Inside the Tea Party Movement
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I’m in a Tea Party State of Mind

By Jessica Chasmar (8/17/11)

“I bought the groceries and kept the kitchen stocked,” said Laurie Newsom, “but the kids make their own lunch. If they forgot their lunch, they didn’t get lunch.”

It was this parenting structure that Newsom — wife and mother of four, an ophthalmology clinic owner and the president of the Gainesville Tea Party — believes gave her children a sense of personal responsibility at a very young age and made them the successful professionals they are today.

Newsom is not your run-of-the-mill, stay-at-home, June Cleaver mom. She was very hands off, letting her kids make their own decisions. They eventually learned responsibility and accountability through trial-and-error. It’s this type of mentality that Newsom believes most young people in the United States have lost, and it’s the same mentality that she, as president of the local Tea Party, is trying to bring back.

“The Tea Party is really best described like what our chair of the Alachua County Republican Party describes it as: It’s a ‘state of mind,’” she said.

It’s a “state of mind” because the Tea Party invites everyone who shares the same values — free markets, limited government and fiscal responsibility — to have a voice in politics.

“We’ve had a variety of conservative Democrats switch into the Republican Party,” Newsom said. “Libertarians face a problem because of the social issues. The Republicans need to understand that those issues have their roots in individual freedom. We’re trying to bridge that gap by saying that our values have nothing to do with social issues.”

Newsom believes that if you have a limited government, then you have an opportunity to make your own decisions on those social issues.

“We don’t care about abortion,” she said. “It’s none of the government’s business. See, we’re not fringe, yet we’ve been perceived that way. The Republicans are the ones who are fringe Right when it comes to social issues. It hasn’t been Tea Party people up there promoting pro-life. We won’t even go there.”

Newsom doesn’t want the Republican Party denigrating Tea Partiers as fringe. Not only is it inaccurate, she said, but conservatives can’t afford the rift. It’s her responsibility, as president, to advise against voting for a third-party candidate or a libertarian candidate, such as Ron Paul. Newsom supports and admires Ron Paul, but she agrees that a vote for him is a vote for President Obama — a vote she isn’t willing to make.

“We need to vote for people that we can actually envision sitting in that seat,” she said. “I really am a libertarian, but I’m also a pragmatist.”

She also agrees with many Tea Partiers that I’ve interviewed in the past that a vote for Mitt Romney is not a vote for him, but much more a vote against Obama.

“When McCain won the nomination, it was obvious there was a push from the left because they knew he would lose,” she said. “That’s why the media are pushing Romney. He’s the Democratic choice for a Republican candidate. Romney is not a good candidate. He will lose.”

GOP candidate Herman Cain is Newsom’s favorite at this point. Cain attended more than 40 Tea Party rallies last year, including one that Newsom attended. Minn. Rep. Michelle Bachmann is her second-in-line, but she also believes that electability and name recognition are working against both candidates.

Newsom never meddled in her kids’ lives. She never made their decisions for them. She never bothered with telling them what courses to take. She never told them what they could and could not pack in their lunches. She simply expected them to do their job appropriate for whatever age they were, and if they didn’t perform at that level, they faced the consequences. Her laissez-faire parenting produced a doctor, a lawyer and two successful businesswomen. It was that type of individual choice and responsibility that she used in her parenting that translates into how she feels about the public education system.

“Government should not be in the education business, period,” she said. “Compulsory schooling is not conducive to individual freedom. If they can’t afford to educate their children, they shouldn’t be having them. If they have them, they have to face the consequences of raising them.”

She believes that parents don’t feel the responsibility now to take care of their own children, because the government has safety nets in place for them. In her opinion, there’s nothing more optional than childbearing, and education is not a right for any American.

It might be a hard thing for people to understand: Education that’s not free? But the truth is, we have lost a sense of personal responsibility. If we, as Americans, knew that we had no one else to depend on other than ourselves and ourselves only, can’t it be assumed that we would make different choices? After my interview with Newsom, I couldn’t help but wonder: Where does government responsibility end and personal accountability begin? What happened to the individual liberty that our Founding Fathers intended for us, and how do we get it back?

“No matter what Obama or [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi say, we are Americans,” Newsom said. “We are different from any other group of people. We still have gazillions of people, be it from Germany all the way down to your third world countries, who want to be here. It’s not just because we have iPods, it’s because we’re us. You can see the difference. The Tea Party has showcased that ‘exceptionalism.’”

A Brief History Lesson: Did the Tea Partiers Get it Right?

By Jessica Chasmar (7/27/11)

The Tea Party Movement got its name from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, but it’s important to understand our history in order to accurately interpret the movement’s platform and goals. As is the case with most historic events, there are several different accounts of how the Boston Tea Party actually occurred and how it is to be interpreted. What follows is a brief summary of that event according to Eyewitness to History, Boston-Tea-Party.org and Benjamin Carp’s “Boston Tea Party” in the 2006 Encyclopedia of the New American Nation.

The Boston Tea Party of 1773 occurred in response to the rising financial crisis of the British East India Company, but more importantly, it was in protest to the “taxation without representation” by the Parliament on the British American colonies.

Parliament passed the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 in hopes of offsetting the revenue lost due to the ongoing smuggling of Dutch tea. The act levied a new tax on several commodities, British tea included, but instead of the tea tax solving the smuggling problem, it renewed a controversy about Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.

Whig colonists began to boycott the goods and protest against the taxes. Parliament was forced to repeal the Townshend taxes in 1770, but it kept the tax on tea. In 1772, Parliament passed the Tea Act that actually lowered the tax on tea that was imported into Britain, however it kept the tea taxes that were imported into the colonies the same.

