• Grassroots populist movement could become major force
By Victor Thorn
Lower taxes, smaller government and a return to our Founding Fathers’ vision of the Constitution: In a nutshell, these fundamental principles describe the tea party’s goals. Despite its simplicity, a great deal of confusion still seems to surround what began as a grassroots political movement. So, to set the record straight, AMERICAN FREE PRESS takes a close look at this recent phenomenon in this week’s centerspread.
Some say the “tea party” developed out of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, while others point to a reaction against the tax-and-spend redistribution of wealth policies epitomized by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. A third perspective cites the movement’s name as a key to its origin: Taxed Enough Already (TEA).
But most conventional wisdom zeroes in on a specific moment when the seed was planted. During a February 19, 2009 broadcast on cable news network CNBC, financial analyst Rick Santelli experienced an on-air meltdown where he criticized the government’s subsidization of underwater mortgages. As a consequence, he urged those at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to form a tea party and dump their stocks in the river.
Inspired by Santelli’s passion, an eclectic array of tea party groups formed around the country. Highly decentralized, these organizations brought together libertarians, fiscal conservatives, Ron Paul supporters, anti-globalists, and those opposing illegal immigration and bailouts for the Wall Street banking cartel.
Within a year, those who loosely organized at local town hall meetings assumed a more cohesive shape under groups such as Tea Party Patriots, the 9-12 Project, Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Nation, and the 1776 Tea Party. Although they didn’t possess a rigid monolithic structure like the Democrats or Republicans, tea partiers largely agreed on a number of issues, including an audit of the Federal Reserve, repealing Obamacare, rejection of the radically environmental cap-and-trade legislation, passage of a balanced budget amendment, limiting regulation that impeded free markets, and a reduction to the size of Washington’s bloated framework.
Initially dismissed by the mainstream media, during the 2010 midterm elections tea party-led GOP candidates made historic gains in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Bewildered by these results, network news anchors and talking heads began targeting this political force with a vengeance, often using vulgar and derogatory names to describe them. Most notably, CNN’s Anderson Cooper derogatorily referred to these individuals as “tea baggers.”
While opponents continued vilifying tea partiers, they failed to acknowledge their populist-oriented roots. Namely, the tea party champions Main Street free enterprise over Wall Street greed or the policies of bloated bureaucrats on Capitol Hill. In this sense, one of the tea party’s largest victories occurred last July when Texan Ted Cruz defeated GOP establishment career politician David Dewhurst in a primary runoff. Notably, Cruz’s wife once belonged to a Council on Foreign Relations task force and served under Condoleezza Rice in the Bush White House. She also worked at Goldman Sachs and as an investment banker at JPMorgan Chase.
The co-opting of Cruz’s candidacy symbolizes a major problem within this movement, as the primary concern of everyday tea partiers revolves around decreasing the scope and breadth of government. In contrast to the Moral Majority and foreign policy obsessed neocons, tea partiers are largely libertarian in nature. As such, don’t expect them to engage in culture wars (i.e. abortion and gay marriage) or spend their time pushing for foreign wars that benefit Israel. Rather, they view the federal government as an out-of-control beast that functions on increased taxation, wasteful spending, and the fiscally disastrous practice of borrowing trillions of dollars to keep big government running.
Tea Party Goes RINO Hunting
• True tea party conservatives at odds with liberal types in GOP
By Victor Thorn
The Republican Party is in disarray, with a civil war brewing between the tea party and status quo big government neocon-oriented GOP members known as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).
On January 2 AMERICAN FREE PRESS spoke with John Stahl, who recently quit the Berks, Pennsylvania tea party. When asked about this schism within the GOP, Stahl began, “If you’re willing to print the truth, Republican leadership has been taken over by the same forces that manipulate the Democratic Party. Right now it’s only a matter of degrees differentiating them. Democrats will take us over the cliff at 200 mph, while Republicans will do it at 100 mph. Progressives infiltrated the GOP years ago.”
When AFP specifically inquired about these culprits, Stahl explained, “Northeast liberals like the Bush family still control the Republicans. They have ties all the way back to John D. Rockefeller, and today they tell John Boehner and Mitch McConnell what to do.”
Indeed, in September 2012 House Speaker John Boehner banished four tea party members from influential posts. One of the purged legislators, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, complained about this reign of terror. “It’s petty, it’s vindictive, and if you have any conservative principles you’ll be punished for it.”
