What to make of the Tea Party

Published 8:16 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There is no doubt that many of the anointed, political pundits and watchers throughout the land have been at a loss for a description of the recently born phenomenon known as the Tea Party movement.

In many ways, it defies description.

There are politicians who seem to be closely associated with the Tea Party. Sarah Palin comes to mind, as do Rand Paul in Kentucky, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada. These are just the big names that you might know. Hundreds of thousands all around country are weighing in on local issues as this loose coalition of concerned Americans is raising its voice.

Email newsletter signup

News organizations, like Fox News, and personalities like Glenn Beck are popular with the movement.

Most of the time the national Republican Party is mentioned as the one with closest affinity with the precepts of the Tea Party, but to be honest, there have been traditional Republicans who have been targeted by the movement for removal.

The fact is that there is no one person place, or thing that defines this uprising.

Or is there?

The name, Tea Party, of course, is one of the most recognizable from our colonial history. Every student of the American Revolution should know about that night in Boston Harbor in 1773. It really was one of the precipitating events of our War for Independence.

What happened?

Too much to explain here, but essentially it was a few people, less than 150, who decided to make a statement. There was the background of “taxation without representation,” which most of us remember. There was, also, the feeling that a government far away (England) should not have so much control over their affairs.

On Dec. 16, 1773, that small group of patriots boarded the three British East India Tea Company ships and dumped all the 342 chests of tea into the water. It was a boiling over of the pot that had been simmering for a long time. The British government felt that the act could not go unpunished and closed the Boston Harbor until reparations had been made.

Ironically, the event was not instantly dubbed the Boston Tea Party and there was reluctance to celebrate what many called an irresponsible act of the destruction of property. Most people referred to that night’s activities as the “destruction of the tea” and it was not until 1834 that historian Alfred Young spoke of the Boston Tea Party.

As we fast forward to our current political climate, I can see why many are calling the movement that was born last year by an almost spontaneous combustion of frustration a new Tea Party movement. Let me suggest a few similarities.

The first Tea Party had and the current one has a problem with taxes. The colonists, particularly, those of British background, knew that a part of the mother country’s constitution was that a person could not be taxed except through the consent of their representatives in Parliament. Since they had no representation in Parliament, they felt that they could not be taxed. Simply put “no taxation without representation.”

The current Tea Party has plenty to say about taxes in this country at this time. It’s not that taxes are unexpected. Any reasonable person understands that the services expected of an organized society has to pay the cost for those services. The problem is not the notion of taxes; it’s the amount and the wise use of those taxes. Plus, there could be the perception that it’s time to acknowledge that there are too many people who are taking from the system, yet putting nothing into the system.

An acronym is a word formed by the initial letters of a name. An IOU is an acronym for “I owe you.” The TEA in Tea Party is an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already.” Amen!

Most of the time when we think of taxes, our first thought is either the income tax many of us pay or the sales tax that everyone pays. However, when we think about all of the many hidden taxes that are included in the living experience, they are so pervasive.

We pay taxes on everything we buy. We pay property taxes if we have a house or car. We pay a fee (tax) to get a tag for the car. Taxes are added to our telephone bills, our cable bills, the gasoline that runs our automobiles. If we fly somewhere, there is a tax and when we get to where we fly, there is a tax on where we spend the night if it is in a hotel. It hasn’t always been that way.

The American public, at least those who are footing the bills are weary of all the taxes just like those colonists were. There is another similarity.

Those pre-United States of America colonists perceived a lack of connection with those who were making the political decisions regarding their lives. The British were over 3,000 miles away in distance and even further away in understanding.

This movement that burst onto the political scene last year might have begun over exorbitant taxes, but it is not solely based upon that one complaint. It’s not a one-note song.

The movement has accented the chasm that exists between the seat of the national government, the national media, and the common, everyday folk. The movement has been derided by those entities and that, in my opinion, has shown that they just don’t get it. In fact, they have tried to widen the divide instead of close it and that’s a shame.

I am not a member of a Tea Party, but I have enjoyed the challenge that they have presented to the establishment. I don’t believe that the established parties have figured them out yet. Maybe they haven’t figured themselves out yet, but they seem to care about this country. They may stump their toes and even say the wrong thing, but they have certainly made a boring political scene much more exciting. Nov. 2 will certainly be more interesting.