In 1773, four ships carrying East India Company tea were sent to Boston, and one ship each were bound for New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. Opposition to the Tea Act began to mobilize the Americans colonists. Protestors of every colony except Massachusetts, where Gov. Thomas Hutchinson had convinced the tea consignees not to back down, were able to successfully turn the ships back to England.

After the tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor, Samuel Adams called for a meeting on Nov. 29, 1773, in which thousands of colonists arrived. Where British law required the ship to unload and pay its taxes within 20 days, the mass meeting passed a resolution urging the captain of the Dartmouth to send the ship back without paying the taxes.

Gov. Hutchinson shot down the resolution, and two more tea ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor. On the last day of the Dartmouth's deadline, roughly 5,000 people gathered around the Old South Meeting House where it had met before. After receiving a report that Gov. Hutchinson had again refused to let the ships leave, people poured out of the meeting house and headed to the harbor. That evening, a group of as little as 30 or as many as 200 men, some dressed as Mohawk Indians, boarded the vessels and dumped all 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor.

A common misconception about the original Boston Tea Party is that it was a protest of high taxes, but the price of tea was actually reduced by the Tea Act of 1773. The Boston Tea Party was instead a response to the extent of Parliament’s authority on the colonies, including the right to tax on goods, without giving the colonies any representation in the legislature.

A modern-day Tea Partier would most likely argue that today’s American federal government and the 18th century British Parliament are comparable. There is an overwhelming pushback by Tea Partiers on what they see as an overreaching government into their personal lives, and they see rising taxes as damaging to their quality of life. However, while the Founding Fathers indeed favored limited government, and were skeptical of executive power, they clashed sharply over the extent of those limits.

Many Tea Party groups and individuals have taken this event and made it their own. Rick Santelli’s “Rant Heard ‘Round the World” sparked Tea-Party mania across the nation when he called for a “Chicago Tea Party” in protest to the government’s “bad behavior,” including its mortgage rescue plan. But instead of British tea, he proposed dumping derivative securities into Lake Michigan.

Judson Berger of Fox News makes some interesting comparisons of today’s Tea Party Movement and the outrage of the colonists of yesteryear against the British Parliament. Berger compares the Stamp Act to the Wall Street bailout, the Tea Act to the $787 billion stimulus package, the Quartering Act to the “pork-filled omnibus spending bill,” and the Boston Massacre to $3.55 trillion 2010 budget proposal at that time (April 9, 2009). 

But skeptics, like Bob Cesca of AOL’s WalletPop.com, argue that the modern-day Tea Partiers got it all wrong when they started comparing themselves to the 1776 colonists. They say that the Boston Tea Party was a protest against a corporate tax cut, being the Tea Act that ultimately drove the taxes on the “too big to fail” East India Company down to zero. This caused the smaller colonial tea distributors to suffer, because they couldn’t compete with the duty-free, British tea.

“I’m not sure what Samuel Adams would say about the modern Tea Parties,” Cesca said on WalletPop.com. “I’m positive, however, he’d have problems with all of the corporate tea bags being purchased in stores and used as props — as opposed to the Sons of Liberty deliberately hijacking ships and vandalizing corporate tea.”

While the contemporary Tea Party Movement that I’ve been discussing in previous articles protests big government, similar to the colonists, the movement does indeed have representation in the legislature; protestors just aren’t happy with those who represent them. The colonists were simply protesting Parliament because they weren’t being represented. The Tea Party Movement appears to be largely anti-tax, and whether Sam Adams would approve of it or not is debatable.

The Black Tea Party

By Jessica Chasmar (7/19/11)

“If I could only live up to the glory and grace of the Uncle Tom character.”

Frantz Kebreau, a race relations advocate and grandson of the former president of Haiti, Francois Duvalier, spoke at the Best Western in Alachua June 21 to a crowd of about 150 Tea Partiers. He is married, a father of 5, a Republican and a Tea Party activist. He is also black.

Wait, what?

Kebreau gave an hour-and-a-half lecture to the crowd, speaking about the “real” history that public education has failed to teach kids and how “identity politics, race, white guilt, political correctness and racism are what will bring our country down.”

As I’ve demonstrated in my “Who are These People?” article, Gallup has shown that the Tea Party is “representative of the public at large.” But what some people in the media fail to recognize is that many black, conservative and libertarian men and women are joining forces with the Tea Party Movement, contrary to what Chris Matthews may want you to think.

So why are we just now hearing about it?

The answer is a fear of the Uncle Tom Syndrome. Black Republicans are often castigated by their communities. Just look at former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele. All one needs to do is type “Michael Steele Tom” into a search engine and you’ll see hundreds of articles and blogs accusing him of being just that: a sellout.

A Washington Times article posted in 2005 reported that black Democratic leaders in Maryland defended their racial attacks against Steele because he is a conservative Republican. “Such attacks include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an ‘Uncle Tom’ and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log… black Democrats say there is nothing wrong with ‘pointing out the obvious.’”

With the risk of being shunned by their peers, it’s no wonder that some black conservatives are fearful to speak up. In his lecture in Alachua, Kebreau often referenced his own experiences of friends and family questioning and criticizing his conservative political stance.

But things are beginning to change. The first black Tea Party held its inaugural meeting this past January at the “This Is It” Soul Food Restaurant in the heart of Houston’s 3rd Ward. The Tea Party group was named after abolitionist icon Crispus Attucks, who died in the Boston Massacre and is often remembered as the first black hero of the American Revolution. The Tea Party’s press release read:

"Our primary objective is to break the cycles of dependency and decay that continue to anesthetize and hold captive too many Black families and neighborhoods… Our objective is to teach all Americans the fullness of the history of Blacks in America and to help Blacks gain control of their lives and the destiny of their children… Spawned in the ’60s, these social engineering experiments, government programs and the arrogant utopian value systems which produced them, continue to produce urban decay, increasing cyclical welfare dependency, increasing tax burdens (for those who pay taxes), the demise of the Black family, fatherless homes, skyrocketing out-of-wedlock births, more abortions than births, a rise in Black militancy and separatist activity and theft of real political power from all of those living in Black neighborhoods."

