallies replete with extroverted behavior to shock the squares — all paid for with ample cash.

The partyers are essentially replaying the ’60s protest paradigm. (We’re aging boomers ourselves, so we know it when we see it.) They fancy themselves the vanguard of a revolution, when in fact they are typical self-absorbed, privileged children used to having their way — now — and uninhibited about complaining loudly when they don’t. It’s the same demographic Spiro Agnew called “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

In a flashback of “turn on, tune in, drop out,” the partyers reject mainstream culture, don the equivalent of Che T-shirts that say “Don’t Tread on Me,” and join sects with trippy names like Oath Keepers, Patriotic Resistance and Freedom Force. Instead of getting themselves “back to the garden,” they get off the grid and, like the Bill Ayers crew, indulge in fantasies about armed rebellion against the establishment.

But the (often-overlooked) truth about the ’60s is that the great accomplishments we associate with the era — civil rights, putting a man on the moon — were made not by boomers but by the generation born before World War II, which accepted shared sacrifice and saw it as an expression of their belief in duty, honor and country, not as socialism.

At Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury and the marches on Washington, the boomers socialized rather than sacrificed. They made great theater, and the media couldn’t resist them. It still can’t.

The tea partyers’ pictures and sound bites are so good, no one cares that their math doesn’t add up: Cut taxes and the deficit but keep your hands off my Medicare; do something about jobs but don’t increase spending. Everyone understands it’s about something deeper.

Ah, tea partyer, we know ye well. One of your signs says “Listen to ME!” That’s all that’s ever really mattered — the original “me generation” grabbing the spotlight and the world’s attention by whatever means necessary. The rest, whether beads, bell bottoms or birther slogans, is just a means to the same end.

Jim Spencer and Curtis Ellis are Democratic political consultants based in Boston and New York, respectively.

Who are the Tea Party activists?

CNN Polling Center

Washington (CNN) — Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday also indicates that Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress. The party’s GOP leanings, the poll suggests, may pose a problem for the Tea Party movement if it tries to turn itself into a third party to compete with the two major parties in this year’s general election.

“If the Tea Party runs its own candidates for U.S. House, virtually every vote the Tea Party candidate gets would be siphoned from the GOP candidate, potentially allowing the Democrats to win in districts that they might have otherwise lost,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “While the concept of an independent third party is extremely popular, most Americans, including most Tea Party supporters, don’t favor a third party that would result in a winner who disagrees with them on most major issues.”

According to the survey, roughly 11 percent of all Americans say they have actively supported the Tea Party movement, either by donating money, attending a rally, or taking some other active step to support the movement. Of this core group of Tea Party activists, 6 of 10 are male and half live in rural areas.

Nearly three-quarters of Tea Party activists attended college, compared to 54 percent of all Americans, and more than 3 in 4 call themselves conservatives.

“Keep in mind that this is a pretty small sample of Tea Party activists,” Holland said. “But even taking that into account, the demographic gaps that the poll finds between those activists and the general public on gender, education, income, ideology, and voting behavior appear to be significant differences.”

The poll indicates that about 24 percent of the public generally favors the Tea Party movement but has not taken any actions such as donating money or attending a rally. Adding in the 11 percent who say they are active, a total of 35 percent could be described as Tea Party supporters. That larger group is also predominantly male, higher-income, and conservative.

Some 45 percent of all Americans say they don’t know enough about the Tea Party to have a view of the movement; 1 in 5 say they oppose the Tea Party…

The Tea Party: “What’s In A Name?”

Huffington Post – Richard Greener Award-winning essayist

Shakespeare’s Juliet asks a vital question, especially for those with political ambitions and most especially for those easily spurred on by rants on cable TV. So it is that The Tea Party organizers are not the first people to take an unfortunate and inappropriate name for themselves. Everybody makes mistakes. Who decided to name a Canadian construction scaffolding company, “Mammoth Erections?” Or the gas station in Ohio that’s named, “Pee Pee Gas?” And how in the world did anyone ever name a Texas restaurant, “Fuk Mi Sushi Bar?”

