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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Tea Party in the USA

Ben Turpin

Tea Party in the USA

Due to the protests, the growing number of people involved, and the controversial convention last week, the so-called Tea Party movement is getting more and more difficult to ignore. But who are these people and what do they really stand for? In a late January survey, 40 percent of respondents said that they either had not heard of the movement or did not know enough about it to form an opinion. Granted, this poll was conducted before the recent National Tea Party Convention, but that event did not really provide any more definitive information about this group than was already available.

The foundation of the Tea Party movement is the belief that the level of current government spending is excessive and even immoral. The movement has formed as a result of populist anger over measures like the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler and the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Members are upset about the skyrocketing national debt and condemn the notion that the government should spend the country out of the difficult economy.

The group needs to stick with that message because although its foundation is conservative, the group is not loyal to any one party (they were no happier with former President Bush's fiscal policies than they are with President Obama's) and its message likely strikes a chord with some independents who are not typically Republican leaning. Sarah Palin, who was much more effective speaking to a group of backers than she ever will be running for (or holding) a political office, could have done a better job of this. While she hit on key non-partisan issues like massive, pork-laden bills Congress votes on without having the time to read them and the disappointing results of the recent stimulus bill, she also spent part of her speech on issues like the War on Terror and abortion.

Independent voters are more important right now than they have ever been in the United States. The 2008 election proved that and polls continue to bear it out. If the Tea Party can keep itself at least somewhat appealing to independents, it could effectively throw its weight behind the issue of meaningful government spending reform. As a bloc of independent voters, the Tea Party can be dangerous to both major parties if they choose to continue their current spending policy. If the movement becomes merely an extension of the Republican Party, it will lose much of its ability to sway independent voters, and, subsequently, its ability to force Democrats, who will definitely still have a majority in the Senate, to address its concerns in their agenda.

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This would be very disappointing because government spending has ballooned to a completely unsustainable level and continues to grow. By running massive deficits, the United States government has left itself no choice but to run the printing presses full time, inflating and devaluing our currency in the process. Any efforts to turn the trend around can only have positive results.

But by choosing Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker of a convention that was run by an obviously for-profit organization, Tea Party organizers handicapped their own cause. Sarah Palin, regardless of what she says or does at this point, will always be an easy, Dan Quayle-esque target for liberal pot shots. She has simply made too many ridiculous comments and been at the center of too many controversies. Regardless of why she was at the convention, her mere presence gave it a Republican aura. Beyond that, the haphazard way the convention itself was run cast the movement as a headless organization that does not know where it is going. This is not the image it will need if it is going to accomplish anything, or even be around long enough to have a chance.

The Tea Party movement is a grassroots uprising of people who are angry about the way their government is spending their money, be it that of today's generation or of tomorrow's. This is a message independents can get on board with and one that can garner enough support to have a tangible effect on policy. But in order to harness its potential, the Tea Party movement needs to stick to its central message. The movement must get organized in a way that indicates it is legitimate. If organizers continue to operate the way they do now, their message will fall on the deaf ears of politicians who know the movement does not have the votes to punish them for not listening.

Ben Turpin is a junior majoring in psychology. Please send out all feedback to 

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