Is it true though? Is The Tea Party The American Taliban? And, what does that even mean?
The Tea Party movement had its nebulous birth on December 16, 2007 at a presidential candidate Ron Paul event he titled "Boston Tea Party 07'". The movement's focus was, like its 234 year old counterpart, an expression of great dissatisfaction by mainly the working middle class and retired persons in America over the run-a-way spending and taxation being practiced, by the then King of England and today by both the Democrats and Republicans in the Congress.
Politicians, never ones to miss an opportunity to spoil a good and honest venture, soon came onboard with many of the more extreme right-leaning and lesser heard members of the Republican Party playing on the honestly-expressed frustrations of these sincere every-Americans. These politicos began expanding the movement's involvement in other areas of politics not directly related to the group's original intent. Within a short three years Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, with the help of the liberal press, had made herself the official spokesperson for the movement and organized The Tea Party Congressional Caucus. On July 4, 2010 the Caucus had swelled to an impressive 66 members including such notable names as Bachmann, Todd Akin, Allen West, Joe Wilson, Rand Paul and Jim DeMint. Other famous political pundits that have seen the advantage of climbing onboard The Tea Party bandwagon have been one time presidential candidate Herman Cain, Governor Sarah Palin and former Congressman Dick Armey.
When the movement began it gave voice to the concerns of real working and retired citizens. It gave them a legitimate outlet and voice of expression they had never experienced before in American history. They usually made their voice heard every two or four years in the voting booth but now they had a loosely aligned group of fellows to voice and share their concerns with. Their biggest concern being that of an overly bloated government that appeared to no longer be the least bit interested in their problems and one in which a fiscal budget was an apparant unsolvable mystery. This Tea Party was originally unaffiliated with any party and came into existence at a time when a Republican sat in the Oval Office. They were disappointed in then President George W. Bush's massive spending programs and stimulus packages that were later continued and expanded upon by President Obama. And, while religion was an important factor in the private lives of those claiming to be early members of the movement, it wasn't their centerpiece or its driving force. Taxation, spending and expanding government was the force that drove those in the first two years of The Tea Party movement.
What happened? What were the events or catalyst that took a honest ground-swell American grassroots movement and turned it into The Tea Party we see today? I believe the main events, the top reason The Tea Party abandoned its original premise as the populist megaphone for those needing a voice can be tied to two groups -- the ultra-left liberal media and the ultra-right conservative political machine.
First and foremost blame must go to the liberal media's unfounded phobic panic over the issues voiced by early members of The Tea Party and the liberal Democratic leadership egging on that fear-mongering media exploitation. The press in particular literally went out of their way to label and portray The Tea Party as radical, populated with unsavory characters, racists, nazis, haters and even terrorists. They exaggerated their stories about Tea Pary rallies, and in some cases outright fabricated tales passing them off as legitimate news. Instead of trying to get to the bottom of these American's frustrations and concerns, as any legitimate news organization should, overall the media shut them out of any kind of civil discourse or forum for debate and presented an inaccurate, unwholesome and Grimm-like fairy-tale portrayal of The Tea Party and many of its early members as monsters, when the reality was quite different.
How did those members respond? As most people do when under fire or attack. They huddled together, try to regroup, lost many of its original members who tired of being seen by an uninformed American public as something they weren't. They grew discouraged by a press who lied about them, showed them as disruptive while at the same time lauding praise on such real distructive movements like Occupy [place name here], calling them heroes after raping, burning and living in filth, while The Tea Party acted according to law and peacefully with great restraint. They saw a world turned upside down and many walked away in complete discouragement while others stood firm but in reaction began moving further and further to the right of their original program of lower taxes and smaller government. This shift allowed some Republican political opportunists mentioned earlier to come onboard giving the movement, now seen as a Party and a force for the more moderate Republicans to have to reckon with a different and stronger voice, not just in the street but now within the very halls of Congress and the entire political arena and fourth estate.
The Tea Party's war cry of lower taxes, smaller government and bringing Congress back to a time of working together to accomplish great things was replaced with defeat Obama at any price and do nothing in Congress to appease until we hold the majority in both houses. This new unrecognizable Tea Party was now the strong and bullying-pulpit of the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party forcing even the likes of war hero and moderate Republican Senator John McCain to abandon some of his principals just to court the favor of the new Tea Party within his State of Arizona to get re-elected.
Once the more ultra-right wing advocates gained prominence over the hijacked movement it no longer resembled the grassroots organization begun on that winter December day in 2007. Five years later it is now one of the biggest driving engines of the Republican Party just as the ultra-liberal left has been the engine driving the Democratic Party since the defeat of Al Gore by George W. Bush in the 2000 Presidential election.
What started out as a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals joined by a common cause and desire for a less intrusive government through over taxation and out-of-control spending has turned into a party within a Party; a group now more concerned with the defeat of one man, Barack Obama, than with the return of civility in government by negotiation, give and take compromise and legislative accomplishment that benefits the nation and not just a select few of government chosen winners and losers. By deeper reflection there is a hairsbreath difference between the liberal left's agenda and that of this new ultra-right Tea Party. Both view compromise as weakness and nothing short of all out defeat of the other as failure.
The end result of now having both major Parties inwardly controlled by the more radical elements on the left and right is a government still bloated, still over taxing its citizens but in all other important aspects is stagnant and in a continued stalemate that shows little chance of improvement regardless of which side wins the Congress or Oval Office this November.
In a sense, just as those within the far left of the Democratic Party have been labeled European Socialists, the tag American Taliban is as fitting for those on the ultra-right of the Republican Party that have kidnapped the hope once held within The Tea Party.
"Spock, you are a great one for logic. I tend to charge in where angels fear to tread. We are both extremists. The TRUTH is somewhere in between." Captain James T. Kirk