So what were the people behind The Tea Party movement thinking when they choose their name? Yes, I know about the crazy guy on cable, but didn’t The Boston Tea Party also inspire them? Whatever their impetus, they made a big mistake. While they aren’t the first to make such an error, they are probably the most ignorant.

By calling themselves The Tea Party they felt they were aligning themselves with a popular, anti-government, anti-tax movement. The modern Tea Party obviously relished this closeness, this arm-in-arm association with great American patriots like John Hancock and John Adams. After all, hadn’t today’s Tea Party founders been taught that the original Boston Tea Party was a seminal event in the formation of this country?

American History is taught to all children from the youngest possible age. A simple look turns up books like “The Boston Tea Party” by Pamela Duncan Edwards with illustrations by Henry Cole. This book, like so many others on this subject, is written especially for youngsters, in this case for “ages 4-8”. At that age these kids are hardly in pre-school, yet they’re already getting their History.

Of course, the Edwards/Cole book presents The Boston Tea Party as a tax revolt, a spontaneous uprising by over-taxed, oppressed and unrepresented innocent colonists. Kids learn that the event was an activist, freedom seeking popular uprising, a political movement with deep roots in the colonial community. It was a precursor to an historic, democratic revolution. How admirable.

With this sort of History already in their minds, as soon as our children are old enough to be in school, The Boston Tea Party is right there in their curriculum. There are elementary, middle school and high school lesson plans aplenty. If you’re at all concerned about academic credibility and you are looking for a non-profit, academically credentialed lesson plan try the one offered by The National Endowment For The Humanities.

It’s a full-scale program of three 45-minute classes and it too presents The Boston Tea Party as a direct action by American colonists against the oppressive taxation imposed upon them by a distant English (German speaking) King and an uncaring foreign Parliament, before whom of course these same colonists had no representation. Hence the ideological battle cry of American independence: “No taxation without representation!” From early childhood we’re told this all began with the brave colonists who stood up to the biggest power in the world at The Boston Tea Party.

Who wouldn’t want to be a member of something called The Tea Party? And – despite its rather widely recognized sexual reference – who wouldn’t rejoice in being called a “Teabagger”? Pity the Tea Party organizers. Not the first maybe, but maybe the most ignorant. What if they knew the truth about The Boston Tea Party? What if they had any inkling at all about the other thing?

What is the truth? Yes, The Boston Tea Party was a reaction to The Tax Act of 1773. But, this Act did not place additional taxes on tea being sold to the colonists. The Act did not make tea in Boston or New York or Philadelphia or even in Natchez more expensive. It did just the opposite. After years of putting higher and higher taxes on everything including tea, the English Parliament finally relented in 1773 and eliminated all but the smallest levy against tea sold to the American colonies.

The Boston Tea Party was an act of rebellion – no doubt about that. Today it would instantly and unanimously be reviled and labeled a terrorist action. But, unlikely as it may seem, it was an action taken against lower taxes. For the Bostonians, if tea was now cheaper to buy why would the colonists be against it? Why protest cheaper tea?

The truth is – regular colonists did not carry out The Boston Tea Party. It was not the man on the street. Not Joe the Colonist. Quite the opposite. There were those in Boston and elsewhere throughout the colonies who were against cheap tea.

No, The Boston Tea Party wasn’t organized by oppressed and over-taxed, unrepresented colonists. Instead The Boston Tea Party was a special interest political action organized and led by those most hurt by the British Tax Act of 1773 – tea smugglers…

Tea Party aims to harness steam at convention


Sarah Palin is keynote speaker for event plagued by controversy, infighting

DALLAS – Some activists headed for the first national Tea Party convention say they’re hoping to transform the raucous, disjointed movement into a political machine that can get out the vote for candidates who favor limited government.

The convention opens Friday to take aim at all that tea partiers say is wrong with Washington, and Sarah Palin has been enlisted to help lead the charge.

The movement grabbed headlines last year with often highly charged protests against President Barack Obama’s health care reform drive, his $787 billion economic stimulus package and other aspects of his agenda.

It takes its name from the historic protest against British taxation, the Boston Tea Party, one of the triggers of the American revolution against colonial rule.

