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Unmasking the New Tea Party Movement

Updated on December 20, 2010

You have seen the clips of riled crowds with sadistic posters and heard the discordant lines from their self-appointed spokespersons. Virtually no day passes without some mention of this band of disgruntled objectors and their deranged, shock-peddling cadre of rabble rousers.

But what exactly is going on here? Who are these people, toward what goal do they strive and why are they attracting such stupendous media play?

In its more celebrated context, the term Tea Party originated from that iconic period in American history when American colonists staged protests against taxation by the imperial government in Britain on the grounds that they had no representation in the British Parliament.

In its co-opted present day usage, although it has been applied to buttress a hodgepodge of libertarian and ultra-conservative viewpoints, the central thrust of the “movement” appears to be fiscal conservatism. Beginning in 2009, the group staged a series of protests riling against excessive spending, big government, pork or “porkulus.”

However, over time, this core premise of the group’s grievance has become less lucid. The topics, images, and slogans have gotten increasingly pungent and dreadful. Tea Party rally attendees have grown to accommodate an odd assortment of activists on the fringes of the political spectrum; “birthers,” antebellum nostalgiacs, religious zealots and white supremacists that appear to have found unity in both their disdain for the ascendancy of a black person to the highest office in the land and their personal hatred for President Obama.

It is hard not to see that the “movement” itself has been usurped by this extremist wing. Protest events are now dominated by symbols and innuendoes calculatingly delivered to fan the embers of division and hate. In some instances, vituperative language with violence-inciting undertones has also been used.

It is increasingly less about small government now and more about the propagation of the expression of the worst forms of slur and odium.

What is one to make of Tea Party protesters boldly flashing placards that reference the seating president of this country as “Commander In Thief” or depict him as the Joker, Hitler or Bin Laden with such captions as “Socialist” or Terrorist?”

How about the derisive, disparaging and openly suggestive statements from movement leaders about “re-loading” and “clinging to guns & religion;” the opprobrious distinctions between “the real America,” “Patriots” or “True Americans” and those other bonafide citizens castigated as “un-American” and “foreigners?”

Tea Party adherents generally took issue with the recently enacted health reform legislation not just because they felt it would balloon the size of government but primarily because it was an affront to individual freedoms. They felt that mandating coverage and enforcing penalties for non-participation was an infringement on constitutionally protected liberties. In other words, that the old status quo under which Americans financially able to buy coverage should be free to abstain, and by so doing force the rest of us to pick up the tab, is preferable!

But, where were these Tea Party folks when George Bush squandered the surpluses from the Clinton years and grew the national debt at a pace so drunken and dizzying that the national economy and the entire global economic system nearly collapsed?

How can they possibly reconcile the eagerness to overlook or forgive the fiscal excesses of the administration whose policies or lack thereof sourced the meltdown with the near blind rush to demonize the administration left to stop the hemorrhage?

Where were they when during the first decade of this century, President Bush and Republican Congressional leaders orchestrated the worst civil liberties coup d’état of all times with their Patriot Acts and their advanced surveillance programs---the systematic snooping, wire-tapping & eavesdropping on ordinary Americans?

Uncomfortable as it may be to admit, the timing of the rise of this so-called “movement” could not be extricated from the generalized fear within pockets of the white population that they are losing traditional positions of power and privilege; that the nucleus of the society that once was inherently theirs is irredeemably slipping away. So, you hear the urgent and forceful use of code phrases that bemoan this reality even as they represent a longing for a return to that period in our history that they cherish so much. Their desire to “take back the country” is unconcealed; but, from whom, to what and why exactly?

Nothing personifies the dissonance that this group feels better than President Obama himself; that, perhaps, is why they feel such deep derision or revulsion toward his administration. I personally do not have any reason to think that this would abate anytime soon.

Thankfully, we have seen this play out before. Much the same way as this strident, divisive, irrational approach caused the Republican Party base to shrink to a point where its national electoral viability came under question, once hijacked by its ultra-conservative, religious faction, the Tea Party movement will surely lose steam and fade into irrelevance once the stranglehold of the Palin-Limbaugh fire-breathing extremist wing takes full form.


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    • Rachel Rose profile image

      Rachel Rose 7 years ago from Ohio

      Isn't it wonderful that the Republican Tea Party has the House? Now they can,(and already are), showing what and who they are. I suppose if this country can survive the hangers-on who call themselves memebers of the Tea Party for the next two years, then re-election of a Democratic Congress and White House are assured. A friend of mine who is an educated professional who has become a "99er" debated with me long and hard about the Republican Party "making it right". He had every faith they would get right to work even in the lame duck Congress. He called yesterday and apologized to me and acknowledged (already!) that I am right. Time for a new Hub from Rachel Rose.

