What is the Tea Party Movement?

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According to Andrews (73), creation of the Tea Party was inspired by leadership failures, as perceived by the people at the US grass roots. He notes that the leadership style of President Obama led to increased overall tax burden on the US citizens. Consequently, the party was formed to evaluate the President's mandate and push for good governance. Issues that are central to the party include limited government, a balanced federal budget, lower taxes and original interpretation of the US Constitution. Although Tea Party supporters claim that their belief in limited government is the uniting factor in the party, Baretto et al. (2) note that the supporters of this party appear to be united by something beyond this belief. They note that the party has reacted with great fear and anxiety to the demographic and social changes in the United States in the past years (Barreto et al. 2).

Dimaggio (10) observes that the Tea Party has successfully employed war of ideas in order to realize its goals. It has relied on a number of institutional forces including the mass media, business interest groups and the Republican Party in order to attain this victory. In 2010, it recorded a major electoral win in both Houses, trouncing Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike. The good performance was mostly a result of widespread support the party enjoys. The party has a membership of about three hundred thousand. The figure comprises individuals who have registered for membership with at least one of the Tea Party's national groups. Patriotic Party Action, Tea Party Nation, 1776 Tea Party and Tea Party Patriots, as well as Tea Party Express, are among the national Tea Party groups. Beyond individuals who have registered as party members, there are two more constituencies which are affiliated to the party. One group is an estimated 3 million people who have attended at least one rally organized by the party, purchased, or donated Tea Party literature. Another constituency consists of the party's sympathizers, which comprises of individuals who approve of the party. A research by the University of Washington in 2010 indicated that 63 million Americans, which translate to 27 percent of the adult population, strongly approve of the Tea Party (Barreto et al. 2).



According to Pease (90), the Tea Party movement emerged shortly after the inauguration of Barrack Obama as the American President. Pease notes that powerful republican lobbies bankrolled the Tea Party movement and Fox News played a crucial role in promoting the party. Members of the party included individuals suffered economic, as well as emotional losses, following the 9/11 attack and the financial meltdown. In particular, the Tea Party roots can be traced to December 2007 during the Boston Tea Party anniversary. During the anniversary supporters of Ron Paul held a "money comb", in order to raise funds for Paul in preparation for the 2008 presidential run (Barreto et al. 3).

Given his Libertarian beliefs, Paul was not considered as a mainstream Republican, while he was campaigning for Republican nomination; he failed to clinch the ticket. However, he has embraced the Tea Party and has spoken in a number of rallies organized by the party around America since the party's inception. Of note, the party did not emerge during the campaign; rather, the Tea Party emerged following the election of Barrack Obama. The Boston Tea Party Chicago was created in December 2008 by the Libertarian Party of Illinois. The party was created to protest for reduced government spending and lower taxes. Dave brandy, the founder of The Boston Tea Party Chicago, later revealed that it gave Rick Santelli, a CNBC on-air editor, the ideas that proved handy in the initiation of the Tax Day Tea Parties. This move marked a sudden increase of the impact of the Tea Party on the national political landscape (Barreto et al. 3).

The Tea Party claims to be united by the belief that the United States is exceptional with regards to its legal and governmental structure that is quite unique. Since the country is exceptional, the Tea Party Movement believes that its qualities are worth preserving and promoting (Foley, 6). In essence, the difference in understanding of America exceptionalism is the reason behind much of the current United States political division. According to the political left, exceptionalism means that the United States is "better" than the rest of the world. On the contrary, the political right believes that America is just different; therefore, it is worth preserving and defending (7).

Foley (7) observes that the Tea Party embraces the political left definition of exceptionalism. Its members believe that American exceptionalism is useful in protecting foundational American principles from a culture of political correctness. The Tea Party insists that the political correctness is an open attack on foundational American principles. Therefore, it is a problem for the country Supporters of the Tea Party, who insist that America is constantly moving down the wrong track. Consequently, the party is united with likeminded Americans in the fearless query, "What happened to the America I grew up in?" This assertion explains why the party advocates for "old-fashioned" American principles. I agree with Pease who notes that the Tea Party's perception of change has greatly influenced their understanding of exceptionalism. Its supporters interpret cultural change and economic setbacks from the stand point of the loss of Real America. Such interpretation is a result of the supporters' allegiance to economic, military, as well as cultural American exceptionalism (Pease 90).

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However, Parker (190) argues that the Tea Party comprises ideological elements that do not reflect the mainstream America political thought. I agree with Parker's argument that is contrary to the Tea Party's assertion that their beliefs take into consideration the plea of Americans at the grass roots. The fact is that the sympathizers of the Tea Party harbor negative views towards all types of minority groups in the United States. Seemingly, members of the party are reluctant to acknowledge equality claims that are made by certain groups. Such groups are perceived to somehow deviate from the American norm as represented by the Tea party. Arguably, the rejection of these minority groups by members of the Tea Party does not entirely depend on politics, preference to anti-egalitarian practices, ideology or even desire for conformity. Rather, the rejection of such groups is based on fear and anxiety.

According to Parker (191), President Barrack Obama is the Party's main target and Chief Antagonist. Being the first black American president, the election of President Obama brought about an important change in the America history. To some extent, support for the Tea Party is a reaction to Obama presidency. Before Obama could stay in the office for more than three months, following his election, "Tax-Day" Tea Party events had successfully been conducted in not less than 750 cities across the United States. However, it appears that the issue of taxes was just to give the protest "acceptable" public image.