Black Americans began to favor the Democratic Party ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” days, when some programs were put in place to give economic relief to minorities. The Democratic Party received widening support by the black community when Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson supported the Civil Rights Movement. But before the 1930s, black Americans almost unanimously favored the Republican Party.

According to the chairwoman of the National Black Republican Association, Frances Rice, in "Why Martin Luther King [Jr.] was Republican," Democrats fought for slavery. The Klan was created in 1866 by Democrats who didn’t want to terrorize blacks, they wanted to terrorize Republicans (the party blacks aligned themselves with) so that the Democrats could gain control. Democrats also fought to prevent the passage of the civil rights laws of the 1860s, 1950s and 1960s.

Rice also points out that Republicans Sen. Charles Sumner and Rep. Benjamin F. Butler proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 that guaranteed everyone the same treatment in public accommodations. The act was signed by Republican President Ulysses S. Grant. Democrat President Harry Truman’s issued an Executive Order in 1948 to desegregate the military, but Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the one who took action to end segregation in the military during the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944.

Eisenhower proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, where Sen. Strom Thurmond, a Democrat at the time, gave a record-breaking, 24-hour and 18-minute filibuster speech to keep it from passing.

Democratic public safety commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor unleashed dogs and turned fire hoses on black civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham. And according to Rice, John F. Kennedy opposed the 1963 March on Washington by Martin Luther King, Jr. that was organized by a black Republican, A. Phillip Randolph. Due to a tip by J. Edgar Hoover, Kennedy, through his brother Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy, had King and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wiretapped and investigated by the FBI on suspicion of being Communists.

Historian and author David Barton in the “American Heritage Series” documents the Republican fight to end slavery during the reconstruction era. During the Civil War, Republicans amended the Constitution with the 13th Amendment, granting blacks freedom. The amendment passed with 100 percent Republican support and only 23 percent support from Democrats. Fast forward to 1868 when Republicans passed the 14th Amendment, which granted blacks citizenship. The amendment passed without one Democrat voting for it. Then in 1870, when the question of voting rights came up, Republicans passed the 15th Amendment. After the new Constitution passed, a number of black Americans, mostly ex-slaves, were elected to Congress. All seven were Republicans.

When Republicans were in control of the House, Senate and presidency, 23 civil rights laws were passed in the 14 years between 1861 and 1875. But notice how 89 years passed between the last civil rights law passed in 1875 and the next civil rights law in 1964. It’s not a coincidence that in 1876, Democrats regained partial control of Congress and kept it during that time.

According to Merle Black in “The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party,” today’s southern Democratic Party has been largely transformed since the ’60s: “A party originally created by racist southern white men to enhance and maintain their perceived interests has now become the political home of African Americans, liberal and moderate whites, and Hispanics.”

"Democrats have been running our inner-cities for the past 30 to 40 years, and blacks are still complaining about the same problems," said Frances Rice. "More than $7 trillion dollars have been spent on poverty programs since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty with little, if any, impact on poverty."

The Crispus Attucks Tea Party was formed to bring the descendents of black slavery to the realization that welfare checks and government dependency are key elements to modern-day slavery. According to the organization, entitlement programs have destroyed lives, families and their neighborhoods. “Government dependency holds blacks hostage. It precludes true liberty and forever blocks full assimilation.”

The bigger picture, however, is that every Tea Party group, black or white, stands for less government in its citizens’ lives and thus, less government dependency by its citizens. We obviously can’t cut people off from government assistance abruptly, so the question is how to instill a sense of pride back into the citizenry who has relied on the government to bail them out in a time of desperation. The truth is, we are a very forgiving and generous nation and more fortunate Americans have always been willing to open their wallets when they see people are in a time of need, especially when those more fortunate Americans are taxed less. Tea Partiers support charities, churches and private organizations to rely on the kindness and generosity of the American public to help support the less fortunate, not the federal government. The Tea Party is not a party of racism, hatred and vitriol; it is a party of personal responsibility and true liberty.

Tea Partiers and 2012

By Jessica Chasmar (7/12/11)

“On behalf of my children and grandchildren, I will vote for whoever is running against the president.”

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as many other Tea Party supporters, hold this view that future generations are in danger of facing a socialist America. They see an exorbitant rise in the federal debt, expanding entitlement programs, under-regulated illegal immigration and government encroachment on individual liberty as a less-than-ideal environment for their families to endure.

We can speculate that Tea Partiers will vote for virtually any Republican presidential candidate, assuming that the motive of the movement is to deny President Barack Obama a second term. Tea Party supporters who are informed on the election process and two-party politics can understand that to vote for a third-party candidate or even a libertarian running as a Republican, like Ron Paul, would be a waste of a vote in the primaries. A libertarian winning the Republican nomination is very unlikely, but if it happened, it would be a guaranteed second-term for Obama. My interaction with Tea Partiers has led me to believe that the majority will not vote for a Ron Paul candidate because of this reality. This is why there was so much worry from the right over Donald Trump’s speculation about running as an Independent. Splitting the vote would be incredibly damaging for both the Tea Party and the GOP.

Tea Party Express Chair Amy Kremer told Uma Pemmaraju on Fox News’ America’s News HQ this June, “We want to defeat Barack Obama. We will not support a third-party candidate.”

