| | | | | | The “Weak” Tea Party Movement Curt D. Collins Bellevue University Professor Wright EN102-T301 Composition II October 13, 2012 The “Weak” Tea Party Movement On Feb. 19, 2009, about a month after President Barack Obama’s first day on the job, CNBC host Rick Santelli railed against the President’s proposed bank bailout and stimulus package on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange calling it an effort to help those who did not, or could not, help themselves (Tea Party Movement, 2012).
Santelli sanctioned “another tea party” similar to the American Revolution movement of the same name, and almost immediately, the movement gained momentum. By autumn, hundreds of Tea Party groups organized efforts in every state (Tea Party Movement, 2012). A year later, the movement influenced Republican party politics in the 2010 congressional elections (Tea Party Movement Evolves, 2012). With all the hype and candidate activities grabbing headlines for the past two years, the Tea Party Movement has fallen back to the shadows of the alleys that seldom get noticed.
The goals of the movement initially were to remove Republican Party officials who were not living up to the conservative standards adopted by the movement and stop the Democratic economic policy supporters from carrying out the bailout plan. Although the Tea Party Movement was effective in 2009 and 2010 at trying to accomplish it’s goals, the lack of a substantive spokesman, little to not political pull, and sporadic support has watered down the efforts of the movement to an almost complete halt in 2012. Therefore, the Tea Partiers have lost their chance to evoke change in the government. Since the Tea Party Movement ideals do not support the President’s party, Democrats view the movement as a road block to progressing the current administration’s plans for economic recovery. Conservative thinkers, on the other hand, see the Tea Partiers as throw back hardliners who will stop at nothing to achieve the success that comes with defeating the Democrats in elections, passing an economic strategy that supports a more conservative framework, and purging the Republican party of so called conservatives that really don’t practice what they preach.
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This kind of focus and drive is a good thing. The founding of the United States of America is based on the idea that we all have the right to speak out against the current government. Conflict is healthy. With conflict comes resolution. The resolution brings a new idea that best suites the situation. Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology Harvard University, cites three main forces behind the movement’s success: “grassroots activism, funding from wealthy conservative advocacy groups, and publicity from right-leaning broadcasters” (Skopcol and Williamson, 2012).
The movement has all the ingredients of becoming a very viable and valid contender for fighting the good fight, according to some. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, stated the following in a July 29, 2010 interview with Newsmax. tv:"First of all, I think the Republican Tea Party will beat the Democratic Socialist Party... Second, I like the Tea Party movement... I think the Tea Partiers I meet with around the country... re serious people studying the Constitution, trying to find a way to get back to balanced, limited government with balanced budgets and with much less power in Washington, and I approve of their general direction. " July 29, 2010| The key point to take away from Gingrich’s statement is that the Tea Party is trying, without success, to invoke principles that have do not have widespread appeal. In cases like this, a spokesman for the Party Movement would be most beneficial.
Rick Santorum, former US Senator (R-PA), stated the following during the June 13, 2011 CNN Republican presidential debate in Manchester, NH, available on CNN. com: | "I think the Tea Party is a great backstop for America. I love it when people hold up this Constitution and say we have to live by what our founders laid out for this country. It is absolutely essential that we have that backbone to the Republican Party going into this election. " June 13, 2011 | Although Santorum supports the ideas the Tea Party Movement endorses, he does not support the movement.
Tea Partiers fight for what is theirs. Most are older citizens that rely on Social Security and Medicare, two things that the Democratic economic strategy will substantially reduce fiscally. “They think that government spending is OK as long as it’s for people who’ve worked all their lives and earned the benefits,” Skocpol said. “They speak of themselves as hard-working Americans who deserve all they’re getting from society. ” The Tea Party Movement does not support programs like Pell Grants, food stamps, and Medicaide.
In general, the movement members do not feel an obligation to support groups like immigrants, people of color, and young people. Opposition from these groups has contributed greatly to the demise of support for the Tea Party Movement. The mantra for Tea Partiers is that of a generation who worked hard for the benefits that they currently have and damned be anyone who tries to “steal” from that pot (Skopcol and Williamson, 2012). This ideology is slowly turning away a whole generation.
Without support from these less mature individuals, the party is losing popularity, fast. The beginnings of the movement may have be admirable, however, its growth and victories are a result of donations from conservative groups and exposure due to making headlines (Skopcol and Williamson, 2012). “Conservative political action committees saw a good thing erupt in 2009, and joined with right-wing media leaders in cheerleading, pushing, leveraging the grassroots protesters to effect change within the Republican Party,” Skocpol said. Their goal was to move the GOP further to the right in policy terms, and to prevent moderates from getting elected, and from compromising with Democrats if they got there. The right-wing media helped to give scattered protesters and groups the sense that they were in something big together and could affect national politics. ” Although Republicans benefitted from Tea Party influence by achieving electoral success in 2010 and may again in 2012, Skocpol says that the movement creates major problems for the Republican Party as the years go on (Skopcol and Williamson, 2012).
One of the problems being that the popularity of the movement might polarize supporters, therefore, the support will die in order to facilitate “acceptance” in the party as a whole. The more likely result is that Tea Party supporters will come into the fold of the Republican Party, abandoning the ideals and issues once fought for strongly by the movement. Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, stated the following during the NBC News/Politico Republican presidential debate held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA on Sep. , 2011, available at NYTimes. com:| “I believe in a lot of what the Tea Party believes in. The Tea Party believes that government's too big, taxing too much, and that we ought to get -- get to the work of getting Americans to work. So I put together a plan with a whole series of points of how we can get America's economy going again. Tea Party people like that. So if the Tea Party is for keeping government small and spending down, and helping us create jobs, then, hey, I'm for the Tea Party. ” Sep. 7, 2011|
The real Tea Party Movement is not a political party. How can a movement endorse anybody? It can’t. This is a big factor for why interest and momentum is dwindling with the movement. One reason for the lack of leadership: Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum have each taken political and economic contrary stands on issues that the Tea Party Movement supported. Gingrich and Romney both supported a bank bailout in 2008, as well as supporting health insurance incentives years earlier (Skopcol and Williamson, 2012).
Santorum, the most conservative of the three, voted against several projects that received Tea Party support during his time in the Senate (Skopcol and Williamson, 2012). Looking more like a senior citizens brigade than a force to be reckoned with in the political arena, the Tea Party Movement is waning. “The Tea Party movement is dead. It’s gone,” says Chris Littleton, the cofounder of the Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of Tea Party groups in Ohio (The Tea Party Movement Evolves, 2012). I think largely the Tea Party is irrelevant in the primaries. They aren’t passionate about any of the candidates, and if they are passionate, they’re for Ron Paul. ” Ron Paul has no support from any party and is not considered to be a contender for the office of the President. The Tea Party Movement will not influence government as long as it continues to repel support of minority groups, cling to issues that affect only a fraction of the population, and fail at choosing a spokesperson who can be rallied around to act as effective leader for the group.
References Skocpol, T. , and Williamson, V. , (2012). The Tea Party and the Remaking of an Conservatism. Oxford; New York: Oxford UP. Print. Tea Party Movement. (2012). In The New York Times. Retrieved from http://topics. nytimes. com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/t/tea_party_movement/index. html Barrow, W. , (2012). Tea Party Movement Evolves, Achieves State Policy Victories. (2012). In Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www. huffingtonpost. com/2012/08/12/tea-party-movement_n_1770452. html
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