The Tea Party and Criticisms of Government

Posted on May 3, 2012

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As most people who watch the news and keep up with the decisions made by the government can attest, politics often become muddled in a game of pointing fingers rather than a presentation of cold, hard facts. As such, what most people tend to follow are the accusations that seem most credible, which often leads to influential figures losing their influence, prestige, credibility, and become a scapegoat for the issues at hand; and sometimes wrongly so. Political activists rise to the occasion of this ‘blame game’ and lead others in tearing down these individuals, often with very inaccurate or weak arguments. Among such activists are those of the recently manifested Taxed Enough Already Party; commonly known as just the Tea Party. A few of the arguments against the government and the current administration made by the Tea Party are sound; such as a call for a reduction in the size of government, less spending, and lower taxes. However, as with most political activists groups, some of the Tea Party’s accusations have grown from a plea for government reformations, to outlandish accusations.

Among the most common accusations of the current administration is that the new reformations being set in place, such as the Affordable Health Care Act, are moving American government towards a socialist regime. In an article written for News Busters, an online news organization, Robin Leach, former host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, was quoted as stating that it is “the president who is whipping up this racial war and economic divide, which he is doing quietly…[and] you begin to realize that level[ing] the playing field is truly socialism” (Sheppard). Eccentric allegations of this kind are not uncommon as the political playing field becomes more intense. As seen with past presidencies, the outcries of the public grow more bitter and distaste-oriented as national issues carry on without a viable solution provided by the government.

One such example of a president receiving the absolute distaste of the general public is Herbert Hoover, who took office at the start of the Great Depression. His presidency was defined by his handling of the economic crisis, which simply was a mishandling of government aid programs and underestimation of the consequences of the stock market crash. However, Hoover “has gone down in history as a totally uncaring chief executive who, while he presided over economic disaster, cared little about his fellow citizens, accepted the Great Depression as inevitable and something to simply be endured regardless of the level of suffering it caused, and who refused to do absolutely anything to alleviate the incredible suffering all around him for three and one-half long years” (Hughes). Though the exact opposite was true;Hoover“was one of two American Presidents to give away his salary. He anonymously donated $25,000 a year to aid victims of the Depression and raised $500,000 toward the 1930 White House Conference on Child Health and Welfare” (Walch, Smith). Despite his best efforts to curb the economic crisis and his selfless acts to help citizens,Hooverremained the scapegoat for the Great Depression; and with the dubbing of the shantytowns that formed in poor areas of the country as “Hoovervilles”, the public continued to display its ardent distaste for him.

As to why the public tends to focus on the negative of a presidency more than the positive, I find hard to understand. My American Government teacher in high school once said that even if the current administration wasn’t at fault for any of the issues at hand, they still get the blame. I can understand that to an extent, but it is when people begin to belittle the president and come up with radical accusations that I lose my understanding of politics. On occasion, when I read an article on Yahoo! News about Obama, the ensuing comments are always filled with such bitter, baseless hatred for him. As one user stated, “I can’t stomach Obama or the LEFTIE, COMMIE media…I wouldn’t watch that if it were the last thing on TV!” (Stableford). Apparently, two hundred and seventy-four people agreed with her, for it merited as many likes. Another user suggested, sarcastically, that one should “vote for Obama so he can put more Muslim of Brotherhood in positions of security, like he did with home land security” (Stableford). Well, in my opinion, if someone is going to belittle someone else, they should at least do it in a manner in which they sound remotely intelligent. Regardless, that comment earned one hundred and eighty-nine likes. What is more discerning for me is that people such as these have come together and formed syndicates of the widely influential Tea Party.

