Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

October 29, 2013

Is the Tea Party a serious challenge to the American way of life?

— — “The modern Tea Party doesn’t understand history, so it can’t be expected to appreciate irony. It is a mongrel movement, its leaders self-proclaimed, its agenda by turns unfathomable and incoherent, its philosophy grounded in vehemence. So how can it possibly be dangerous? Here, in no particular order, are my four Rs of the Tea Party,” writes someone named Mike Appleton, a guest blogger on a site hosted by law professor and legal analyst Jonathon Turley. First, it is racist, he states, and it is a religionist movement that is revisionist and repressive.

He is not alone in his disdain for the Tea Party. Florida 9th District Democrat Representative Alan Grayson compared the Tea Party’s popularity to that of the Ku Klux Klan, and used a burning cross to replace the T in “Tea” in an email he sent out last week.

New York Democrat Representative Charlie Rangel told the Daily Beast: “It is the same group we faced in the South with those white crackers and the dogs and the police.”

West Virginia Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller said a while back that they are “People who will do absolutely extraordinarily bad things that are extraordinarily bad for the country and not care about it.” He added he believes some members of the Tea Party are “extremists” who have “hijacked” the Republican Party.

Many Republicans also sharply criticized the Tea Party faction’s behavior, including the party leadership in both the House and the Senate.

The Tea Party has been blamed for the government shut down earlier this month, and during and after Congressional wrangling over raising the debt limit to prevent the shut down, the Republicans and Tea Party were called “arsonists,” “terrorists,” “extremists” and “anarchists,” accused of “waging a War on Women,” compared to “Thelma and Louise,” and have been blamed for healthcare.gov’s failed rollout, as well as for Standard & Poor’s downgrading the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ for the first time, and the non-existent recovery from the 2008 recession.

Such power. No wonder most Democrats and establishment Republicans fear the Tea Party.

However, after months of digging into documents in the National Archives and elsewhere a research firm has discovered that the Tea Party was also responsible for the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Fast and Furious, the Benghazi terrorist attack, as well as Eve’s temptation of Adam, the Edsel, the Black Sox scandal, New Coke, and choosing the name of the Washington Redskins, although there is a strong argument that most of these things were really Bush’s fault.

It won’t come as a shock to all those blaming the Tea Party for destroying the country that there is no such thing as “the Tea Party,” per se.

Several organizations use the words “Tea Party” in their name, but “Tea Party” signifies a movement, not a formal organization. It is a loose affiliation of national and local groups that independently set their own agendas, based upon a broad set of principles.

The original form of the name was TEA Party, for “Taxed Enough Already” Party, obviously opposing existing high taxation and proposed new taxes and higher rates on existing ones.

The broad goals of the movement are to advance the principles of limited federal government, individual freedoms, personal responsibility, free markets and returning political power to the states and the people.

Radical stuff, that.

These are essentially the same principles sought by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution 220-odd years ago. It says more about the Tea Party critics than about the Tea Party movement itself that the critics attack the founding principles as extreme.

The Republicans/Tea Partiers who opposed Obamacare and tried to repeal or defund or delay it earned themselves the enmity of Democrats because it interfered with their strong desire to control the health care of every American, and also of establishment Republicans because the political price of what they did was thought to be very high for Republicans.

There may be a high political price to be paid, but that remains to be seen. However, the Tea Partiers weren’t playing politics — and in Washington, D.C. not playing politics may be the worst sin of all. They were standing for a principle: that Obamacare, which cedes control of 18 percent of the economy to government, is bad for the country from its dishonorable smoky backroom origins, to its passage with only Democrat support, to the idiotic “that depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” acrobatics of Chief Justice John Roberts to find it constitutional.

With only control of the House of Representatives, the Tea Partiers had no chance at repealing Obamacare and their efforts earned them great anger, though now delay seems the smart thing to do. But the decision to try to repeal, or defund, or delay was a decision based on a principle, whereas the decision not to try is a political decision.

If elected officials make a mistake, wouldn’t we rather they did so supporting a founding principle than considering political repercussions?

And what does it say about our country when taking a stand for one of America’s fundamental principles is considered radical or extreme?

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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