Another example of the GOP eating their own occurred when FreedomWorks, a group loyal to the tea party, ditched former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a RINO, as its chairman. Similarly, Karl Rove—a longtime Bush affiliate—has received a great deal of criticism for being an “Astroturf Republican,” a slang term used to describe fake grassroots tea partiers.
Disillusioned with the RINO’s failure to cut taxes, Stahl told AFP, “Right now, I’m telling Republicans to vote for Democrats. Since the GOP acts like Democrats anyway, after liberals implode the system we’ll finally see how awful things will be. Let’s just elect Democrats and let their party take us over the cliff.”
Stahl offered one final warning about GOP rising star Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “I saw him give foreign policy speeches before the Brookings Institute and CFR, and Rubio looked so uncomfortable that you could tell somebody else wrote his words for him. The people behind John Boehner are the same ones pulling Jeb Bush and Rubio’s strings for the next election.”
Fiscal Conservatives Miffed by Recent ‘Cliff’ Deal
• Tea party activists disappointed that government spending, deficit still out of control
By Victor Thorn
If the past is prologue, the tea party faithful are experiencing a great deal of anxiety following the recent vote to put off any definitive solutions for the so-called fiscal cliff. In particular, what was supposedly a debt reduction deal will ultimately add $4T to the deficit within a decade, not to mention $620B in new tax hikes. The 40:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts involves pork for Hollywood producers, NASCAR and green energy companies.
On January 2-3, AFP interviewed four different tea party members to gauge their reaction to the recent fiscal deal. John Tweedell of the East Texas Constitution Alliance stated, “I’m very disappointed with the GOP. They’re no better than Democrats because both are corrupt to the core. The fiscal cliff fiasco was a train wreck. When all the false budget items and unfunded mandates are added up, our actual debt is $220T. The government will implode if Congress and the President don’t act now. The only other alternative is bankruptcy.”
Tweedell continued, “It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if Obama and the Democrats keep printing money, it’ll get so worthless that people will say they don’t want our currently any longer.”
When asked about the fiscal cliff, Gus Metz of the Rains County, Texas Tea Party said, “It’s most unfortunate that Republicans caved again. There’s nobody in Washington that has any balls. They need to stand up and say we’re not going to keep doing things the same way we’ve always done them. It they don’t, the RINOs need to be replaced as soon as possible.”
Doug Kagan of the Nebraska Taxpayers Tea Party pointed his finger squarely at Democrats. “They want to move us toward European-style socialism with high taxes, lots of government regulations, and astronomical spending.”
Finally, Central Arizona Tea Party member Larry Nelson stressed, “The majority of our elected officials think government is the solution. But it’s not, and we’re facing a tough four years ahead of us under Obama, that’s for sure. Maybe things need to get a lot worse before people wake up and demand that they get better.”
Smear Campaign Against Patriots?
By Victor Thorn
To combat the tea party philosophy of less intrusiveness at the federal level, pro-big government opponents have utilized a strategy of ad hominem attacks, characterizing these individuals as violent and racist.
On January 2, AFP brought up this smear campaign during an interview with Rita Grace of the Culpepper, Virgina Constitutional Tea Party. “To my knowledge,” she began, “there haven’t been any examples of violence at tea party rallies. So, factually, the way the liberal mainstream media has portrayed us is factually wrong. The evidence speaks for itself, and they can’t corroborate these false accusations.”
Ms. Grace next introduced another element to this story. “I’ve organized many bus tours, and the only violence we’ve encountered came from the left when they threatened to send in their union thugs and bite off our fingers. All the tea partiers I’ve met at these peaceful gatherings have invested their time, money, families and lives to get this country back on a sound fiscal path. After a while, people saw our rallies and how every time afterward we cleaned up the grounds so that it looked like a church picnic. Compare that with what the left does.”
In her November 2, 2011 column on the Occupy Wall Street gatherings held at Zuccotti Park in New York, Lila Shapiro of The Huffington Post, a liberal online publication, provided a stark contrast. “There have been multiple incidents of assault, drug dealing and drug use, rape and attempted rape, according to conversations with numerous protesters. The problem, they say, is getting worse.”
In terms of racist allegations, Ms. Grace noted, “The tea party supports those who promote the values this country was founded upon regardless of their skin color. We stand behind [black politicians like] Allan West and Tim Scott. All I can do is quote Bishop E.W. Jackson, founder of The Exodus Faith Ministries. He said, ‘I’m not a black American, I’m a red white and blue American.’”
If you doubt this, attend a tea party rally.
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 30 books.