Author: Chloe Jenkins-Sleczkowski
The past year has brought on an inreased exposure of tea – not Earl Grey. I am speaking of the Tea Party Movement, the grassroots and conservative-minded (dis-)organization that has been making headlines with its latest shenanigans to reclaim the country for the intellectually lazy.
Although some political diversity is a nice change, it does not need to be in the form of griping conservatives who are only making it harder on a president who has more than enough on his plate. The Tea Party Movement began roughly a year ago, starting with a number of protests staged against government bailouts, government regulations on big business and the health care overhaul. Most notably, beginning last February, members of the movement have staged scattered protests throughout the country in opposition of Obama’s health care plan and various other proposals. Basically, if Obama proposed anything, they griped.
The Tea Party began merely as multiple protests across the country, and remains an unorganized confederacy of fractured groups, who call themselves “grassroots” and “populist.” In most recent news, the Tea Partiers have claimed credit for Republican Senator Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts, labeled as a “surprise attack” because of his against-all-odds win over the democratic favorite Martha Coakley. “Surprise attacks” like this should cause Democrats and Republicans to consider the Tea Party a threat to party foundations.
Two hundred and thirty seven years ago, a group of American patriots protested unfair taxation by throwing shipments of tea into Boston Harbor. This event became a symbol for American liberty and independence. Hoping to garner support from followers who want to feel American, the Tea Party Movement stole an historic icon to make a badge for people to attach to. It has done this in order to enroll the support of lazy citizens who otherwise would not know or care about the ideals of the movement.
It sounds good to be a patriotic member of the “Tea Party.” It’s a catchy name with built-in recognition – a brilliant marketing scheme – but the two Parties have little in common. The revolutionary Tea Partiers stood up for their country’s independence. Today’s Tea Partiers want to use that independence and the very government our forefathers framed to deregulate big businesses and eliminate government control, to strip our country of the only tools that still fight for the people and fend off the excesses of special interests. How did “taxation without representation” turn into “whine whine whine?” Today’s Tea Partiers are more likely to be sipping from porcelain cups than their Bostonian ancestors.
For a movement that Sarah Palin, the keynote speaker at the upcoming Tea Party Conference, calls “beautiful,” and named for the Boston forefathers’ liberating protest against British taxation, the Tea Party is surprisingly uncouth. They claim that their purpose is to return the government to its constitutional definitions (the Tea Party Mission Statement advocates “Fiscal Responsibility,” “Constitutionally Limited Government” and “Free Markets”), but all they’ve been doing is making loud, obnoxious and huffy protests that keep catching the headlines. Obama wants to fix the health care system; they decide to cry about it because they disagree. Congress tries to rekindle the economy; the Tea Party goes up in arms about protecting their big businesses.
Opposition groups have always existed, but nowadays they’re more voice than action. Two years ago, protesting the president was considered un-American. Now, being a good American includes the ideal of self-importance and overratedness, and then perpetuating the ideal that if you’re loud enough, you can get your own way. They have turned politics into more of a shouting match than a tool to work for its citizens. The Tea Party Movement also prides itself on being without a distinguishable center. It consists of multiple independent movements without a unified plan, leader or center, whose focal points vary by state and city. Democrats and even some Republicans dismiss them as “Astroturf,” a name referring to a fake grassroots organization that touts its localness but is, in fact, just loud and ineffective.
Despite the conservative Republican base of the Tea Party Movement, no one actually wants anything to do with them. Democrats scorn them and call them dirty names. Republicans criticize their disorganization. Even the man they call their poster boy, Ron Paul, has clarified that he does not want to be affiliated with them. The Tea Partiers are just an alienated faction that can’t stand being on the outside, so it shouts from the loudspeakers to be heard. It doesn’t matter what’s being shouted, as long as it is loud and in the headlines. Rather than supplying a constructive oppositional voice, this movement only serves to derail any forward movement liberals hoped to have.
The Tea Party Movement just needs to get over itself. Instead of throwing a fit when they disagree with the administration’s policy, opposition needs to sit itself down and think about what’s truly best for our country. Shouting back and forth, admittedly a fault in both parties, will get nothing done. Instead, oppositional voices need to present a structured, sensible argument that leaves wiggle room for both sides. In our increasingly polarized and politicized world, everything is just about “objectionalism” and “obstructionalism.” What happened to a good debate?
Chloe Jenkins-Sleczkowski is a senior ECLS major. She can be reached at [email protected]
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