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Dummies Guide to the Tea Party Movement & a Reference for the rest of Us

Updated on June 15, 2012

The Tea Party movement is the fast growing American popular movement, generally recognized as conservative and libertarian, that has organized rallies and supported political candidates since 2009. The core principles of the movement are to increase fiscal responsibility, see a constitutionally limited government and promotion of free markets.

Those involved in the movement hold that the principles behind the constitution as recognized by the founding fathers have been compromised in the recent past. They believe that President Obama's mandate was to reduce spending and increase accountability, and they have been disappointed with his administration.

The expectations of the US citizen were to see a magical economic recovery. The political opposition focused on the health care reform bill and, it seems, has been able to convince a non-trivial section of the population that it is actually an effort to infringe on personal choice. The political opposition has aligned themselves with the Tea Party movement and it seems have been able to benefit from it.

The Tea Party movement endorses reduced government spending but paradoxically does not want to rock the boat when it comes to social security, medicare, medicaid, and defense. Those are the big four in government spending and any spend reduction plan without involving these may not make much of an impact. The general population that flocks to the rallies, protests and conventions also seem to be remarkably uninformed and without any real information to substantiate their - at times paranoid - claims.

The name "Tea Party" has been inspired by the Boston Tea Party, a protest by colonists who objected to a British tax on tea in 1773 - actually a lack thereof on tea sold by the East India Company from the UK - and demonstrated by dumping British tea taken from docked ships into the harbor.

The movement does not include social issues in its agenda, though the Republican politicians do bring such issues into their rhetoric when sharing Tea Party platforms. The movement is also a fairly organic one and isn't represented by a single organization or structure.

This lens tries to present the views of the movement as well as those who dismiss or ridicule it. I have my own opinion, as any individual needs to have one's own point of view - but have tried to present both "sides" of the story. I hope you find it informative, bookmark it, and return as I update it.

What is the Tea Party - Reporting from the field

There are a lot of material generally available on what the Tea Party is all about. I went back to the older ones that would reflect the initial thought processes and the reasons behind it being called to existence.

The first YouTube clip covers a The Tea Party protest in Mobile, Alabama, had the theme "Taxed enough already". Participants also think that the US government is listening to special interest groups and making decisions that are good for these groups and not the country.

The second (earlier?) clip is from a Morristown, NJ, Tea Party meet. In this clip Micheal Johns, National Leader of the Tea Party Movement says that the neglect of the founding constitutional principles brought about the movement. Later in the clip he says that some believe that these principles are still applicable and some would debate that the constitution is a living document and should relate to the changed world we live in. When addressing the attending audience the main issue seems to be "Obama Care".

Health care is also a major theme in Republican Congressman Joe Wilson's sound bytes. It is understandably the Republican view on the health care bill, that its real intentions are to take over the lives of the American people. He also, again understandably, says that the people in the US need to stay informed by watching Fox TV.

Jeffrey Weingarten, President, Morristown, NJ, Tea Party, lays it out simply as the need for smaller government, lower taxes, and the position that you can not get out of debt by increasing (government) spending are what the movement is about.

Steve Lonegan, Former Mayor, Bogota, NJ, narrates how everyone was concerned when Obama won because now they had the Senate, Congress and White House. And then it seems the American People started getting involved and the Tea Party movement happened. He stresses on the need of lesser government and return to individual freedom and more responsibility.He also reminds the crowd to elect more people to office who are defenders of liberty and freedom

The not-so-notables in the meet say they want the Constitutional rights be preserve , don't want to see health care reform, do not want to see redistribution of wealth. The expectation also is that the Tea Party movement is opposing the debt that the present administration leaving for the future generations.

Tea Party Movement - A better presentation - Michael Johns and Kellen Guida talk to CBS News

Disappointed with the lack of content in the coverage in the last two clips I search for more and found these three excerpts. In the first one, Michael Johns, the Tea Party leader from my earlier clip, gives some background about the Tea Party Movement and some of the basic tenets. In the next one Kellen Guida expresses his anger and frustration towards the Wall Street bailouts. In the third clip both of them discuss their take on social issues like gay marriage or abortion and how movement is not really about governance and fiscal issues and not social ones.

