Monday, November 26, 2012

The Future of the Tea Party Movement

During the election, Democrats heaped scathing criticism on the Tea Party.  Andre Carson, our local congressman, went so far as to suggest that the Tea Party members wanted to see blacks hanging from trees, a comment ironically made at about the same time that the Tea Party was enthusiastically supporting Herman Cain, an African-American, for the Republican presidential nomination.  Since the election, the criticism of the Tea Party has gotten even louder, with even some Republicans chiming in.  As one Democratic analyst candidly admitted, the Tea Party has become a lightning rod for every bad thing that people want to say about the Republican Party, whether true or not.  I would describe it as hyperbole, empty factual statements aimed at stirring a backlash to the Tea Party.

The blame for losing the grand prize, the presidency, has been laid at the feet of the Tea Party by some Republicans.  The irony is that Mitt Romney was the least Tea Party the Republicans could have possibly nominated.  Romney was a card-carrying member of the GOP establishment, the antithesis of what the populist Tea Party stood for.

That doesn't mean the Tea Party does not have work to do in refining its message.  The Tea Party was born as a populist movement, fighting against the debt with which our politicians are saddling future generations and corporate welfare.  One of the earliest targets of the Tea Party was the corporate bailouts.  Government put Wall Street ahead of Main Street.  People were outraged and took to the streets.  Populism on the right went the way of the Tea Party.  Populism on the left took the form of the Occupy Movement.  Ironically both had many of the same issues, although they often proposed starkly different resolutions to those issues.

In the 2010 election, the Tea Party enjoyed tremendous success nationwide.  But between 2010 and the 2012 election, the Tea Party began expanding its message tackling other conservative issues that didn't always fit the original populist underpinnings of the movement.  An example is the Tea Party's diversion into social issues, including the abortion issue and immigration..

As a Republican, I can appreciate that people who vote for the GOP are motivated by a wide variety of issues.  The Republican Party is a coalition.  For the party to successfully marry fiscal conservatives and social conservatives.  That's the 1980 Reagan formula and it has proven to be key to winning every national election since.    While fiscal conservatives in the party claim social conservatives are a burden, the fact is without voters motivated primarily by social conservative issues, the GOP is the 1964 party of Sen. Barry Goldwater, a distinctly minority party with no hope of winning elections.

Unfortunately I am seeing my Tea Party friends being unfairly criticized by establishment Republican types who want to make them the scapegoats for their own failures, in particular the failure caused by pushing forward a terribly flawed presidential candidate who had zero appeal to working men and women, the very type of people who were motivated to join the Tea Party because they thought the two parties did not represent them.

Historically movements succeed when they stay focused on a core philosophy while dealing with issues related to that philosophy. The Tea Party tried to do too much. Buoyed by its success in 2010, the Tea Party expanded its focus too far, addressing too many issues. In short, the Tea Party tried to do too much; it tried to be the Republican Party.

I am not saying that my Tea Party friends shouldn't be pro-life, against immigration reform, or even against same sex marriage.  Again, everyone has issues that bring them to the conservative table where Republicans sit.  What I am saying is that the work done in the name of Tea Party needs to be about its core and original philosophy, i.e. an aversion to public debt, opposition to government giveaways to the wealthy, and support for a limited federal government.  Expanding into other issues dilutes the core message of the Tea Party, making the movement weaker and vulnerable to bogus attacks from the left and Republican establishment types.

The leaders of the Tea Party are intelligent and more full of energy than any political activist I have ever seen.  With further electoral experience will come the political sophistication that leads the movement's leaders to refine their message and work with other conservative groups instead of trying to address all conservative issues under the Tea Party umbrella.  I have little doubt that the Tea Party will be a major player in the 2014 election and the elections that follow.


M Theory said...

You know I worked very hard to launch the Tea Party movement in Indiana in 2007. We were successful, in part, because I didn't let us identify with any particular party, including my party at the time which was Libertarian.

The Republicans hijacked the movement two years later. We were hijacked when Ponzi schemer Tim Durham's best friend, Carl Brizzi, stepped on stage and took credit for Ballard's victory on election night.

I wish people would get involved and fight against Big Government, but not enough do from all political sides.

Instead people are polarized and fight and call each other names. I'll never forget Democrats screaming at me on Washingon Street and calling me a "whore" because I demonstrated on Ballard's behalf.

Sometimes I think the best thing you can do is keep an eye on everything and have contingencies for no matter what happens so you don't lose everything you've worked for your whole life in the fallout.

I'm glad I don't have children who will inherit this awful mess. My biggest problem in life seems to be figuring out who will inherit my art collection.

Sometimes I don't know why I bother caring about the future of other people's children they don't care about themselves.

They don't care that their kids have debt equivalent to a house when they get that college degree which might not even get them a a job at all.