A Rasmussen poll conducted this June on a national random sample of 1,000 likely voters found that in a three-way congressional contest with a Tea Party candidate on the ballot, the Democrat picks up 40 percent of the vote. The Republican earns 21 percent, the Tea Party candidate earns 18 percent and 21 percent remain undecided.

But Tea Partier Michael Bobbitt, of Gainesville, Fla., said a Tea Party member won’t run as a Tea Party candidate.

“If they run a candidate as a third-party,” he said, “it could have a crushing effect on the likelihood of electing a more conservative president.” The Tea Party will rather have a positive impact on the conservative vote in the 2012 election.

The existence of the Tea Party requires Republican candidates to be more conservative in order to get their votes, especially when in November, more conservative individuals mobilized for the primaries, cutting out the moderate candidates like Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski. If this dynamic remains the case for the 2012 election, it is likely that a very conservative candidate will be on the Republican ticket. A 2010 Gallup poll conducted on more than 8,000 U.S. adults found that conservatives outnumber moderates and liberals in the American electorate. Whether a very conservative, particularly polarizing candidate can beat Obama, however, remains to be seen.

“In our local elections,” Merckel said, “I see most [GOP] candidates for office seek the support of the First Coast Tea Party. The GOP will work to entice the Tea Party into their fold. Likewise, the Tea Party will work to change the direction of the GOP to a more conservative path.”

So who is the frontrunner for the Tea Party vote?

“Looking at the current set of candidates, I would nominate Mitt Romney for president,” said Merckel. “He has the executive experience and has demonstrated his capability on difficult financial situations. However, he has the Health Plan issue and has flipped on a number of social issues.”

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has faced tough scrutiny from the right regarding his healthcare plan dubbed “Romneycare,” that was more or less used as a blueprint for the widely opposed “Obamacare.” He is also accused of flip-flopping on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Bobbitt doesn’t believe a winning candidate has yet emerged from the right.

“Mitt Romney is the presumptive front-runner, but the more the public is exposed to his record, the more they will see little differentiation between his positions and those of Obama,” he said. “I would vote for [GOP presidential candidate] Herman Cain. I don’t see any other candidates that seem committed to reducing the size and scope of government in any serious way. With Mr. Cain, at least the Fair Tax has a chance for more exposure.”

FoxNews contributor and comedian Steven Crowder said that if he had to vote for president today, he would vote for virtually any GOP candidate on the ticket.

“I’m not thrilled to say it, but Romney is likely,” he said. “Politically speaking, he has an earlier head-start. Romney just seems like too much of a politician to me. I can vote for him with a clear conscience, but not a happy one.”

We understand Tea Partiers want less government intrusion and to cut spending, but what should the federal government cut? What should it keep?

Bobbitt said the government should keep the programs that help the legitimately least fortunate among American citizens — “those who cannot fend for themselves, not those who simply choose not to.”

He also believes the government should keep programs that are “reinvestment vehicles for economic growth, such as Pell grants to colleges, Small Business Administration loans and FHA and VA loans for qualified homebuyers.”

Crowder believes the primary responsibility of the federal government should be defense and very little else.

“People act as though it’s a hard question, but when you understand the legitimate, original goal of government, it’s really not,” he said. “My analogy is that of a hockey referee. The role of the government is to keep the players (in this case its citizens) safe and make sure that people are playing by the rules.”

Ladies for Tea

By Jessica Chasmar (7/10/11)

A Quinnipiac poll conducted this March on 1,907 registered voters found that 55 percent of Tea Party members are women; the pollster Scott Rasmussen told American Spectator that women make up about 40 percent of voters who say they support the Tea Party. The poll found that six of the eight national coordinators of the Tea Party Patriots, which organizes the efforts of hundreds of individual local groups, are women. This provides evidence that women are clearly a driving force behind the foundation and support of the Tea Party.

“The Tea Party is composed of people from all walks of life in society who are concerned about America’s current direction,” said Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla. “These people are fighting for a way of life and future opportunity for their children. It is interesting to note that most Tea Parties have been founded by women. Do you wonder why? Could it be they are concerned about their family’s future?”

Filmmaker Steve Bannon, in a new film titled  “Fire from the Heartland,” interviews only women in the Tea Party Movement. I’m a broke college student, so I didn’t order $24 DVD, but John Fund of American Spectator said in response to the film: “It seems that many Tea Party women believe that their children will be the losers as government pushes a ‘dependency’ agenda and the country loses its competitive edge.”

Tammy Bruce, a former liberal who now hosts a nationwide talk show, chose to abandon her views following President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and “feminist establishment support of him.” In Fund’s article, she said, “The liberal feminist movement never imagined that women would take seriously the encouragement to become our own heroes and claim life for ourselves. Pro-choice and pro-life, Christian and not, poor and rich, black, white, gay and straight — it is a dream we all hold dear, and it’s called the Tea Party.”

Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell Medical School, acknowledged in an article she wrote on the Huffington Post website that Sarah Palin has a valid point when she said the “Mama Grizzlies” of the Tea Party are the real feminists: “These are women rising up to confront a world they feel threatens their families. They are loud, determined, unafraid and — politically speaking — have great big teeth.”

Sociologist Kathleen Blee, a professor at Pittsburgh University, rejected the Tea Partiers’ version of feminism in an interview with Sophie Elmhirst in the New Statesmen on Oct. 5, saying it is a “terrible distortion.”

“It strips most of the meaning away from feminism,” she said. “They don’t support equal rights, they don’t support abortion — you name the feminist issues, they are on the other side.”

But why have leftist feminists shown such a profound rejection of the Tea Party? Why don’t they support successful and powerful women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann?