      By the by...their hatred is thinly veiled racism and stupidy. Never has a President of the United States EVER been treated with utter disrespect, disregard, and contempt.

    • profile image

      Goddy 8 years ago

      You are an intellectual genius.Not even SherSapp can withstand you. Good riddance.

    • profile image

      Amar 8 years ago

      This conversation is fascinating. I am not a big fan of calling racism for every little thing because it takes away from real racism which does exist. And I have always stayed away from guessing people's motive, who knows what moves people. And I am tired of people just regurgitating slogans, issues are much more complex than a 3-word slogan. And it is very childish and tacky to call out someone's english which I think is excellent because you disagree with them, name calling should stop after the 5th grade. People need to study the facts on issues before before chanting slogans. And I will give you the argument that some liberals were out of line with Bush, and went above the civility line. Now back to the facts. It is a fact that givernment grew more under Bush than Obama. A whole new department was created, Homeland Security(100s of thousands of government employees. Where were the Tea Partyers. Two foreign wars were started with countries that did not represent an imminent danger to the US (Iraq and Afghanistan..), trillions of dollars being spent rebuilding countries (country building, isn't that one of the biggest no no of conservatism). We will be paying for thes wars for decades and after that a legacy cost of taking care of these injured and traumatised veterans for the rest of their lives. How about the Medicare Drug Benefits, under Bush. How about all the pork in those bills passed by the republicans and Bush never vetoed one. Now, tax rates have not gone up yet and the supposed evil healthcare bill does not really come into effect for another 4 to 6 years. Now, the issue is, where were you tea partyers when Bush was spending like a drunken sailor, where were your animosity when he was increasing government and the deficit and taking aways individual liberties you guys are so attached to. Now suddenly you want your country back, this is why people are susipicious about your motives, because that facts (not slogan)do not support your outraged. I persnally believe that there is real racial undertone but I believe that the majority are victim of slogan. People are pro this and anti that, pick your side and nobody is checking the facts and making a personal decision on each individual issue, things are not as black and white and simple as most people want to believe.

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Arum, you should actually attend one and instead of watching what msnbc is saying about it.

      A lot of tea partiers are common Joes and Janes, who are frustrated at the debt the government has gotten us into. They want freedom for everyone, including you.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • LRCBlogger profile image

      LRCBlogger 8 years ago

      Arum, I think you are hitting on some good points. The TEA party movement does not seem to really be pushing towards any type of "movement." I don't see legislation or an actual bill that they are supporting. They say they want lower taxes at a time when federal taxes are the lowest they have been in 60 years, and they say they want smaller government when most of them support medicare and social security...2 of our largest government programs.

      It really does make me wonder what motivates them to liken our president to "hitler", "stalin", etc...especially when he has accomplished many of the items they have asked for (Tax Cuts for middle class, protecting the 'little guy' from corporate interests of insurance companies, etc.) It's hard to imagine that there is not some other type of motivation for their hatred of our president.

    • SheriSapp profile image

      SheriSapp 8 years ago from West Virginia


      I found this gem by going to "hub hopping". I didn't even check your profile before reading and commenting, so I was unaware of your looks--sorry. Your name, it doesn't matter to me, America is made up of lots of folks from lots of places. My comment about English comprehension was aimed at the false charges of racism based on signs against this mans POLICIES, nothing about his race--remember, he is half black AND half white.

    • Arum I. Arum profile image

      Arum I. Arum 8 years ago from Columbus, OH

      SheriSapp---You obviously seem quite upset about the govt. taking over much of "our economy and our lives" today than you ever were when Bush did the same---perhaps, worse. That is the major thrust of my article. You did not seem to have an answer for that. It's far easier to make a ludicrous charge against my English comprehension abilities based obviously on the twisted belief that, from my name and looks, I do not quite belong. How classic!

    • SheriSapp profile image

      SheriSapp 8 years ago from West Virginia

      You are obviously a mislead and uninformed person only seeing and hearing what the liberal media has to say. Were you this upset when BUSH was depicted as a nazi? How about all the "Bush lied" signs, did they strike you as unfair? The complaint of the tea partiers is that the government is taking over too much of our economy and our lives. Obama COULD NOT have been elected without the votes of many white people. Are you on the left so completely out-of-touch with reality that you cannot understand ENGLISH??? Just because we disagree with Obama and his HUGE government policies and spending, it DOES NOT MEAN that his skin color matters to us at all!! If he were an albino doing this crap, I would STILL disagree--LOUDLY!