Tea Party Manifesto & Handbook

Official Tea Party Handbook: A Tactical Playbook for Tea Party Patriots
Official Tea Party Handbook: A Tactical Playbook for Tea Party Patriots

This book is written for all those families, soldiers, farmers, musicians, small business owners, factory workers, ranchers, plumbers, and everyday folks who have been inspired to stand up against the onslaught of political terrorism. This is a tactical playbook on how to start a Tea Party and more importantly, what to do after the Tea Party when everyone is fired up in defense of Liberty.

 
Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto
Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto

Unlike mainstream media accounts that observe the Tea Party movement from the outside looking in, Give Us Liberty chronicles the roots and rise of a new breed of taxpayer activism in the voices of those who were there. Discover the personalities that drove the first meetings, the unknown candidates whose principled stand earned them unlikely victories, the march that gathered more than a million activists, and the bedrock beliefs that brought them together. In this national call to action, Armey and Kibbe provide an intimate history of the movement, explain how citizens can join the cause, and chart the future of the Tea Party—and America. Give Us Liberty also contains a battle-tested, step-by-step guide to organizing and effecting change in any community.

 
The Tea Party Manifesto: A Vision for an American Rebirth
The Tea Party Manifesto: A Vision for an American Rebirth

Joseph Farah was a tea partier before there was even a tea-party movement. In his new book, The Tea Party Manifesto, Farah fleshes out the origins and evolution of the movement that daily intensifies in speed and spirit. Defining the terms of the debate, the true meaning of independence, the danger in waiting for political messiahs, and the sincere need for a spiritual core, Farah provides the road map for this country's citizens to extricate themselves from the overreaching grip of government and reclaim the beliefs of the Founding Fathers.

 

What the people of the country know about the Tea Party - The first Tea Party Convention at Nashville, TN, in February 2010

The Tea Party Nation group organized the first Tea Party Convention at Nashville, TN, in February 2010. For a movement that takes on big spending, criticism of the convention's cost and alleged payment to Palin was ironic. Multiple national Tea Party organizations reportedly withdrew their participation. But the convention went ahead. Here is a NEW LEFT MEDIA film produced and edited by Chase Whiteside (interviews) and Erick Stoll (camera).

The interviews project a significant degree of paranoia and conspiratorial assertions. There were people making statements like "We don't even have the constitution recognized as the governing document for determining who can run for president" and they wanted ]the US constitution again governing this country.

More From the Grass Roots - Tea Party Express: Rise Of The Tea Bags

Brad Friedman went out to Griffith Park in L.A. on Sunday, October 25, 2009 to check out the kick-off day for the new "Tea Party Express II" national tour. He had hoped to meet some interesting people and file a quick video report, but instead ended up making a short film of sorts. Protesting is an inalienable right in a democracy, but protesters here don't really know what they're protesting. Some think they're opposed to government spending, others say they're protesting Obama's plan to take away their health insurance, and there are still some out there who believe they're protesting to force Obama to release his birth certificate.

Books on the Tea Party at Amazon

Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America
Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America

Boiling Mad is Kate Zernike's eye-opening look inside the Tea Party, introducing us to a cast of unlikely activists and the philosophy that animates them. She shows how the Tea Party movement emerged from an unusual alliance of young Internet-savvy conservatives and older people alarmed at a country they no longer recognize. The movement is the latest manifestation of a long history of conservative discontent in America, breeding on a distrust of government that is older than the nation itself. But the Tea Partiers' grievances are rooted in the present, a response to the election of the nation's first black president and to the far-reaching government intervention that followed the economic crisis of 2008-2009. Though they are better educated and better off than most other Americans, they remain deeply pessimistic about the economy and the direction of the country.

 
The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History (The Public Square)
The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History (The Public Square)

Americans have always put the past to political ends. The Union laid claim to the Revolution--so did the Confederacy. Civil rights leaders said they were the true sons of liberty--so did Southern segregationists. This book tells the story of the centuries-long struggle over the meaning of the nation's founding, including the battle waged by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians to "take back America."