I sat down with the president of the Gainesville Tea Party for an interview that ran well over an hour and a half. Laurie Newsom, a wife and mother of four and the sole owner of an ophthalmology clinic in Gainesville, Fla., has been watching the feminist movement since it began. She is also a libertarian and believes in pro-choice rights. What she saw in the feminist movement was a failure to promote individual freedom. Thus, she didn’t see women fighting for equal opportunities, she saw them fighting for equal outcomes.

“You look back at 30 years of feminism,” she said, “and all these years I’ve worked in medicine, I’ve never felt discriminated against. I had a mother who was a professional who was also very successful. The opportunity has always been there.”

She said that women can’t be compared to men in the workplace. Unlike men, women give birth, they traditionally stay home with the kids, and they often don’t feel the same social pressures for success.

“All those factors can and do affect the workplace,” she said. “By ignoring it, you’re not dealing with the reality of what women can actually accomplish in the workplace.”

Newsom has owned and operated her business for years. She said she applied the management techniques that she acquired in the workplace to the parenting of her children. They were expected to perform certain duties at a certain age, and if they didn’t, they faced the consequences. She parented with the same individual liberty and personal responsibility that translate into her political beliefs.

“There are so many safety nets in the workplace and in the home,” she said, “and no one is really stepping up like they used to. What the American public has done in so many instances is trade their individual opportunity for what they perceive as security, and that safety-net mentality is adding to our political crisis right now. I understand the peaceful security of the head in the sand. Luckily, I don’t have this mentality.”

Newsom was no Susie Homemaker when it came to raising her kids. She actually compared staying home with a small child and making dinner every night to getting shot. She brought her children to the office with her when they were babies, and as soon as they were potty-trained, they were at daycare, pre-school and doing after-school activities and extra-curriculars. She believes that the home is a place to relax, regroup, and if you need to talk to Mom, she’s there to listen.

“I bought the groceries and kept the kitchen stocked,” she said. “But the kids make their own lunch. If they forgot their lunch, they didn’t get lunch. That was a difficult concept for the teachers, but I would just tell them if Ashley forgets her lunch, she doesn’t eat. Period. And I made them give me their word on that because that was the only way they would learn.”

And learn they did. It only took one time, twice at the most, for each child to learn never to forget his or her lunch again.

“They learned then when they were 5, not when they were 18 going away to college,” she said. “It absolutely made them more independent and more responsible.”

Newsom used Sarah Palin as an example of a “new feminist.” She has a successful career and she is a wife and a mother.

“She’s everything that a feminist should applaud,” she said. “She’s balancing the home, bringing home the bacon and frying it up.”

It’s still a mystery to many Tea Party women, including Newsom, that the feminist left would reject Tea Party ideals. True, many supporters are pro-life conservatives, but virtually all of the Tea Partiers agree that abortion and gay marriage and other social issues are not to be emphasized. They believe in individual freedom, and they are much more focused on the federal deficit and failing economy. I have yet to meet a Tea Partier who believes any candidate or politician should be focused on a social issue.

The beauty of the “American Dream” is that, even though not everyone begins with a level playing field, any self-determined individual can persevere above societal pitfalls and make successes of themselves. Women who are true feminists, and who believe in their own destiny, should see in the Tea Party that individual freedom and liberty is when your worth is judged by your actions, not by what you are.

Tea and the GOP

By Jessica Chasmar (6/21/11)

As we saw in the November election, the Tea Party has been particularly powerful in its attacks on perceived “RINOs” (Republicans in name only), such as moderate Republicans Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Delaware’s Mike Castle. These Tea Party victories gained national attention and speculation from people on all sides.

Luckily for Republicans, the Tea Party Movement refused to create a third party during the midterm elections that could have split the conservative vote and created a permanent left-wing majority in Congress.

But what we’re seeing now in the GOP is a war between the moderate and conservative Republicans: There are the Bush Republicans of the late 2000s, who became disillusioned by the rise of domestic spending. There are the fiscally conservative Republicans of the Tea Party, who see the rise in spending and lack of corporate accountability as contributing to the disintegration of the economy. And there are the libertarians, many of them disavowing Republicans, who broke off from the GOP because of its stance toward social policy issues, such as abortion rights and gay marriage.

According to Gainesville Tea Party President Laurie Newsom, the failure of the Republican Party to protect the three values that the Tea Party stands for — “limited government, fiscal responsibility and a free market” — is what got her involved in the movement.

The House Tea Party Caucus was launched in July 2011 by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who said in a statement to POLITICO that Americans have “had enough of the spending, bureaucracy and the government-knows-best mentality running rampant today throughout the halls of Congress.” In an interview with The Daily Caller, Bachmann said the idea for the caucus originated when Republican Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul said he would form a Tea Party Caucus in the Senate if he won that November.

The caucus currently consists of 52 Republican members, including Fla. Rep. Cliff Stearns, and it held its first event late last year.

According to Kenneth Vogel, reporting for POLITICO, the Congressional Tea Party Caucus is part of the solution for Republicans trying to channel grass-roots conservatism. However, instead of embracing the caucus, many Tea Partiers see it as yet another effort by the GOP to hijack their movement.

The inaugural meeting commenced Jan. 27, 2010, without three of the senators who won elections under the Tea Party name. Sens. Ronald H. Johnson (R-Wis.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) may have rationalized that they would stand a better chance of advancing their ideas from within the Senate establishment, but Rubio told The Washington Post the reason he was not joining was because he didn’t want politicians in Congress “co-opting the mantle” of the grass-roots movement.

On Feb. 4, 2010, Rubio made an appearance on the “Trey Radel Show” and said, “My fear has always been that if you start creating these little clubs or organizations in Washington run by politicians, the movement starts to lose its energy.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) warned that the caucus may be seen as trying to “co-opt” the movement and questioned the motivations of its members.

