Since the Tea Party movement arose last year, pundits have tried defining it as a Republican movement or as a fringe movement, but the shear number of Americans who identify with it shows otherwise. And its size has the potential to reshape the political landscape for years to come.
“It is a very dynamic movement,” says Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna, a regular speaker at major Tea Party rallies. “There is a strong potential for continuing influence, so it is not just a flash in the pan, but what is really exciting is that it shows a reawakening of our founding values.”
The movement stands as a challenge to the political establishment in both major political parties—both Republican and Democratic—and stands as a voice of conscience in today’s American politics.
The establishment press has tried making it seem as if the movement were a top-down artificial creation of the Republican Party, but nothing could be further from the truth because the movement is completely decentralized. And additional polling shows 40 percent of Tea Partiers consider themselves independents or Democrats.
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has become a major figure in the movement, says the Tea Party movement has become a major force for reminding Americans of their constitutional principles.
“What we really are seeing here is a movement coming together for a constitutional conservatism,” Bachmann said. “We are seeing a re-embracing of constitutional principles all across the board, and the Tea Party movement is made up of disaffected Democrats, independents and Republicans—essentially people who want to see our country resume its greatness by living within constitutional limits, and they recognize we’re taxed enough already.”
A recent Rasmussen poll found roughly half of all Americans, or around 150 million Americans, sympathize with the movement. Consequently, efforts by Barack Obama and his allies on the left to marginalize it as outside the political mainstream are sadly mistaken.
The Tea Party movement has attracted a lot of people who do not normally participate in politics, says Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Mark Meckler.
“This movement is unprecedented, and it is hard to paint into a traditional role because it doesn’t fit the paradigm,” Meckler said. “There has never been a movement before with over 100 million people before.
“The numbers are astounding with so many people holding different tenets, and with the Tea Party Patriots have established 1,500 chapters around the country with millions of members.”
The president has become a bit like George III during the American Revolution—unwilling to see political reality. In the world of Barack Obama government is the savior with its ever-reaching grasp over society, without regard for how it wrecks the ability of the most vulnerable in society to better themselves, and the will of the majority of Americans does not matter.
The same Rasmussen poll also found 38 percent of Americans identify with Obama’s collectivist statism that believes that government knows best—a belief owing more to the French Revolution than the American Revolution. This further shows how the president and the Democrats are out of step with most Americans’ values.
Obama’s collectivist way of thinking has more in common with the likes of Maximillian Robespierre, minus the guillotines, Georges Danton and the Jacobins than the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or Alexander Hamilton.
Today’s Democratic Party is far more indebted to the French Jacobins’ belief that centralized government has the answers for everyone in society and that Christianity ought to be exorcised from society. This understanding of stands in stark contrast with the ideals of the American Revolution.
A look at the Jeffersonians and Jacksonians in the 18th and early 19th centuries shows today’s Tea Partiers are more in tune with their values than the values of the French Revolution exemplified by today’s Democratic Party.
Like today’s Tea Partiers, the Jeffersonians of the 1790s and early 1800s held a strong antipathy for the sort of aristocracy that plague both major parties; a commitment to individual rights as opposed to collective rights; a belief in federalism rather than centralism; and the need for strict construction of the U.S. Constitution.
And the Jacksonians of the 1820s, who were similarly derided by their detractors, likewise shared the Tea Partiers’ beliefs in the strict construction of the U.S. Constitution; a commitment to federalism; a commitment to the free-market system; and opposition to governmental interference in the economy, exemplified in the Jacksonian era by Andrew Jackson’s fight to dismantle the Second Bank of The United States.
The president’s arrogance along with his acceleration of the growth of federal power and deficit spending that started during the Bush years has served as the touchstone that has fueled widespread discontent. And the Tea Party movement has been the result as Americans have become disillusioned with their government.
The Tea Party movement likely will remain outside the control of the Republican Party as “an independent voice of conservatism,” Hanna says. Tea partiers likely will challenge establishment GOP candidates who are chosen by party bosses without popular support in the primaries.
The days of conservatives backing “content-free candidates” are over, Hanna says.
But Republicans likely will benefit most from the Tea Party movement in the short term, especially in general elections.
“They have supplied the essential excitement and the furnace that is moving the Republican Party in the right direction toward embracing a constitutional conservatism,” Bachmann said. “I think the story of this November will be people who are frightened, who don’t want to see the country move into levels of debt that we’re never going to be able to embrace.
“And that is why they are serving a such a critical function.”
Bachmann also sees that Americans are frustrated with how Republicans failed to act like economic conservatives the last time they controlled Congress, even if they have not spent at the same levels as the Democrats have since Obama became president.
“Republicans really lost face with the American people for their not sticking with their principles,” she said.
But Bachmann intends to see that does not happen again. She says repealing Obamacare will be a top priority for her and other Republicans should they win back Congress in November.
“Patience is worn very thin, and if Republicans get the gavel, which I believe they will this fall, and they misuse that gavel—they aren’t working according to constitutional principles then I think perhaps you will see the rise of a third party movement.
“And the genesis in all likelihood will come out of a Tea Party movement.”
“This is a movement of principles before party, and few in the movement support forming a third party right now, ” Meckler said. “But that could change if what Republicans do does not line up with their stated principles.”
The size of the Tea Party movement could mean that if a new party were to emerge from the movement, it could possibly replay what happened in the 1850s when the Republicans emerged from the ashes of the Whig Party. In that case, the GOP inherited the bulk of the former Whig voting base after the Whig Party collapsed in 1854.
John Rossomando is a journalist whose work has been featured in numerous publications such as CNSNews.com, Newsmax and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.