Maybe liberals and RINOs love the idea of their children being born into slavery to the bankers.

Maybe they love debt for their children, so people can eat junk food paid for with EBT cards today and not have to work.

Maybe they forgot that Roosevelt's New Deal required that people actually WORK for their government wage. (what a concept)

They must love that banks take your $100 deposit and magically create $1000 (minimum) that they lend out with interest. They seem to love it that banks manufacture fiat (conterfeit money) and charge you interest on the thin air.

And somehow in the process they managed to make Americans so dumb, they think it is smart to do.

Americans are mostly ignorant to the bondage they are in and how fragile things are for their children and the future.

If you dare speak of it, you are called a whack job, conspiracy theorist, nutcase, or even teabagger or whore, as learned at the hands of our local democrats (so much class).

I feel sorry for the kids. Their parents failed them miserably.

Bill said...

In the beginning, the Tea Party was a great concept. Lost of great ideas and good people. The Rally downtown in 2008 was fantastic.

Then the crazies hijacked the party and it was all over. Their feeble small town minds were filled with aspirations of being on CNN and writing books that ended up on the 75% off table at K Mart

The Tea Party has jumped the Shark. Hoosiers will not tolerate the hate that the racists that run the Tea Party preach. You can deny it all you want, but when their lasers start calling a local blogger "boy" it does show you what they are all about

Of course we have not heard a peep from the leaders of the Tea Party.I guess its hard to get internet service when your living in a basement and praying to a Life size cut out of Richard Mourdock every night.

Blog Admin said...

I think you are romanticizing the Tea Party movement, Paul. I genuinely believe there are some who consider themselves Tea Party because they are anti-establishment, they don't like any bailouts, aren't fans of mega corporations, etc...

But the most common point of reference of the "birth" of the Tea Party as a national movement is Rick Santelli's rant on CNBC in February, 2009. In that rant, Santelli talked about the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. And the target of his criticism wasn't the mortage lenders, who duped a whole lot of people into mortages they couldn't afford and then re-packaged and re-sold a bunch of junk to make themselves rich without having to worry about if the debters will repay them or not. It wasn't even really the government's program. It was the "losers" who took the mortage. You know, regular folks who had the audacity to attempt to own a home.

There is a legitimate discussion to be had about government spending and government involvement in our day-to-day lives. But with the Tea Party, there seems to be a sense that the entiltements they like such as Medicare and Medicaid ( and Social Security ( So what is left on the domestic side that isn't those three huge chunks of the budget? Housing, education, infrastructure, food stamps, and support to local and state governments.

Paul K. Ogden said...

IS, I totally disagree with you regarding the birth of the Tea Party. It was long before 2009 and Rick Santorum. Actually the birth came right here in Indianapolis in 2007 with the election of Greg Ballard. M Theory is exactly right about that. That was Tea Party all the way. Even if Ballard's election isn't seen as the founding of the Tea Party, at the latest the Tea Party formed in 2008, not 2009.

Blog Admin said...

I am very aware of what happened in 2007 and that those events were even billed as Tea Party and it was felt as a movement within Marion County. But it is hardly the first anti-tax movement to evoke the image of the Boston Tea Party, and other anti-tax protests and movements on local and state levels across the nation have occurred before 2009.
However, that Tea Party movement is completely distinct from the national Tea Party movement which started in early 2009. For all the efforts made in 2007, the local and state Tea Party movement pretty much died out shortly after Ballard's election, and the national Tea Party movement is a completely different beast.

And regardless of the overall origins of the movement, there's still the very real observation that the government programs self-described Tea Partyers are most likely to use are the programs they don't want cut. Like other interest groups, they want their sacred cows protected.

M Theory said...

Indy Student, it didn't die, it was literally hi-jacked. I know, because I was there in the middle.

After Santelli's rant, there was a call for a national tea party and it was all over the news. I knew it was coming out of Chicago, so I made it my business to figure out who was leading the charge in Chicago. I spent days on Facebook connecting the dots of who was doing what and how they were connected.

At that time, a tea party website was being created for major cities around the country, including Indy. These sites were made to look "grassroots", yet they had a central organization.

The organization had money.

Seemingly a lot of it because they were getting high dollar graphics and websites up very quickly.

I finally got to the bottom of who was involved and, as the 2007 national tea party prize recipient, I put word out that I wanted a leadership role and would be a logical choice to get the movement going in Indiana.

I was largely ignored or told by the organizers that they didn't know anything. I was pushed aside.

Months later in retrospect, I surmised they were vetting leadership they felt they could better control as Republicans. They definitely didn't want a Libertarian who would work with democrats and republicans.

The Behney's were chosen to lead the 2009 Tea Party in Indianapolis.