As though groups of these eccentric political activists weren’t enough, they are also endorsed by prominent political figures as well. Among such individuals is Michele Bachmann. While on a conservative talk radio show in Des Moines, Iowa, Bachmann received praise from a caller who went on an anti-Obama rant: “He was going to destroy the country, she said. He was a joke, she said, winding herself up, searching for something outrageous that no one had yet said about the President of the United States. Finally, she found it: ‘I would vote for Charles Manson before this guy’” (Klein 1). Bachmann’s response, as quoted in an article for Time, was simply, “Hey, thank you for saying that” (Klein 1). Even those who try to make an informative argument against the Obama Administration cannot help but throw in a derogative statement. In the book A New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution Against Bailouts, Handouts, Reckless Spending, and More Taxes, author John M. O’Hara starts off with a presentation of facts explaining how the nation arrived to where it is presently. However, when discussing the election of Obama, he states that “the straying of the Republican party following the elections of 1994 and 2000 tarnish the conservative movement and allow for the election of one of the most radical presidents our nation has ever seen” (36).  At some point, this game of pointing fingers and slandering good names becomes enough for even some members of the Tea Party to handle.

A Tea Party activist and subsequent leader of a Tea Party syndicate, the Tea Party Express, Mark Williams had carried the fanaticism too far. He “has denigrated Muslims for worshipping a ‘monkey god’ and dubbed President Obama an ‘Indonesian Muslim-turned-welfare thug and a racist-in-chief’” (Altman). The statement by Williams created uproar in the Tea Party’s many syndicate groups. Eventually, as the anger and disgust began to boil over, “an umbrella group called the National Tea Party Federation announced it had expelled Williams’ organization…for its refusal to rebuke him” (Altman). This is only one such example of the Tea Party’s effort to redeem itself in the wake of negative media exposure.

The cause of the Tea Party’s distasteful reputation has to do with the various syndicate groups, such as the Tea Party Express, that come out with derogative propaganda and the public’s misconception that groups such as these speak for the party as a whole (Altman). As Williams put it, “there is no tea party leadership or even a single tea party. There are millions of tea partiers involved in thousands of groups; every tea partier is a tea party leader” (qtd. in Altman). Though this lack of formal leadership is precisely what has earned the Tea Party a negative reputation with the media and public. As such, the National Tea Party Federation was formed to regulate the syndicate groups. David Webb, spokesman for the Federation, stated that “self policing is the right and the responsibility of any movement or organization” (qtd. in Altman). The Tea Party’s criticisms of government are based not on hatred and distaste, but on legitimate public concerns. However, “since its inception, the Tea Party movement has struggled to shed the perception that its members’ dislike of Obama is fueled by racism” (Altman). Without formal leadership and organization, rogue groups will continue to form and create bad reputations not only for those they criticize, but for themselves as well.

The Tea Party’s conservative nature is ultimately its downfall. The movement’s foundation lays on the decentralized structure in which it gained its influence and prestige; and its conservatism calls for keeping to the foundations on which it formed (Altman). This system of ethics has proven time and again to be counterproductive to the movement’s ultimate goal: calling for government reformations. If the Tea Party wishes to make a change in how our nation is being governed, the first step would have to be a change in how they govern themselves.

References

Altman, Alex. “Racism Rift Highlights Dilemma: Who Speaks for the Tea Party?”

Time. Time, 22 July 2010. Web. 1 May 2012.

Hughes, L. Patrick. “Herbert Hoover’s Tragic Presidency.”AustinCommunity College,

1999. Web. 28 April 2012.

Klein, Joe. “Stuck in the Middle.” Time. Time, 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 28 April 2012.

O’Hara, John M. A New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution against Bailouts,

            Handouts, Reckless Spending, and More Taxes.Hoboken. John Wiley & Sons,

2010. Print.

Sheppard, Noel. “Robin Leach: Obama is a ‘Socialist’ – He is ‘Whipping Up This Racial

War And This Economic Divide.’” News Busters. 18 April 2012. Web. 28 April 2012.

Smith, Richard Norton and Timothy Walch. “The Ordeal of Herbert Hoover.”

Archives.gov. National Archives. 2004. Web. 28 April 2012.

Stableford, Dylan. “WHCD: President Obama, Jimmy Kimmel skewer Secret Service,

WashingtonElite, each other.” News.Yahoo.com Yahoo! News, 28 April 2012.

Web. 28 April 2012.

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Posted in: Essays