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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, 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, 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 “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.

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, 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. 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.

What’s this All About?

By Jessica Chasmar (5/21/11)

Tea Party Patriots, Inc. as an organization believes in Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. Tea Party Patriots, Inc. is a non-partisan grassroots organization of individuals united by our core values derived from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill Of Rights as explained in the Federalist Papers… We hold, as did the founders, that there exists an inherent benefit to our country when private property and prosperity are secured by natural law and the rights of the individual. As an organization we do not take stances on social issues.”

Though there is no universal Tea-Party platform, people in the movement do hold a general agreement in their ideals. Common themes among Tea Party groups are deficit reduction, reducing the size of government and eliminating mandates, such as universal health care. Some may argue that the Tea Party Movement’s platform can be traced all the way back to the Populist (People’s) Party’s established in 1887. Though the two movements may have had some similarities, such as their anger with the government and national banks, the parties differ dramatically in their overall goals for the nation. The Populist Movement sought more government intervention, such as control of railroads, telephones and telegraphs. Populists also sought a graduated income tax. Tea Partiers couldn’t be more different from the Populists in their relationship with the federal government.

The Tea Party Movement seeks to restore limited-government Constitutionalism. According to, “the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and must be adhered to without exception at all levels of government.” Also, “reducing the overall size, scope and reach of government at both local and national levels will help to eliminate inefficiencies that result in deficit spending which adds to our country’s debt.”

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in the summer of last year, Tea Partiers differ from those neutral or opposed to the movement on the issues they perceive as “extremely serious threats” to the future of the United States, specifically the federal debt and the size and power of the federal government. However, when considering unemployment, involvement in Iraq/Afghanistan and discrimination against minority groups as serious threats to the United States, Tea Party supporters and opponents are essentially indistinguishable.

Social policy has not been central to the Tea Party Movement, although some have tried to connect it to religion, including Fox commentator Glenn Beck at his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington. According to the same USA Today/Gallup poll, Tea Party supporters are much more unified in their views of the government’s role in economic matters than in matters of morality, with 80 percent of Tea Partiers saying the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses. Just over half of supporters believe the government should promote traditional values, and 39 percent say the government should not favor any set of values.

According to a Feb. 23, 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, roughly half of Tea Party supporters said their religious beliefs are the most important influence on their views of gay marriage and abortion. In contrast, only 37 percent of overall voters said their religious beliefs were the most important influence on their views of same-sex marriage, and only 28 percent cited religion as the primary influence on their views of abortion.

The analysis shows that most people who agree with the religious right also support the Tea Party, but that support is not widely reciprocated. The poll found that 46 percent of Tea Party supporters had not heard of or did not have an opinion about “the conservative Christian movement sometimes known as the religious right;” 42 percent said they agree with the conservative Christian movement and 11 percent said they disagree. Among Republican-leaning voters, 91 percent had heard of the Tea Party compared with 68 percent who were familiar with the conservative Christian movement. The poll found 86 percent of overall voters had at least heard of the Tea Party Movement, with only 64 percent having heard of the conservative Christian movement.

Tea Party groups and individuals all over the country have filed suit against members of the Obama administration over the health care legislation signed into law last March. They claim the legislation, nicknamed Obamacare, is unconstitutional and are continuously seeking to have the legislation overturned. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Florida said this January that the Obama administration’s historic health care overhaul is unconstitutional, siding with 26 other states that had sued to block it. The issue was whether the government is using its power beyond the Constitution to regulate interstate commerce by requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties.

“This is obviously a very difficult task,” Vinson wrote in his ruling. “Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution.”

Most Tea Partiers are older, from 45 and up, and a lot of them collect Social Security and Medicare. According to a New York Times/ CBS News poll, 17 percent of Tea Partiers collect Social Security (compared to 12 percent of all respondents,) and 16 percent of Tea Partiers surveyed are covered by Medicare (compared to 13 percent of all respondents.) When asked, “Are the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare worth the costs of those programs?” 62 percent of Tea Partiers said yes, while 33 percent said no.

So why the inconsistency?