This inspite of the fact that, on my own dime, I took the Indiana Tea Parties against property tax state wide in 2007, and held several of rallies all over Indiana, including one that ended up being on CNN.

I own the domain (that should say something about my early involvement)

Unfortunately, I lacked resources to hijack the tea party back from the hijackers who had far more time and money than me.

patriot paul said...

Nice post and correct observation. The TP. remains unaffected from criticisms of it's detractors, including establishment Republicans, because once you consider some of those sources and their agenda, you learn it's a fact of life and continue with the message of fiscal accountability regardless of party. Also correct is the need for the TP to restrict itself to fiscal and Constitutional issues of leaner and smaller government.
As a die-hard tea partier, several inroads were made with support of those who will now make up a walk-out proof Indiana General Assembly, plus Governor-elect Mike Pence. TP backed Jackie Walorski is taking Donnelly's seat in Congress. The high profile Senate race favoring Mourdock was a loss for reasons too numerous to recite, but one of the lessons is that you don't let social issues hijack your fiscal message and you don't let the GOP hijack your candidate. Then again, you also cannot stop a candidate from falling on his own sword. The TP does not spend time bemoaning losses.
Nationally, Allen West lost in Florida to redistricting and Scott Brown lost to a popular lesbian liberal from Massachusetts. However, TP favorite & Hispanic Ted Cruz from Tx. among others replace those in Congress and Michelle Bachmann re-elected from very liberal Minnesota.
Tea Party bashing is a fruitless endeavor because it adds nothing to the conversation. They do better in off-years like 2010 and upcoming 2014.

artfuggins said...

The Republican party is a coalition??? Is it a coalition of one group of old white men with yet another group of old white men?

Jon E. Easter said...

Be fair. Carson qualified his statement with "some".

Bill said...

Paul, Several inroads were made? are you kidding me. You publicly destroyed a great call that an inroad. I call that the worst move in political history. Inroads..? Really.

The TEa Party took the conservative movement back five years

Your party of hate is toast.

No one of any right mind will donate a penny to your craziness. Without out money you won't be able to by yard signs and have anymore sign waves in Westfield.

Melyssa said...

Bill, to be fair the Democrat party could also be called the party of "hate". I've been on the receiving end of their hate publicly more than once.

Democrats have called me a whore and a tea bagger. Yelled it at me in public. Said it on blogs, etc.

Please get real.

The truth of the matter is that both parties work against the interest of the people and serve the same corporate masters.

If you are too blind to see that, then I pray you will awaken.

Both Occupy and the Tea Party movement started as legit non-partisan movements and were hijacked by the two parties.

Then tactics in the media were used to make Occupy people demonize Tea Party folks and vice versa.

In the end, the corporate masters of the political puppets win if they divide America.

They are winning. And you are playing right into their hands with your rhetoric.

We can only win by waking up and uniting.

patriot paul said...

As I said in my comment, we are accustomed to your rhetoric, and it does not faze us. We move ahead. Have a blessed day.

Bill said...

Ummm Paul..your own party wants noting to do with you any longer.Pence ran as away as he could from your poison.

"The TP. remains unaffected from criticisms of it's detractors, including establishment Republicans, because once you consider some of those sources and their agenda, you learn it's a fact of life and continue with the message of fiscal accountability regardless of party."

Fiscal accountability yes..spewing hate and treating a sitting United States senator like an animal no.

.and thats why you have been politically neutered.

Blog Admin said...

Bill, when did Paul "spew hate" and "treat [Lugar] like an animal"?

Pete Boggs said...

The establishment, holding both a knife & catatonic stare, fixed beyond principle on a distant shiny object, neutered itself.

The Tea Party continues to be an answer, to the swivel headed distractions of self serving politicians. Considering their mission is one of liberty, it's the mischaracterization of Tea Party folks that's hateful... an odd preoccupation...

Melyssa said...

I've never seen the hate Bill speaks of coming from the tea party toward Lugar. I attended Mourdock's press conference announcing his candidacy.

He lauded Lugar for his service in a very respectful way and stated why he deserved our votes.

The tea party rightfully went after Lugar for his participation in the bailouts. They also rightfully went after him for declaring on official voting registration a false address.

I'd hardly call that hate. Factually, it is calling out the misdeeds of a sitting senator. And it is the public's right to do so.

Jeff Cox said...


The national Tea Party movement started with Santelli's rant in 2009. While Ballard's election in 2007 shared some elements with the later Tea Party, it was much more narrowly focused on taxes, while the national Tea Party is focused on taxes, spending and the proper role of government. National movements do not begin in Indianapolis.

Pete Boggs said...

Many gave voice to the Tea Party, but no one person "started" it. Santelli was indeed a voice joining a chorus of many...