"I’m 100 percent pro-Tea Party, but this is not the right thing to do," Chaffetz, who declined to join the caucus, told POLITICO last August. “Structure and formality are the exact opposite of what the Tea Party is, and if there is an attempt to put structure and formality around it, or to co-opt it by Washington, D.C., it’s going to take away from the free-flowing nature of the true Tea Party Movement. If any one person tries to become the head of it, it will lose its way.”

The new caucus has allowed some Democrats to jump on the opportunity to link Republicans in Congress with the Tea Party, especially during the midterm election period.

"The Republican Party agenda has become the Tea Party agenda, and vice versa," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said at a news conference late last July. Fla. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, now chairwoman of the DNC, later echoed those sentiments on MSNBC’s “The Place for Politics.”

The truth is, the caucus could give legislators a chance to claim they’re part of the Tea Party Movement without holding to its ideals, trying to appear more conservative than they really are. The country has been leaning more right in the past year or so and moderate Republicans have been forced to adapt to that trend.

A Rasmussen poll conducted last month on 1,000 likely voters found that voters see the “Tea Party” a bit less negatively as a political label these days, while the terms “liberal” and “progressive” have lost ground even among Democrats. “Conservative” remains the most favored description, with 42 percent of likely voters saying they view it as a “positive if a candidate is described as politically conservative.”

Republican legislators could be skeptical about aligning with the Tea Party Caucus for three reasons: 1) They genuinely care about the organics of the Tea Party Movement and want to protect its grass-roots feel, 2) They feel they would be more useful in the already established GOP, or 3) They fear aligning themselves with the perceived “extreme” right.

Tea and the Media who cried ‘race’

By Jessica Chasmar (6/16/11)

The public, as well as the news media, has become intrigued by the Tea Party Movement and its implications for party politics. According to an article by Amy Gardner of The Washington Post, media coverage of the Tea Party has greatly evolved since it began in 2009. At first, people in the media were dismissive of the Tea Party. There was the instance of CNN’s Susan Roesgen at one of the very first Tea Party rallies, who suggested that attendees were ”anti-government, “in debt” and inappropriate for “family viewing.”

The “Nationwide Chicago Tea Party” protest was coordinated across more than 40 different cities on Feb. 27, 2009, establishing the first national Tea Party protest. However, according to the following figure, provided by Williamson, Skocpol and Coggin of Harvard University, the event was hardly covered in broadcast news.

Cable news was slow to recognize the growth of the movement until the April 15th “Tax Day” protests. Hundreds of protests were held nationwide, with protestors at each event often numbering in the low thousands. Poll analyst for The New York Times Nate Silver estimated the total number of Tea Party participants at more than 300,000 people nationwide that day.

According to Williamson, Skocpol and Coggin, CNN’s coverage is largely reactive, but “Fox coverage anticipates Tea Party events in the early months of the Tea Party’s activity, and maintains coverage between peak events.” They posit that CNN’s level of coverage is partly caused by the anticipatory coverage on Fox News.

The Washington Post conducted a canvass among hundreds of local Tea Party groups last October and showed that 76 percent of local organizers said that media coverage of their groups has been either very fair or somewhat fair. Only 8 percent said coverage has been very unfair; 15 percent said somewhat unfair.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, even said in an interview with Amy Garner of The Washington Post that news coverage has improved dramatically: “The more time reporters have had to actually talk to activists and cover the events, the more the coverage has gotten far more fair and realistic about what’s actually going on.”

Some others might disagree with that statement.

Laurie Newsom, president of the Gainesville Tea Party, in Florida, said, “Since the beginning of this movement I have not yet read or heard a mainstream news article or analysis that accurately portrays the Tea Party or its members.”

FSU law student and Tea Party supporter Jaime Sherman said, “[The media] have not portrayed the Tea Party correctly because most news stations have an agenda. The more liberal stations try to paint the group as crazy, backwoods racists. The more conservative stations try to portray it as a movement by Republicans to restore ‘traditional Republican values.’ It’s neither. It’s a movement focused on getting the government out of human life – both economically and socially.”

On May 20 of last year, accusations by members of Congress that Tea Party protesters had hurled racial and sexual epithets at them outside the Capitol prompted a wave of media coverage over whether the Tea Party was based on anti-Obama racism. A string of stories focused on the racially charged statements of certain protesters.

Such coverage drew criticism from Sarah Palin and other conservative leaders. Andrew Breitbart has since offered $100,000 to the first person who can produce a video or audio recording of the incident. One year later and no recordings have come forward. A detailed timeline of the “incident” can be found at HotAir.

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., said he has attended many Tea Party events, ranging from 10 attendees to the hundreds of thousands.

“I have never seen any evidence of racism,” he said. “All participants acted in a civil manner toward one another.”

He does acknowledge, however, that not many blacks attend the rallies. “The Tea Party events are mostly attended by white persons,” he said. “The number of blacks participating is growing slowly. However, it appears to me that most of the black community is supportive of the present administration.”

There have been isolated public incidents of racism within the movement, but Tea Party activists normally root those offenders out. The Washington Independent reported that Texas activist Dale Robertson, who held a sign comparing taxpayers to a racial epithet and Congress to slave owners at a 2009 rally, was reportedly encouraged to leave and “pilloried by his peers.” David Weigel of The Washington Post reported that Mark Williams, formerly the spokesman for the Tea Party Express, was booted out of a Tea Party event after penning a parody that had the NAACP hoping for slavery.

Newsweek reported that a 2010 survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality “offers fresh insight into the racial attitudes of Tea Party sympathizers.” The report stated that Tea Partiers have a 25 percent higher probability of being “racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters.” The data suggested that the Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government, but also race.