Their reasoning behind opposing big government, yet accepting benefits from that government, is often that they’ve already spent years paying into the system, so why not reap the benefits? It may make some sense logistically, but philosophically it doesn’t. This adds to the wide perception among Tea Party opponents that Tea Partiers are illogical and hypocritical. How can a veteran who collects benefits from the federal government support the Tea Party?

I defend the Tea Party-supporting veterans who collect benefits because, as a libertarian, I believe the primary and sole responsibility of the federal government (let’s not confuse federal and state government. Libertarians are not to be confused with anarchists) is to provide a powerful military.  Libertarians believe that the federal government’s only right to collect taxes from its citizenry is to properly fund the military. Therefore, it’s seen as proper for a vet to live off the system it was created for and to continue to take care of our men and women when they come back from serving. I haven’t been able to find a reliable poll that asks whether some Tea Partiers identify as libertarian, but according to a Gallup poll, 43 percent of Tea Partiers identify as Independents. Coming from my personal observations in dealing with the Tea Party, it can be inferred that a great deal of them are libertarians and follow this mindset.

The Tea Party is still unorganized, and given that there’s no universal platform, Tea Partiers often get confused with what they support and what they don’t. Sometimes they have trouble backing up their ideals. Though their ideals may seem legitimate in theory, sometimes they have a hard time articulating and defending their stances. Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brennan of the New York Times, for instance, wrote an article about the Tea Party in April of last year and found that nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.  But in follow-up interviews, they said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security. Some defended being on Social Security by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits. Others could not explain the contradiction.

According to a column by Tea Party supporter Brian Koziara of The Michigan Daily, “A man’s right to earn, create and own property is the essential building block of a free market society. We view governmental mandates to buy healthcare as an imposition upon personal freedom and choice. We view cradle-to-grave entitlement programs as irresponsible and as ‘generational theft,’ a term invented by Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.).”

A common view among Tea Partiers and socialized medicine opponents is that health care should be viewed as a commodity, not an individual right. They stand behind the “Commerce Clause” in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, which says the federal government does not have the right to levy taxes. Because, under the legislation, individuals will be penalized financially if the don’t buy the mandated healthcare, opponents say it is an unconstitutional tax on citizens.

Many are against the federal income tax as well, with organizations, such as, and 2012 presidential candidates, such as Herman Cain, proposing a “fair tax” on U.S. citizens. According to, “The FairTax Act (HR 25, S 13) is nonpartisan legislation. It abolishes all federal personal and corporate income taxes, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, and self-employment taxes and replaces them with one simple, visible, federal retail sales tax administered primarily by existing state sales tax authorities.” According to various Tea Party websites, Tea Partiers stand behind this legislation in very large numbers.

Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), the primary sponsor of fair tax legislation, said in a statement to The Hill, “Both the Tea Party and the fair tax seek to put power back in the hands of the American people.”

Some groups have also tried to rally Tea Party activists against global warming policy. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in October 2010, only 14 percent of Tea Party supporters said that global warming is an environmental problem, in contrast to 49 percent of the rest of the public. More than half of Tea Party supporters said that global warming would have no serious effect in the future, while only 15 percent of other Americans shared that view. Eight percent of Tea Partiers said they did not believe global warming exists at all, while only 1 percent of other respondents agreed.

Tea Partiers stand for many different things, but one thing is apparent: they’re fed up with rising taxes and the increase of government intervention in their everyday lives. Most of them believe that if it’s not in the Constitution, it doesn’t belong, making them view the healthcare mandate as an imposition on their freedom to buy goods as they choose. They have become increasingly dubious of climate change policy because of the mandates associated with it, such as cap and trade. They see the federal debt as potentially catastrophic to the U.S. economy. They seek to abolish the “welfare state” they believe has led to a society of entitlements. And they seek to cut, or abolish completely, federal bureaucracies, such as the Department of Education, in hopes to delegate more rights to the free markets of the states. Tea Partiers want to take power away from the federal government and give it to state’s governments, in hopes that they would compete in a free society.

Virtually since the days of the New Deal, the United States has yet to see a system that even resembles what I’ve explained here, and many Tea Party opponents have considered Tea Partiers radical partly because of it. Opponents see the Tea Party as an impractical, illogical way of thinking and have often considered them irrational, angry or hypocritical. There are people on extreme sides of every party, but we’ll have to see whether or not the Tea Party can come up with a relatively universal platform, working out the vital kinks it needs in order to establish legitimacy.

