âTea Partyâ is over: Ex-activist says racism, hypocrisy killed the movement
I always defended the Tea Party against charges of racism. And then last week, someone with whom I am Facebook âfriendsâ posted something extremely racist and I called her out on it. Immediately, her friends jumped down my throat, calling me a liberal and saying I wasnât a real tea partier, despite the fact that I was one of 10 people on the first Tea Party conference calls back in January of 2009.
That was just one of many wake-up calls.
Sadly, what began as a genuine opportunity to make this country more free has deteriorated to racist name calling, fear of anyone with brown skin, and an irrational focus on Sharia law.
A chance for Libertarians to reform the GOP
Nobody has been a bigger supporter of the Tea Party than I have been.
In Orlando, I think we had one of the best organized groups. Along with Cincinnati and Houston, Orlando was one of the cities that saw the biggest rallies, the most active tea partiers, and attracted the biggest names to speak at our events. When the left would point to the one nut-job in a crowd of 6,000 with a racist sign and call all 6,000 people racists, the more Libertarian tea partiers like me, would always use ourselves and our groups as examples of of the real, average tea partier.
At our events here in Orlando I met people who said they had never come to a political rally. Even when the left insisted that the Tea Party was just a bunch of GOP activists, I knew better. The people I talked to at our rallies were usually more independent. Of course there were lots of Republicans and some even more conservative members of the Whig Party and Conservative Party, but there were also lots of Libertarians, independents, and Constitution Party members.
I always felt like the Tea Party was going to be the chance for Libertarians to do two things:
First, I thought it was a golden opportunity to show Republicans the hypocrisy of their platform.
Secondly, I thought it was a great chance for us to talk to apolitical, independent folks who were genuinely angry about the bank bailouts: folks who work for a living or own a small business and felt like, âhey, I employ 25 people and no one is going to bail me out. To hell with GM and Lehman Brothers!â
These are people who vote for president every four years but donât vote in midterm elections. They donât really care if gays get married or if college kids smoke pot. They also do not want to have their paychecks confiscated to pay for Obamacare. They voted for the GOP in 2010 and made John Boehner Speaker of the House.
A movement hijacked by the political and religious right
And then, the Dick Armyâs of the political world started to creep in and take over the movement. They were very slick about it. They started giving all of these individual Tea Party groups money so people who were selling real estate six months earlier could now make a living watching Fox News and blogging, or posting on Twitter and Facebook.
Itâs so sad to me that a movement that began as an organic reaction to big government has been hijacked by the right. The Tea Partyâs slogan was, âfiscal responsibility, limited government, and free marketsâ â but it has now become the religious right in tri-corner hats.
I thought we were going to have Republicans thinking for once and realizing that if Barack Obama put an entire private sector industry out of business and then nationalized that same industry and created a new cabinet level department to oversee and regulate the industry I would call it socialism âŚ so how come I was OK with George W. Bush doing the same thing to the airline security industry? And I am glad that we are all concerned about extra-judicial drone strikes on American citizens, but how come George Bush and Barack Obama can both kill Americans with drones overseas without a trial? Is it because the targets have brown skin and a foreign last name?
But alas we learned no such lessons. We are OK with big government as long as itâs a Republican administration. We are OK with losing our civil liberties as long as a white Republican is the one in the White House taking our freedoms away.
We are mad at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for trying to tell us how much soda we can drink because we should be able to consume whatever we want, whether itâs trans-fats or soda or raw milk â the government shouldnât tell us what we can put in our bodies. Unless of course itâs a substance that WE think is harmful, like marijuana. And thatâs even though sugary drinks have been linked to diabetes, and even though children now get what was once called âadult onset diabetes.â We should be free to drink as much as we want. And even though marijuana has never hurt a single person it is illegal, and we will lock you up, ruin your life, and put a felony on your record if you try to ingest it. We donât need âNanny Bloombergâ (as Sean Hannity calls him) telling us what is good for us and what is bad for us, and if I want to eat or drink things that are bad for me, I have every right. But I cannot smoke things that are bad for me âŚ except cigars and cigarettes, and âŚ
It is all so hypocritical it makes your head spin.
Driving Independents away
Hypocrisy and racism are what drove independents who voted Republican in 2010 away from the Tea Party. The same thing has happened with the Libertarians, like me, who were part of the original Tea Party. We have been driven away from the rallies and the meetings because what was supposed to be a movement about fiscal issues has become the activist-wing of the GOP. If you donât think every Muslim is a terrorist you are not a real Tea Party member. If you think that the U.S. Constitution does not say anything about drugs, and that therefore, under the 9th and 10th Amendments the issue should be left to the states, you are not a real Tea Party member. And when you use the Constitution to prove to them that they are wrong it sends them into fits.
I remember explaining to one pseudo-constitutional âscholarâ that the Full Faith and Credit Clause says that legal acts and records from one state are valid in every state. Therefore, if you respect the Constitution and believe in the strict interpretation of the Constitution then you must understand that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. That law says that gay marriages in one state do not have to be recognized by other states.
But because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, marriages from one state are recognized by other states. I asked this so-called conservative how he could say that he is an expert on the Constitution and that the Constitution is sacred, while supporting DOMA, which basically says, âTo hell with the Constitution â states donât have to recognize this particular document issued to these particular people.â I thought he was going to swallow his own tongue. He just had this look on his face that said: âdoes not compute.â Then he called me a liberal and walked away.
I donât understand how these people think they are going to win elections when they tell people that âGod hates gaysâ and all Muslims are terrorists, and every Hispanic is an illegal alien. I asked this during the racist Facebook conversation. Do they think that gays, Muslims, and Hispanics will vote Republican in spite of the fact Republican activists are telling them how much they hate them? Or do they think they can win elections with only white, Christian, men over 40 voting for them.
Either way, as a Republican campaign consultant I do not look forward to the next few election cycles. The best hope we have, really, is the mid-term elections, when blacks, gays, Muslims, and Hispanics are more likely to stay home.