 

Classical liberalism and what more the Tea Party movement needs to do - A couple of scholarly references

As the Tea Party movement places the role of the government, I expect that these the ten core principles of the classical liberal & libertarian view of society and the proper role of government would be of interest to you. Dr. Nigel Ashford explains the principles of (1) Liberty as the primary political value, (2) Individualism, (3) Skepticism about power, (4) Rule of Law, (5) Civil Society, (6) Spontaneous Order, (7) Free Markets, (8) Toleration, (9) Peace, and (10) Limited Government. The role of the government is to protect our life liberty and property, anything beyond that is not justifiable as per this point of view. Dr. Ashford is Senior Program Officer at the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) at George Mason University.

In the second clip Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights explains why it is not enough for the Tea Party protests to be against the latest Washington programs--they must also stand for the individual's right to live for his own sake, and not as a servant of society.

Read more about Libertarianism

Libertarianism: A Primer
Libertarianism: A Primer

This book is an admirably clear exposition of the position--defined by David Boaz as "the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others"--which is useful to both adherents and those who merely want to "know the enemy."

 
The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman
The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman

Conceived as the companion volume to David Boaz's Libertarianism, this anthology comprising the likes of Lao-tzu and Milton Friedman is a treasure trove. That's because libertarianism touches on such important issues as the nature and extent of individual rights, the proper powers of government, and the virtues and shortcomings of the marketplace, and besides, it has tempted many of history's best minds.

 
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

The international bestseller on the extent to which personal freedom has been eroded by government regulations and agencies while personal prosperity has been undermined by government spending and economic controls. It is written very clearly; you need not have an economics background to understand it. The arguments are clear and eloquent. Friedman demonstrates why the free market works best for the economy and why the free market preserves individual dignity.

 

Counterpoint: Rachel Maddow on the hypocrisies around the Tea Party

When you listen to Michael Johns you can not but seriously consider his and the Tea Party movement perspective. Any theory or philosophy is as good as how implementable it is. Here is a point of view from MSNBC. Rachel Maddow refers to a recent poll and points out what she unequivocally refers to as hypocrisy. It has a lot of interesting data points.

Davis Fleetwood Unplugged - On the Tea Party Movement and the Movement vs. Socialism

Just to get a kick out of it, or perhaps to provide a counterpoint, I have thrown in these two clips from Davis Fleetwood the Hermit. He is bold to proclaim his socialistic convictions and that the Tea Party movement fuels feudalism.

It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States (Norton Paperback)
It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States (Norton Paperback)

Marx decreed in Capital that the most industrially advanced nation would usher the world into the bright dawn of socialism. But it didn't happen in America, the pinnacle of capitalist achievement. This broad but unambitious survey addresses one of the classic questions of American historiography: What accounts for the weakness of working-class radicalism in the U.S.?

 
Socialism: A Very Short Introduction
Socialism: A Very Short Introduction

In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Newman seeks to place the idea of socialism in a modern context for today's readers. He explains socialist ideas in the framework of its historical evolution, from the French Revolution to the present day, and examines practical attempts to implement socialism. Not just another history of socialist ideas, this book aims for a different approach that looks at practice as well as theory--centering on the contrast between Communism and Social Democracy.

 

Tea Party rally music

Like all movements this one has spurred a host of songs. Here are a few of them.

- "It's Time To Party" Tea Party Song! STAND UP, AMERICA!

- Let's Take our Country Back (performed by Lucas Hoge; lyrics by Tom Paden & Eddie Kilgallon)

- Get Your Hands Out Of My Pockets-Don Derby

- Tea Party Song - 'Let 'em Drink Tea'

Music poking some fun at the movement

You would not expect some satire not to show up, right? So here goes some entertainment:

- The Tea Party Recruitment Song

- Tea Party Patriots Want YOU

- Learn to Speak Tea Bag

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      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      Out of curiosity...and because of my husband's interest in politics...we went to a tea party event in Morristown last spring or summer...I don't recall the date. It was generally peaceful, and some of the points made were good. I know what's important to me as far as what I'd like to see in the leader of our Nation, and am disappointed by what is happening currently, but can't say I have much enthusiasm for politicking. Maybe that will change as the election in 2012 gets closer. Nice background on the tea party...keep the updates coming.