The Birth of a Movement.

By Jessica Chasmar (5/12/11)

There has been some dispute of how or when the Tea Party Movement began and how it was conceptualized. Most of my research seems to support that the mobilization of Tea-Party thinkers started amid the financial meltdown and the support by President George W. Bush for big bank bailouts. Bush defended the bailouts, saying, “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”

But while many fiscal conservatives were angry when Bush supported the bailouts, it’s apparent that the election of a liberal Democrat and the talk of a vast economic stimulus bill was ultimately what forced them into action. 

On Jan. 24, 2009, Trevor Leach, the chairman of the Young Americans for Liberty in New York State, organized a “Tea Party” protest in response to obesity taxes on soda, proposed by New York Gov. David Paterson, indicating a government that had gotten “out of control.” Several of the protesters wore headdresses similar to the 18th-century colonists who participated in the original Boston Tea Party.

In other speculations, New York Times journalist Kate Zernike, The Atlantic’s Chris Good and NPR’s Martin Kaste reported that leaders within the Tea Party credit Seattle blogger and conservative activist Keli Carender with organizing the first Tea Party in February 2009, although the term “Tea Party” was not used.

Following the Obama administration’s unveiling of a $75 billion program to help homeowners who couldn’t pay their mortgages, Rick Santelli of CNBC delivered a commentary on Feb. 19, 2009 in which he ranted against federal mortgage refinancing, compared the United States to Cuba and proposed a “Chicago Tea Party” to dump derivative securities into Lake Michigan. The “Santelli rant” became known as the “big bang” moment for the birth of the movement. Santelli grew agitated and yelled, “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand! President Obama, are you listening? … It’s time for another Tea Party! What we are doing in this country will make Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin roll over in their graves!”

He was thinking of having a Tea Party in July, but empowered by the hyper-connectivity of the Web, newly energized conservative activists organized the first Chicago Tea Party, which happened within only days after the Santelli rant. Tea Parties quickly became a national phenomenon. Santelli said that his monologue was completely spontaneous, while some of his critics disagree. Santelli still holds that his idea to name it a “Tea Party” simply rested upon the fact that his youngest daughter had been studying the Boston Tea Party in school.

A few days after the Santelli rant, John O’Hara of the Heartland Institute and J.P. Freire, then of The American Spectator, organized “A New American Tea Party” rally outside the White House on Feb. 27. Six weeks later, around tax day, about 500,000 people took to the streets in protests from San Francisco to Atlanta. The movement swelled as April 15, 2009 “Tax Day” protests were organized, and more than a million people are estimated to have attended them all over the country. Activists also began to campaign against Obama’s health care overhaul and a series of healthcare reform bills, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Other protests were partially in response to several Federal laws, like the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that was in response to the subprime mortgage crisis.

According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, the bailouts of banks by the Bush and Obama administrations triggered the Tea Party’s rise. The interviewer, Dan Weil, added that the movement’s anger centers on two issues, quoting Rasmussen as saying, “They think federal spending, deficits and taxes are too high, and they think no one in Washington is listening to them, and that latter point is really, really important.”

Some critics say that this “uprising” is not unique at all and is simply what happens whenever a Democrat takes over the White House. Though this may be true, the undeniable fact is that this movement began due to out-of-control spending in Washington. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget and Congressional Budget Office, since 1965, federal spending per household has grown by nearly 162 percent, from $11,431 in 1965 to $29,401 in 2010. From 2010 to 2021, it is projected to reach $35,773, an additional 22 percent increase (inflation-adjusted).

Tea Party protestors have shown that they are angry and afraid, and the only way they can truly be heard is by gathering in numbers and exercising their First Amendment rights. But until a non-liberal takes over the White House, it’s yet to be seen whether their anger and fear is directly related to President Barack Obama.

Going Inside.