The Newsweek article goes on: When read the statement that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites,” 73 percent of the movement’s supporters agreed, while only 33 percent of people who disapproved of the Tea Party agreed. Asked if blacks should work their way up “without special favors,” as the Irish, Italians, and other groups did, 88 percent of supporters agreed, compared to 56 percent of opponents.  

The problem I have with this data is it fails to explain why Tea Partiers would agree with these statements. Tea Party supporters are hopeful that “The American Dream” still exists. The entire premise of the American Dream is that ANYONE — black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight — can achieve success if they just try hard enough. Just look at the many underprivileged people who came from literally nothing. People of minority races who have risen above societal pitfalls and made incredible successes of themselves: Amancio Ortega, Colin Powell, Antonio Villaraigosa, Oprah Winfrey, Marco Rubio, Michael Steele…

Most of these people grew up in a time where racism was still widespread and blatant, yet they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and took control of their lives and their futures. That’s beautiful. That’s what the Tea Party stands for, because that’s what The America Dream stands for.

To say Tea Partiers are more likely to be “resentful” toward other races doesn’t tell the full story. Tea Partiers believe all races in America can achieve the same successes whites can without federal assistance. True libertarians and conservatives believe the government needs to stay out of our business and leave the achievements to us. True liberty is allowing for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. In fact, true libertarians and conservatives believe policies, like affirmative action and welfare, actually hurt minorities rather than help them.

Shelby Steele — a black-American author, columnist and documentary filmmaker, who has become a very prominent voice on this issue — asserts that affirmative action has reinforced a self-sabotaging sense of victimization among blacks by encouraging them to blame their failures on white racism instead of their own shortcomings.

“Blacks now stand to lose more from affirmative action than they gain,” he once told TIME Magazine. This is the view most Tea Partiers hold toward affirmative action, as well as other entitlement programs like welfare, and it’s the same reason they’re also seen as “racist.”

In a comment on the Newsweek article, Jaime Sherman said, “There are racist people within the movement just like there are racist Democrats, Republicans, Socialists and the like. The core principles have nothing to do with race, nor is race even a sweeping issue among self-proclaimed members. It has, and always will be, a red herring claim used to discredit those who want true freedom.”

The truth is simple: If Obama was a conservative or libertarian, who supported conservative and libertarian ideals, the Tea Party and the GOP would have supported him.

Who are These People?

By Jessica Chasmar (6/15/11)

The Tea Party Movement is a “grassroots reaction to an intrusive government taking the country towards socialism,” said Laurie Newsom, the president of the Gainesville Tea Party in Gainesville, Fla. ”All Tea Party groups adhere to the same three basic values: limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets.”

Newsom got active in the movement in response to the “failure of the Republican party to protect those three values and the rapidity by which [the United States] is disintegrating.”

In a National Review/McLaughlin Associates poll conducted last February, six percent of 1,000 likely voters said that they “had participated in a Tea Party or similar protest.” Fifty-three percent said they “had not participated in a Tea Party protest, but [they] generally agree with the reasons for those protests.”

But what kinds of people make up the Tea Party? The movement cannot accurately be described as “monochromatic” and “all white,” as Chris Matthews once described it, referring to a Tea Party rally held in D.C. Sept. 12, 2009. In fact, several black Tea Partiers have spoken out against accusations that the Tea Party is all white.

Bob Parks, a Project 21 member from Virginia, said in a press release, “Here’s a news flash for Chris Matthews. I was there. So was my son. Last time I checked, both of us are black — and we weren’t the only black people there. I know other black people who attended the September 12 rally in Washington, including some of the ones who spoke at the podium. I guess the MSNBC camera people missed them.” Project 21 is an initiative of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.

A Gallup poll conducted last April found the movement to be “representative of the public at large.” Tea Partiers diverge from the general public in that they are mostly Republican and conservative in their leanings. They also have higher incomes than average voters and are slightly more likely to be male, according to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted last April. However, according to Gallup, when it comes to age, educational background, employment status and race, Tea Party supporters are mostly similar to the public in general.

According to Kate Zernicke and Megan Thee-Brenan of The New York Times, Tea Partier’s responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes last year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools, and most do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

Nearly 9 in 10 Tea Partiers disapprove of the job President Obama is doing overall, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues, such as health care, the economy and the deficit. According to the Times, when voters were asked if Barack Obama’s policies “are moving the country more toward socialism,” 92 percent of Tea Partiers said yes an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.

Yet while Tea Partiers are more conservative than Republicans on some social issues, about 8 in 10 say that they are more concerned with economic issues than social issues, as is the general public.

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Associate Dean of the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction at the University of North Florida. He got involved in the movement because he was concerned about the future for his three children and his eight grandchildren.

“The economy is declining, tax revenues are decreasing, unemployment is now heading toward 10 percent, the deficit is increasing and the U.S. government is printing more money,” he said. “Continuing on this path leads to U.S. bankruptcy. All that you have worked for will be lost. The future for our children is in doubt.”

According to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted last year, while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.” When asked what they are angry about, they offered three main concerns: health care, government spending and a feeling that their voices are not being heard in Washington.

FSU law student and avid Tea Party supporter Jaime Sherman is a self-described voluntaryist. He defines voluntaryism (or anarchism) as seeking to maximize individual liberty through voluntary living. This means removing coercion from human interaction as much as possible.

“The Tea Party, as it was first started, was a frustrated group of Americans who were tired of government growth as pushed by both major parties,” Sherman said. “Neither Democrats nor Republicans were living up to their promises, and the size of government and national debt kept growing. In response, the Tea Party was formed out of anger toward our nation’s leaders and their disrespect of individual liberty and autonomy.”