Organization for the convention in Nashville has been plagued by in-fighting, pullouts and criticism of an attendance cost of more than $500 and a glitzy dinner that evokes Wall Street rather than Main Street.

It also brings together activists who make for an awkward fit, mirroring wider divisions in a movement which seems united in little but its opposition to big government, especially under Obama’s Democrats.

Conservatives ascribe the movement to grass-roots frustration with the big spending ways of both Democrats and Republicans. Liberals counter that it is a Republican Party or corporate front.

“Some have tried to portray this movement as a commercial endeavor rather than the grassroots uprising that it is. Those who do so don’t understand the frustration everyday Americans feel when they see their government mortgaging their children’s future with reckless spending,” Palin wrote in an opinion published on Wednesday in USA Today.

Palin said she will donate her fee as keynote speaker at the convention to the cause and its candidates.

There is no reliable estimate of the movement’s nationwide numbers though strands of it are coming together under different umbrellas such as the National Tea Party Coalition.

Room to grow
Some want it to grow from boisterous agitation to a political machine that can get out the vote for candidates who subscribe to its view of limited government.

Activists interviewed by Reuters said they were targeting Democrats made vulnerable by Obama’s sinking popularity. All 435 seats of the House of Representatives and more than a third of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs in November.

In the House, Colorado Democrat Besty Markey is frequently cited as a target while in Arkansas tea partiers in neighboring Texas have signaled their desire to send volunteers to campaign against Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln, who faces a tough re-election campaign.

They have said they may try to influence Democratic contests by pushing for conservatives within the party to win nominations to run for state or national offices. Activists have said they have their eye on the race in Connecticut to replace retiring Democratic senator Chris Dodd.

“What we are working to do is engage people in the process and we are actively recruiting people that have this limited government view. At the same time we are working on training them up to effect political change,” said Ken Emanuelson, who is on the steering committee of the Dallas Tea Party.

The Dallas group is organizing local activists by their zip or postal codes enabling them to their work such as voter registration drives in their own backyards.

Paul McGovern, 62, a small businessman in Irving, Texas, who is a volunteer with his local Tea Party group, said he saw the benefits of taking things to the next stage by organizing politically in many ways including on-line.

“Obama used the Internet to get elected but now it’s his own worst enemy because we’ll use it,” he said on the sidelines of a tea party leadership conference last weekend in Dallas.

The tea party movement has drawn a mixed bag of what critics might call malcontents, and such a structured approach may grate with libertarians among the faithful.

“It is inherently difficult to organize libertarians, which most of the Tea Partiers are,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Doers vs. Undoers

Townhall – by Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON — Such is the zeal in portions of the tea party right that it is not enough to sweep out living members of the establishment such as John McCain. A brisk, ideological scrubbing must be applied to history as well.

So Glenn Beck, speaking recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference identified a great enemy of human freedom as … Teddy Roosevelt. Beck highlighted this damning Roosevelt quote: “We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used.”

Ah, you don’t discern the scandal in this statement? Look closer. “This is not our founders’ idea of America,” explains Beck. “And this is the cancer that’s eating at America. It is big government — it’s a socialist utopia.” Evidently, real conservatives defend wealth that is dishonorably gained and then wasted.

The problem with America, apparently, is not just the Great Society or even the New Deal; it is the Square Deal. Or maybe Beck is just being too timid. Real, hairy-chested libertarians pin the blame on Abraham Lincoln, who centralized federal power at the expense of the states to pursue an unnecessary war — a view that Ron Paul, the winner of the CPAC straw poll, has endorsed.

Lincoln doesn’t need defenders against accusations of tyranny — the mere charge is enough to diagnose some sad ideological disorder. But the Rough Rider also does not deserve such roughing up.

TR picked a number of fights with conservative Republicans, fight-picking being his favorite sport. But Roosevelt hated socialism. “It would spell sheer destruction,” he said. “It would produce grosser wrong and outrage, fouler immorality, than any existing system.” Modern corporate capitalism, he believed, was inevitable, even admirable. But he also believed that overly centralized and unaccountable power in a capitalist system creates destructive clashes of labor and capital, rich and poor. So he busted monopolistic trusts, imposed health standards on filthy meat-packing plants and promoted a more professional, merit-based civil service.