By Jessica Chasmar (5/11/11)

The past two years have brought about Tea-Party fever. Though the movement has technically been around since early 2009, the mainstream media have recently become fascinated by it. However, many myths and misconceptions have attended the movement since its birth. The Tea Partiers are accused of being backwoods rednecks that resent “elite education,” while at the same time, they are said to be disproportionately rich. They are accused of being GOP puppets, even though they have thrown out a handful of long-time Republicans — including Bob Bennett, Mike Castle and Rick Lazio — while simultaneously being the “Astroturf” (thanks, Pelosi) of fringy, right-wing tycoons, such as the libertarian Koch brothers.

But what exactly is the Tea Party Movement? Is it racist? Is it anarchist? Is it dangerous? What kinds of people attend these rallies, and what do they intend to accomplish? What does the Tea Party mean for our two-party system?

My name is Jessica Chasmar and I’m a master’s student at the University of Florida. I’m creating this blog for a project I need to graduate. What got me interested in writing on this topic is the overwhelming majority of negative feedback I get for supporting the Tea Party. A while back, I was explaining to my boyfriend at the time of my project idea, and the second I mentioned the Tea Party, he cut me off and said, “Oh, those lunatics?” Now, coming from a guy who couldn’t tell me the name of our vice president, the relationship didn’t last past stage one.


"Excuse me ma’am… MA’AM! You’re going to have to CALM DOWN."             (Health Care protest in Ocala, Fla. - Spring 2010)

My peers and even certain professors have not approved of my political beliefs, and that’s OK. But I intend to find out why there is such a stigma against Tea Partiers. Is it the media? Is it academia? Is it a pro-administration bias?

I have done extensive research on the movement in these past months, and I am forced to conclude that the amount of comprehensive reporting on the Tea Party from indpendent sources is incredibly slim. I’m not working for anyone, besides the approval of the committee overseeing the progress of this project. I have nothing to gain by setting an agenda, and I don’t intend to use one. I intend to add to the limited information that is out there on the movement in a fair and accurate way, while also adding a local aspect to my reporting. Due to its vastness and potential influence, the Tea Party is a force that is worth this exploration.

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in April of last year, roughly one in five adult Americans identifies with the Tea Party Movement. Recent polls have found that two-thirds of Americans describe themselves as dissatisfied or angry with their government, among the highest levels on record. Tea-Party thinking has inspired hundreds of websites and Facebook pages, and it is supposedly at the grass-roots level, consisting of thousands of autonomous Tea Party groups. The United States has yet to see such political efforts since Ross Perot’s Reform Party in the 1990s.

This blog will focus on the inner workings of the Tea Party Movement. I wish to immerse myself into the movement, writing a series of reports on what the Tea Party is about and what it does, as well as its goals. I will use extensive research drawn upon news archives, polling, peer-reviewed reports and documentaries, and I will also attend several Tea Party meetings and rallies in the North Central Florida area.

I can’t assure I will be objective in my reports on such a polarizing topic; that’s like asking someone to write objectively on abortion. It can’t be done. But I can promise to be fair and accurate. I will not be participating as a Tea Party activist in my reporting, but as a mere observer of the movement. I have attended three rallies in the past. In two of them, I acted only as a reporter for an internship I had with a local radio station. I did, however, attend Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington D.C. last year as an actual movement supporter. However, during the next three months, I will not volunteer, I will not donate, and I will not participate in any of these groups as a supporter. I believe that my Tea-Party involvement, however limited, will be an advantage in my reporting. As a scholar and as a journalist, I know what it means to vehemently stick to the integrity of the report I intend to create.

I don’t want it to be a question of where I stand on the political spectrum, so let’s get this out of the way: I consider myself a Constitutionalist and a libertarian. My entire life I’ve considered myself a Republican, until I realized that I didn’t really support the GOP’s stance on social issues, and I certainly didn’t support the Democratic Party’s stance on social issues. When I finally learned what being a libertarian meant back in 2009, I hastily switched teams. As I know it, the Tea Party tends to largely consist of libertarians and conservatives. But what does supporting the Tea Party mean to me? Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Strictly adhering to the Constitution
  2. Fiscal restraint, responsibility and transparency of our government
  3. Less government intervention in our every day lives

Plain and simple. Do these ideals make me an irrational, racist, volatile hillbilly? We will soon find out…