Obama's rise to the White House made supporters of the Tea Party believe that the United States is quickly escaping from them. They perceived this development as tangible evidence that their country was quickly becoming unrecognizable. Although, the supporters rallied against an expanding of federal government and government spending, it is evident that their underlying frustration was with Obama himself. Barrack Obama was perceived as a Muslim -Kenyan, and an-American - among other forms of reference. Any president, even Obama's predecessors, is bound to face policy criticism as a result of policy disputes. Nonetheless, Obama's case is unique. The criticisms against him seem to transcend simple disagreement over policies. On several occasions, many Tea Party supporters and sympathizers have openly questioned the Obama's patriotism, as well as his American citizenship. Such emotional responses emanate from supporters of the Tea Party who believe that Obama is out to destroy the exceptional country (Parker 191).

Rucker & Myadze (6) note that the Tea Party has been working together with the Congressional Republicans to make President Obama's task difficult as a result of their contempt towards him. The party's commitment to frustrating the president is apparent in their attempts to obstruct almost everything that President Obama tries to do (Freeman 78). The Party also claims that President Obama's leadership has increased the size of the government. On the contrary, Formisanon (12) observes that the increase in the size of the federal government began in the mid-twentieth century. He notes that this growth has taken place under Republican and Democratic Presidents, as well as Congresses from either party. Therefore, I believe that the fervent attack on President Obama for the size of the government is not sincere.

The Tea Party members believe that their homeland was fundamentally coherent, autonomous, as well as unified national space. Hence, any interruptions to the national order can only emanate from foreign agents such as the liberal elites who have infiltrated the ruling class. The party strongly condemns President Obama for failing to provide security across the nation. It portrays President Obama a representative of the liberal elite. The president, they insist, poses a threat to the American fundamental way of life. In order to make their sympathizers understand the depth of the challenges facing the nation, the Tea Party has employed mass fears to attack elite attitudes. It has managed to link economic policies to American security, thereby constructing core issues in the new consensus. In order to show that America is under attack, the party has constructed an imaginary outside figure to embody some of the utmost threats facing the national order (Pease 91).

Barreto et al. (2) note that some of the elements in the Tea Party include the White racists who express hostility toward Blacks and Latinos. In addition, the supporters of the Tea Party hold strong out-group resentment, especially towards gays, lesbians and immigrants. They out-rightly oppose diversity and immigration. Occasionally, the racial antagonism that characterizes the Tea Party is coupled with some sense of economic threat. They hold the reasoning that the American middle-class is currently facing economic challenges partly due to the government's attention to the poor minorities. They believe that the latter takes advantage of government programs and receive an unfair amount of assistance from a government which they believe squelches business. In 2010, the Tea Party was charged with promoting racism by the NAACP. Mark Williams, Tea Party Express leader, has been chastised by other party officials of penning an excessively racist letter.

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Tea Party's resentment towards the poor was explicitly expressed by Santelli on February 19, 2009 on the Floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He out-rightly rejected Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, which was signed into law by the President on February 17, 2009. Essentially, the plan was designed to provide relief to mortgage holders. Santelli told the traders on the floor that President Obama was "promoting bad behavior" in America by subsidizing the losers' mortgages. While addressing the charged traders, Santelli shouted, "This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay for their bills? Raise their [sic] hand" (Rosenthal & Trost 10)! According to Santelli, what was going on in America was not right and could perhaps make the forefathers such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson "roll over their graves" (Rosenthal & Trost 10).

Tea Party activists were involved in the making of the Arizona state statute SB1070, which apparently targeted Latinos for racial profiling. In Addition, the activists are best known for the numerous caricatures of President Barrack Obama. The caricatures depict the President as a primate, modern-day Hitler, African "witch-doctor" among other things. In addition, the Tea Party sympathizers have constantly referred to President Obama as a socialist. A research conducted by Democracy Corps indicated that 90 percent of supporters of the Tea Party believe Barrack Obama to be a socialist. Consequently, they view President Obama as the defining and motivating threat to America and its well being. The apparent intolerance of the Tea Party movement can partly be explained by the party's harboring of individuals who are part of the white nationalist groups (Barreto et al. 3).

Though the general support the Tea Parties receive from American citizens is declining, their opposition to Obama has continued to be felt. A national Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted in October 2013, found out that 46% of all Americans were still in support of the Tea Party movement. This was down by 11% of what had been recorded in May the same year, and the lowest in three years. The diminishing popularity has not affected the effect of the movement as far as its impact on the country's policies is concerned. The same poll found out that the Party had managed to divide the Republicans over the recent shutdown of the federal government. In Virginia, where the movement had much effect, out of any 10 republicans, 7 blamed Obama for the shutdown of the federal government. Even though it can also be argued that those who were not members of the Tea Party also associated the shutdown with the President's failure, this group (the non-Tea Party supporters) blamed both the President and the Republicans equally (Barreto et al. 3).

A case in study can be the recent move by the Tea Party to join together with various labor unions to consolidate their opposition against the President's trade agenda. The two parties have been known to be real enemies and uniting merely to defeat Obama's trade agenda speaks much for itself. The two groups have been known to take totally different stands on policy issues. This was witnessed with tax policies, the Obamacare, as well as during any debate on the preferred person for the next presidency (Barreto et al. 4).

The Tea Party claims to believe in lower taxes, more fiscal responsibility, a reduced role for the federal government and free market among others. Essentially, these demands are core conservative and are aimed at facilitating the traditional American political culture. The Party considers those who are committed to these values as patriotic. It is clear that the Tea Party's perception of what the Real America should be isolated them as a partially organized social grouping. Members of the party felt that they were insufficiently represented with both mainstream political parties. Thus, they decided to form a new political block in order to articulate their ideas. Superficially, the Party's activities and beliefs appear to be for the good of American Citizens. However, this has not been the case in actuality. On contrary, the Tea Party's unity and activities have been sustained by its contempt for President Barrack Obama and detestation of minority groups.

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