The Official Website of Josh Gillespie

The Dichotomy of the Tea Party Movement

*The following was my opening monologue to start my internet radio show “Gillespie” airing Tuesdays at 7pm on FTRradio.com.  In case you miss the show I will be posting these here every Wednesday following the Tuesday show.*

On December 16th 1773, protestors in the British colonial capital of Boston decided that they’d had enough of the British Crown’s repeated attempts to increase taxes on it’s then-loyal subjects. They got so fed up that on that evening, a group of men boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 chests of tea overboard. The passion that was ignited that day helped to spark what became the American Revolution.

We’ve had over 230 years to debate and discuss the meaning behind the protest that literally shocked a nation and set the American Revolution on its course. Even so, many historians have continued to debate both the cause and the meaning of that day. I’m guessing it won’t take 230 years to decipher what this current version of the “tea party” is about or what its impact will be.

Basic economics (not to mention common sense) tells us that no government can function very long while spending more than it is taking in, at least if that government doesn’t want to become Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, in this country our own government under the leadership of both Republicans and Democrats has grown complacent about massive increases in spending and has blatantly ignored the coming day of reckoning. So, what’s a fed-up populace to do when faced with a coming fiscal calamity along with a political class which appears to ignore both the problem and the constituents it represents?

Why, throw another tea party, of course.

Despite the platform that the two major parties in this nation have, we’ve always had smaller parties pop up here and there, albeit with short lifespans and a limited impact in general.  Consider that since Teddy Roosevelt’s ill-fated presidential run in 1912 for the Bull Moose Party, no other third party has placed higher than second in a presidential election.  Yes, there has been no shortage of groups on each fringe who’ve felt that their views weren’t adequately represented and who then decided that forming their own party would have the most impact. Such a thing has gone on since the very first political parties were formed in our nation, over the strenuous objection of President George Washington.

On the right side of the spectrum we have our friends in the Libertarian Party, which has been in formal existence since 1972 or so. Since then they’ve elected….well, nobody really. With the exception of a few non-partisan elections and other states where fusion voting was in place, they’ve really not managed to get anyone elected in nearly 40 years of existence. While they will certainly argue that a significant percentage of Americans sympathize with their views, (heck, I’ll admit to having some “small” libertarian leanings) the fact of the matter is that they’ve been wholly ineffective as an actual political organization on almost every single level of elected government. I’m not trying to insult or demean anyone who is a member, including several of my good friends. It’s just simply a statement of fact.

But you see, that’s what makes this new movement so interesting and compelling for a political junkie like me and most likely, those of you listening: Here you have what appears to be a completely spontaneous collection of grassroots political activists who’ve somehow been able to come together, get organized, and become an incredibly effective political movement in this country.  And after just a couple of years in existence we are seeing self-identified tea party candidates all across the nation winning primaries and elections right off the bat, taking on and knocking off some of the so-called establishment in the process.

Yes, I know that the tea party movement isn’t an actual organized party, at least on the national level. If they were they wouldn’t be running in Republican primaries. But, wouldn’t you agree that this fact makes their existence and success that much more compelling regardless of how you may feel about some of their particular candidates?

Yet, therein lies the rub: while a number of legitimate and respectable candidates can trace their very existence to the support of local tea party groups, candidates such as Marco Rubio in Florida, Joe Miller in Alaska, Ken Buck in Colorado and Sharon Angle in Nevada for example, there are also a number of candidates who I would consider, shall we say are “slightly askew”, who’ve popped up on the scene as a result of this mad rush to take on the establishment. While I’m certainly not the one who’s been anointed to decide the legitimacy of any candidate (though I’m tempted to do so with Indiana 7th District Candidate Marvin Scott), I also admit to being a little uncomfortable with the background of several prominent tea party supported Republican candidates. I mean, how can we claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism when we heartily support a Senate candidate who can’t pay her own mortgage or student loans and has had no visible means of support for several years, as in the case of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware? Her frequent utterances regarding some social issues (including a word that won’t ever be mentioned on this show), a brief dalliance with witchcraft and an unwillingness to discuss her own biography are well below the standard I would expect from a potential U.S. Senator. While I’m certainly no fan of the type of Republican represented by Congressman Mike Castle, I struggle to muster any support for the flaky Miss O’Donnell either.  That said, because she in the GOP nominee in Delaware and I’m a “team player” I will support Miss O’Donnell in her race again the Democrat nominee, Chris Coons.

But on top of that is the concern I have with what appears to be a lack of political sophistication on the part of my tea party friends. They immediately embraced a little-known, pickup-driving State Senator in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts who was running the ultimate underdog campaign in an attempt to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate. Scott Brown rather masterfully accepted the mantle of a hero fighting the dark forces of liberalism, when in reality his voting record in the State Senate (and in D.C. since being elected) has been one of a moderate Republican, one quite at home in the northeast but not what you would expect to come from the ranks of the tea party movement. While I certainly can’t fault Senator Brown for skillfully using the movement to propel himself into a Senate seat, I do question why tea party supporters willingly overlooked a fairly moderate voting record and views in Brown’s case, yet accepted the kookiness of Christine O’Donnell simply because she said the right things and became a friend of Sarah Palin?

The flip side of all of this is that I personally think the tea party was needed, at least as a sort of barometer for the current direction of the Republican Party. We as a party are directly responsible for the election of Barack Obama as president, having lost credibility with American voters. We became a party that was addicted to simply being in office and having the power associated with it and the voters rightfully called us on it. The four year term of President Obama is a consequence of that.

I’ll leave you with this thought: a political party will lose its way as soon as it begins to try to fit all of the needs of all of the voters, this so-called “big-tent” theory. Doing so will cause it to lose focus and direction, and ultimately the trust of the voters.

But don’t take my word for it, take Ronald Reagan’s, who said, “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers”.“A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.” — “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.” — “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.” “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.”“A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.”“A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.”“A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.”

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

www.joshgillespie.com