Tea party reflects nation’s health

From Pittsburgh Tribune Review


During a forum for the unemployed in her home state this month, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., announced that “the ‘tea party’ can go straight to hell,” adding, “And I intend to help them get there.”

This outburst came in the wake of a reference by Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., that tea party Republicans are “terrorists” at a Democrat caucus meeting last month.

And at a Miami town hall meeting, Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., piled on, saying, “Let us all remember who the real enemy is. The real enemy is the tea party.”

With elected officials hurling this type of invective at fellow politicians who are associated with the tea party movement, as well as at the constituents who sent them to Washington, one would imagine the tea party was advocating something truly sinister.

In my own neighborhood (the east side of Manhattan), I have heard anxious murmurs about tea party activists that they are anti-Semitic or racist.

While fiscal conservatism has never been my personal cause, activists in the tea party movement have raised my awareness about it. And given that some of my family members are tea party activists in Western Pennsylvania, I am sick of hearing the movement and its members categorically slammed and slandered by “enlightened” city dwellers, most of whom have had little or no contact with its members.

Christopher Cochran, a founding member of the tea party in Western Pennsylvania (full disclosure: he is my brother-in-law), when asked if he had encountered any anti-Semitism or racism among its ranks, told me, “Never did I see anything like that. … The people I’ve known in the tea party don’t have any of those feelings and if anybody would (voice something like that) — whether it was racist or anti-Semitic or putting down women — that would not be tolerated.”

He added that the tea party is a grassroots movement with “no one leader. But they police themselves very well. Anyone who gets out of line, gets thrown out” by local leadership.

While every movement has its kooks, regarding the movement in general, I am inclined to believe him and not just because he’s my brother-in-law.

After all, given the need to feed the 24-hour news machine, if there were widespread expressions of racism or anti-Semitism at these rallies, wouldn’t we have seen it reported? Similarly, if this were a movement whose members were prone to violence (given that hundreds of thousands of tea party activists have gathered at rallies for years now) wouldn’t we have seen reports of violence?

We have not seen these crimes or heard this bigotry because it exists only in the minds of the tea party’s detractors.

The tea party is a peaceful movement composed of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. So why this fear and loathing, this condemnation to “hell” of a group of Americans who are breaking no laws, engaging in no smears or slurs?

Clearly, its simple insistence on the principle of self-reliance threatens the agendas of those who place their faith in government, as well as those who are dependent on government and want to stay that way. Otherwise, there would be no reason for anyone to feel threatened or enraged by a group this nonthreatening.

The tea party’s civility stands in marked contrast to violent protests in places like England and Greece — and the contrast extends beyond behavior to underlying principles.

The principles of fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility that underlie the tea party movement bode well for the United States, because a country in which the people, of their own volition, rouse themselves to demand less usurpation of their hard-earned dollars and fewer, not greater, handouts from government, is a country healthy enough to begin the challenging process of getting back on its feet.

This entry was written by and posted on September 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm and filed under Commentary.