The Tea Party is a major voice in the current political debate, shaping campaigns, influencing politicians, and receiving large media coverage. Since 2009, the Tea Party has vigorously marched and demonstrated against universal healthcare, cap and trade legislation, and any tax increases in conjunction with the debt ceiling debate. Defiled by some as advocates of a certain path to the country’s doom, others extol the Tea Party as the answer to America’s ailments. What is the truth? An accurate representation of the Tea Party as an entity may be difficult to achieve because it is both decentralized and unstructured. Rather, it is a collection of independently operating tea parties existing in communities throughout the country. Without a unifying voice, the Tea Party has been characterized by the media primarily in terms what it stands against, not what it stands for. Considered conservative, the movement’s appeal extends even to Ithaca, a decidedly liberal college town in upstate New York. Since the Tea Party does not have an official platform of policy initiatives, we reached out locally to gain a better understanding of what tea parties seek to accomplish in terms of public policy. The following statement from Edward Weissman, the Ithaca Tea Party organizer, explains the movement and its political goals.
By Edward Weissman, Organizer of the Ithaca Tea Party
The Tea Party is a grassroots movement of loosely connected, autonomous groups without national leadership or central organization. Love of country and all America stands for explains the recent, rapid rise of the Tea Party. These are not flamboyant, empty words. They embody the passionately held convictions of a multitude of ordinary citizens. Tea partiers recognize that the American way of life, American pre-eminence and, most importantly, the freedoms guaranteed to each citizen coupled with personal responsibility are threatened and beginning to disappear. They realize that our freedoms have been gradually diminishing for decades. They further realize that the current administration in Washington is waging a full-scale assault against personal freedom and responsibility. Seeing this danger, individuals often with no previous connection to each other or without a history of political activism have banded together to restore America to its founding principles, the underlying basis of its greatness. Their impact is undeniable.
The Ithaca Tea Party membership includes men and women from diverse backgrounds and careers. There are registered Democrats, Republicans and Conservatives as well as independents. Yet, there is agreement among this diverse group, as well as across the movement as a whole, on the role of the government. It is nothing more and nothing less than to ensure the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Scrupulous adherence to the U.S. Constitution, the contract between “we the people” and the federal government, is the only proven road to achieving those goals. Tea Partiers understand that the founding fathers designed our Constitution to protect citizens from an overreaching central government. The Tea Party is ordinary citizens standing up for their rights while assuming their responsibilities, always peacefully and legally. Clearly, the Tea Party is an ideological movement, not a partisan organization.
It is within this ideological framework that the Tea Party vehemently opposes The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Although presented merely as a health insurance plan, Obamacare essentially is about reforming the entire United States health care system. Among myriad other provisions, it encompasses plans to take over medical education, hospital administration and begin a civilian National Health Service Corps. The centrally controlled top-down approach that Obamacare embodies confers vast new powers on Washington bureaucrats. It creates more than one hundred new bureaucracies staffed by a veritable legion of new government hires and a plethora of new mandates, rules, regulations and taxes. It will not control the rise in health care costs. It will result in rationing and reduced quality of care. Furthermore, it is a plan for the government to take over 16% of the economy. There is no freedom here, no choice. While the Tea Party recognizes the need for managing health care costs, we favor market-based reforms. Obamacare is not about controlling costs; it is about controlling people. Czar-generated regulations, the fiscal reform legislation, out-of-control spending and the huge national debt raise similar concerns. Each entails increased restraints on individual choice and behavior. While sabotaging economic recovery and sustained growth, more intrusive government results in an assault on our guaranteed freedoms.
Additionally, the Tea Party favors a revamped and simplified tax system with lower rates for all. Favorable treatment for businesses, industries and unions as well as policies designed to manipulate social behavior are an abuse of government power. Crony capitalism, aptly defined by John Stossel as the cozy relationship among government, big business and big labor, bestowing privileges unattainable in the free market is insidious. The tax code should not be used as a reward or to pick winners and losers. It should have only one goal and that is to raise revenue in a fair and equitable way. The Tea Party supports responsible restructuring of entitlement programs, a balanced budget and vigilant support of federalism, the doctrine delegating to the individual states those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government in the Constitution. The Tea Party also favors a strong military and secure borders. There is no real freedom without security.
Finally, the Tea Party is often portrayed as a movement espousing only negative values. Accusations of anti-government, anti-tax, racist, compassionless beliefs are but a few of the baseless charges. The Tea Party rejects those accusations hurled at us by the opponents of freedom and responsibility. The Tea Party understands the need for both government and the taxes necessary to support constitutionally designated responsibilities. The accusation of racism has often been made, but never substantiated. Tea Partiers do not lack compassion. Compassion can be measured by the achievement of success in attaining independence. There is no compassion in the soul-stealing practice of engendering long-term dependence on government largess. A society structured to facilitate real change from needy to self-sustaining for the greatest number is the most compassionate. It is the America where anyone can achieve his dreams on his own terms that the Tea Party wants to preserve.
In summary, Tea Party members know that their liberty, the basis for unlimited individual opportunity, is being threatened by an overbearing federal government. Effecting the long weaning process from over-spending, over-regulation and over-dependence on government largess is the Tea Party agenda. The strong, opportunity-filled country Americans have cherished for more than two centuries must endure. The methodology the Tea Party is using is well within the purview of both the ordinary citizens who are the Tea Partiers and the laws of the United States. The Tea Party will educate, will mobilize and will vote. We’ll make the change the America way.