On February 19, 2009, on CNBC, Rick Santelli launched what has now come to be known as the “rant that launched a thousand protests.”(1) “This is America!” exclaimed Santelli to a passionate crowd on the floor of Chicago’s futures exchange. “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. (Traders boo) President Obama, are you listening? … We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan- I’m going to start organizing.” And as the traders on the floor burst into raucous applause and shouts, the Tea Party was born. Although a few smaller gatherings had been held in the weeks before Santelli’s outburst, the CNBC correspondent served as the spark for the raging wildfire that is now know as the Tea Party.
The Tea Party emerged as a product of spontaneous combustion. Rick Santelli’s outburst created a nationwide, grassroots phenomenon that has fascinated conservatives and liberals alike. Although some like to label political figures such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin the “leaders” of the movement, the Tea Party has no actual national leader. It is important to note that this new phenomenon is a “movement,” not simply a group of people. Dozens of different groups of people with different, yet similar, views make up the Tea Party movement. Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express are two examples of differing groups caught under the umbrella of the movement. There is no unifying web site or hierarchy of authority for the entire Tea Party. All of the Tea Party groups advocate for small government and fiscal responsibility, but even among these similar groups, there can be radically differing opinions. For example, this past summer, the former president to the Tea Party Express, Mark Williams, was removed from his position after labeling President Obama as an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug” and posting a blog depicting a satirical letter from “we coloreds” (former slaves) to Abraham Lincoln. (2) Also, because the Tea Party Express was hesitant to eject Williams, the entire organization was severed from the Tea Party Federation, which is a collection of 85 different Tea Party groups. This event makes the clear case that the Tea Party is a movement filled with differing opinions and groups, and not a single organization. The offensive comments of one man should in no way reflect poorly upon the entire movement. In fact, the Tea Party Federation’s ejection of Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express should shine a positive light upon the Tea Party. The Tea Party Federation saw a clear example of extremely prejudiced comments and rooted out the source.
Despite the fact that the Tea Party does not have a single leader, this does not stop its opponents from labeling certain conservatives and libertarians such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, “leaders” of the Tea Party movement. Although their views may align with the movement, their views and comments (almost always taken out of context) should not represent the views of millions of people. The first, and perhaps most cited, “leader” of the Tea Party is Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, it is very difficult to argue that the way Sarah Palin is treated in the media is downright disgusting. During the 2008 campaign, the mainstream media did its best to smear and destroy Palin in every way possible. The attacks became so frequent that comments made by the impeccable Sarah Palin impersonator, Tina Fey (who was actually quite hilarious) were cited as comments made by the real Sarah Palin. Because of this, most people still assume that “I can see Russia from my house,” actually came from Sarah Palin instead of Tina Fey, from whom the comment really originated. I could spend hours breaking down every comment Palin has made, but to stick with the Tea Party theme, I’ll focus on a comment made by the former governor which has caused her to be attacked for apparently “condoning violence.” (3) This past spring, Palin tweeted “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead- RELOAD!” and was subsequently harassed by democratic lawmakers. Is this really the left’s best evidence of “violence” from the Tea Party? Before responding to this, let me first stop laughing hysterically. How is this violent? Is it because she used the word “reload”? If so, America, our republic is over. Prepare yourself for a new regime of over-excessive political correctness.
In addition to the attacks on Sarah Palin, a firestorm has perpetually raged against political commentator Glenn Beck. Obviously Glenn Beck is over the top and seems to make an offhanded, controversial comment every few months. Although he has absolutely nothing to do with the Tea Party (he actually started the 9/12 Project), Beck is perpetually grouped with the movement as a way of reducing their credibility. The most controversial comment Glenn Beck made over a year ago occurred when he called President Obama a “racist.” (4) He made this comment in response to President Obama’s labeling of his own grandmother as a “typical white person;” a comment that has not been clarified, by the way (5). Recently, Beck clarified his statement by stating: “I have a big fat mouth sometimes and I say things, and that’s not the way people should behave.” He went on to explain that he mistook the president’s position on liberation theology as racism. Yes, the statement Beck made was an over-exaggeration, but he has since revised it and one controversial statement by a political figure who is not officially tied to the Tea Party should not destroy the reputation of the entire movement.
As the Tea Party movement has swelled in the past year, so have the cries of racism. This seems to be the most common charge against the Tea Party, but little, if any, proof has been brought forth to back this claim up. Democrats like to claim that the n word was hurled at John Lewis after the heath care vote as he walked with Nancy Pelosi and other congressmen. Even though there were thousands of people with cell phones and cameras around the group as they walked arrogantly through the crowd, mocking Civil Rights leaders, no proof has ever been brought forward. Blogger Andrew Breitbart has even offered $10,000 to anyone who can prove that these claims are true. (6) No one has stepped forward to claim the reward. Please, opponents of the Tea Party, stop using “racist” to describe the movement (and to describe all opponents of the president as well). Simply throwing out the word “racism” constantly with nothing to back it up does nothing more than water down the word and dilute the cases of true racism.
In addition to being labeled as racist, Tea Partiers are constantly attacked for being “violent” as well. This claim is even less believable than that of racism. Again, I will ask, where is the proof? Sarah Palin using the word “reload” is not violence. Disagreeing with the president’s policies is not violence. You want an example of violence? How about the beating of Kenneth Gladney by SEIU thugs outside a Russ Carnahan event last year? (7) In August 2009, Kenneth Gladney, an African American man was selling “Don’t Tread on Me” flags outside a Russ Carnahan event and was approached by several SEIU thugs and violently questioned about what he was doing there. One SEUI member reportedly asked: “Why is an n-word like you handing out these flags?” The situation turned worse when Gladney was beaten by the SEIU thugs and eventually taken to the hospital. Six men were arrested later that night and the video of the beating is currently streaming on YouTube. Funny thing about that; the men who were arrested were not Tea Partiers. Imagine that! For all the claims of violence against the Tea Party, I would assume that every act of violence perpetrated in this country came from a Tea Party member. Actually, the men who committed the assault were members of the left leaning union, SEIU. In addition to halting the cries of racism, please stop using “violence” as just another buzzword. If you want to call the Tea Party either racist or violent, at least have evidence to back it up.
No matter what the left does to smear the Tea Party, there is no doubt that the conservative revival that has helped propel the Tea Party movement will have an enormous impact on the elections this November. America in general has a love/hate relationship with the Tea Party. Personally, I have no preference where anyone stands on the Tea Party. What I do have a problem with is smearing the entire movement with inaccuracies and insulting buzzwords like “racist” and “violent.” Here is a lesson to the left: before you try to destroy a movement that encompasses millions of people, check your info. Take a lesson from your Democratic counterpart, former Congressman Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”