In recent years, the Republican Party has seen its approval levels sink to new lows. In 2001, 32 percent of registered voters told Gallup they considered themselves Republican. By 2009, that number had dropped by 5 percentage points. The number of voters who identified themselves as Independent showed a corresponding rise.

What is interesting, however, is that over that same time frame, the number of voters self-identified as conservative stayed relatively constant. It’s still too simple to imply a one-for-one swap, but the trend seems clear: The Tea Party Movement arose in an environment in which a growing number of fiscally conservative Americans believed the GOP was not voicing their concerns.

How is it Funded?

By Jessica Chasmar (5/29/11)

Though the Tea Party appears to be a grassroots movement, even the most ground-up operations have to have some kind of organization in order to gain national attention. The movement itself has no one leader, but umbrella groups such as the Tea Party Patriots and social networking sites, including Teabook.org, link activists who are members of local Tea Party organizations. These groups help provide information and enthusiasm nationwide in the movement. I have been unsuccessful in finding information that supports the idea that any local Tea Party group of the thousands nationwide takes marching orders from a central Tea Party group.

When speaking on KTVU about the Tea Party, Nancy Pelosi said, “This initiative is funded by the high end. We call it ‘Astroturf.’ It’s not really a grass-roots movement; it’s Astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class.”

It seemed to be a hard thing for people to understand: How can a movement of this scope happen from the ground up without a central planner somewhere issuing orders and micromanaging all activity?

Sal Russo, a California-based Republican political strategist behind the Tea Party Express PAC, said in an interview with CNN in “Boiling Point: Inside the Tea Party,” that the United States has about 4,000 Tea Party groups, and hundreds are being formed in other countries; some supported by high dollar, non-profits, such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.

Media Matters reported that Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute, while David Koch co-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, where he served as chairman of the board of directors. In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy split into two groups: FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.

The Koch foundations have donated more than $12 million to each group between 1985 and 2002, as well as to other influential conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, media organizations, academic institutes and legal organizations.

Financing for the Tea Party Movement comes from other various private sources, from grassroots, small-dollar donations to backing from wealthy business leaders. Allegations have arisen in the media that the billionaire Koch oil family has donated directly to FreedomWorks, but last April Missy Cohlmia of Koch Companies sent out a statement to multiple reporters stating, “Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.” Dick Armey responded with: “Too many people have suffered under the false impression that we’re funded by the Kochs. The fact of the matter is, there is a substantial difference in who we are and what we do.”

Koch’s director of communications did affirm, however, that the company funds Americans for Prosperity. The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, also controlled by the Koch family, has donated more than $3 million to Americans for Prosperity.

According to a Washington Post Tea Party canvass conducted in October 2010, the median amount of money the groups raised in 2010 was $800 and the median amount the groups have on hand is $500. The average percentage among those who reported income claimed only 4 percent of funding came from groups and businesses, with 96 percent coming from private individuals. Four percent of funds came from national organizations and elsewhere in the state, and 96 percent came from local sources. Only about 10 percent of groups were coordinated with a national organization. Nearly 87 percent of the groups’ main political activities were determined mostly at the local level.

According to an NBC News report last September, the nonprofit Tea Party Patriots announced that it had received a $1 million donation from a single contributor who wanted it divided up and given to local coordinators. The group’s spokesperson told reporters that the recipients must spend it by Nov. 2, but they were barred from using it for ads or fliers that mentioned a specific candidate. The donor, organizers said, wished to remain anonymous. Tea Party Patriots was previously funded by a variety of small donors, and cited their average donation to be $80.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey now runs FreedomWorks, one of the largest groups that support the Tea Party Movement nationwide. The organization pushes fiscal conservatism and pro-business agendas and has been organizing activists. They train, recruit and put activists through boot camps at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. The Washington Post reported in 2009 that, according to tax records and other filings, FreedomWorks is tied to corporations like MetLife, Philip Morris and “foundations controlled by the archconservative Scaife family.”

MetLife, Inc. is among the largest global providers of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programs, with 90 million customers in over 60 countries. MetLife contributed in the 1990s to Citizens for a Sound Economy, which merged with another group in 2004 and was renamed FreedomWorks. It has not contributed directly to FreedomWorks. Philip Morris USA brands include Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Merit, Parliament and other cigarette brands. Media Matters also lists the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation as having given a total of $2.96 million in funding to FreedomWorks. The Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation is financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune.

Rightwingwatch.org lists Freedomworks Inc. as earning $3 million in 2004 and FreedomWorks Foundation bringing it $2.6 million in 2004. In addition, Right Wing Watch said FreedomWorks PAC spent just $1,862 on 2006 candidates by Sept. 30.

Bottom line: A movement needs funding in order to survive. Yes, the Tea Party gets some donations from big-money operations, but what Mrs. Pelosi and others fail to recognize is that those operations get their donations from local, private individuals. All the term “grassroots” implies is that a movement is natural, spontaneous and often at the local level. I have shown that the Tea Party fits that description in my prior article titled “Birth of a Movement.” In a grassroots operation, many volunteers in the community give their time to support the local party, which can lead to helping the national party. If some of these volunteers and donors are wealthy, does that necessarily discredit the organics of it?

Some could argue that there are dangers of billionaire families, like the Kochs or the Scaifes, donating to some of these groups. Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman of the New York Times, for example, argues that just because some of these groups are being backed by wealthy financiers somehow makes it a “fake” grassroots movement.

I’ve already shown earlier that most Tea Party groups raised less than $1,000 last year and most of them only have about $500 on hand. But regardless of where the cash comes from exactly, what can’t be ignored is that there is a core of American people that are pretty ticked off at their government. American individuals are organizing mostly at the local level and showing up in astounding numbers to rally and protest against what they perceive as wrong for their country.