Roosevelt’s progressivism could sound a bit like socialism. When courts struck down laws allowing strikes and limiting maximum work hours, Roosevelt warned, “If the spirit which lies behind these … decisions obtained in all the actions of the … courts, we should not only have a revolution, but it would be absolutely necessary to have a revolution because the condition of the worker would become intolerable.”

But it was Roosevelt’s political purpose to avoid a revolution. He sought to preserve the market system by regulating its health, safety and fairness. This is not laissez faire, but it is an authentic conservative tradition — the use of incremental reform to diffuse radicalism. And few today would wish to return to 19th-century labor, health and antitrust standards.

All those few, however, seemed to be in attendance at CPAC, determined to sharpen an ideological debate. In the name of constitutional purity, they propose a great undoing. Not just the undoing of Obamaism. Undo Medicare and Social Security. Undo the expansive American global commitments that proceeded from World War II and the Cold War. Undo progressive-era economic regulations. Undo the executive power grab that preserved the union. Undo it all — until America is left with a government appropriate to an isolated, 18th-century farming republic.

This is a proposal for time travel, not a policy agenda. The federal government could not shed these accumulated responsibilities without massive suffering and global instability — a decidedly radical, unconservative approach to governing.

The alternative remains a reform conservatism, of which Teddy Roosevelt is a distinguished ancestor. Since the repeal of modernity is not an option, make modern institutions work. Update Medicare and Social Security to encourage market choices and ownership. Bust the public education trust with charters and competition. Diffuse radicalism with reform.

The debate between conservative doers and undoers is ideologically interesting, but in the political realm there is little debate. A candidate running recently in Virginia, New Jersey or Massachusetts on a Beck/Paul platform would have duplicated Ron Paul’s results during his 1988 presidential run. (Paul gained less than one half of 1 percent of the vote.) All the Republican winners in these states promised the reform of government, not its abolition.

But I fear that the undoers may resemble Teddy Roosevelt in one disturbing aspect. This I have against the Rough Rider: In the 1912 election, he betrayed his friend, William H. Taft, and his party by running as a third-party candidate. In his hubris, TR believed that neither party met his own exacting standards of purity. The attitude is familiar today.

Related Previous Posts:

Washington DC 9/12 Protest: Revolution Brewing From Sea To Shining Sea

Related Links:

Official Home of the American Tea Party Movement: Tea Party Patriots


The Insurgents Emerge

Once dismissed as an uprising on the fringe, the Tea Party movement has grown into a formidable political presence. This series looks at key players and the potential impact on policy and the midterms.

Sarah Palin: Top Tea Partier?
Democrats Approach Tea Parties With Caution
Cook: Health Care Is Obama’s Iraq
10 Races Where The Tea Party Movement Could Make A Difference
Davis: GOP Can’t Ignore Tea Party Movement
Pence: Republicans And The Tea Party
Grover Norquist On Tea And Taxes
12 Tea Party Players To Watch
Five Ways It Could Fail
The Tea Parties’ Populist Blend
Ron Paul: ‘It’s The Failure Of Government’
Brown’s Campaign Buoyed By Tea Party
Doug Hoffman: GOP, Tea Party Must Work Together
Too Big To Fail?

New America Media: Blowing off Tea Baggers as Racist Misses the Point

Oregon Commentator Blog: The Best Sweeteners of Tea

CMC Forum: The Tea Party Panic

Breitbart TV: Obama’s ‘BFF’ Likes Idea of Simple Booklets to Educate ‘Typical’ Tea Partiers

Wash Post: Coffee Party activists say their civic brew’s a tastier choice than Tea Party’s

SF Weekly: Letter to the Media: Stop Coddling Tea-Party Crazies

Examiner (Atlanta): Tea party movement fights political push back by Clinton machine

Human Events: Tea Party Identity Theft?

CNN: Tea Party activists to mark one year anniversary