The Tea Party protests took part across the USA last year in protest at Barack Obama’s expansion of the federal government. Invoking the Boston Tea Party the modern day protestors claim they are Taxed Enough Already. Mainstream media organisations have attempted to paint the Tea Party movement as a movement of nutters – drawing attention to some of the (many) fringe characters who have attached themselves to events.
For Mark Halperin there are enormous similarities between Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement:
- Both scare the heck out of a Republican Establishment that is afraid to be critical of either of them in public (but savages them in private.)
- Both “stand for” hazy opposition to big government, with no specifics on how they would do things differently (or effectively.)
- Both have far less support in the country at large than a gullible Old Media seems to understand or suggest.
- Both are the subject of endless fascination by cable TV.
- Both have the potential to ensure Barack Obama’s re-election.
- Both have energetic supporters whose passion dwarfs anything else in American politics today.
More similarities here.
There is a continuum, however, from those nutty fringes (where Obama is
compared to Hitler)… to the mainstream of the Tea Party movement
(TPM) and its very high energy levels (it organised the conservative
movement’s largest ever demonstration
in Washington DC in September 2009)… and then to the less energised
but still angry middle America that, in Massachusetts, voted for Scott
Brown in protest at Barack Obama’s activist expansion of government and
Much of the Republican establishment nonetheless fears the TPM. The movement has, for example, backed Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio against fellow Republican and incumbent state governor, Charlie Crist (R) in the Republican Senate primary. The TPM wants top create a purer, more anti-government Republican Party but the party establishment fears that a too ideological party will upset moderates. The movement then intends to pour its resources into the campaigns of approved Republicans. The ‘Enduring Liberty Corporation’, an offshoot of the movement, aims to raise $10m in support of ‘friends of the TPM’.
Sarah Palin is encouraging the Republican Party to embrace the movement. She gave the keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention on Saturday night, in Nashville. She spoke to 1,100 people who had each paid $350 for their seat. She said that America was “ready for another revolution,”. She got the warmest response from her audience when she attacked Obama. “How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for you?,” was one of her best-received lines. Her speech never became personally negative, however. Her strongest line being to describe the President as that “charismatic guy with a teleprompter.” For FrumForum her “speech was a color-by-numbers affair that read like it was a paragraph-by-paragraph summary of a stack of Wall Street Journal editorials.” In summary: “Drill for more oil. Don’t criminalize the war on terror. Lobbyists in Obama’s White House. Nationalize the healthcare insurance market. Stand by Israel. Don’t apologize for America.” But as The Weekly Standard notes, she didn’t just crowd please: “Palin started off with a concentrated attack on the Obama administration’s national security policies–not an issue for which the Tea Partiers are known.”
It’s easy to write the TPM off but there are signs of maturity. Within the 600 people gathered in Nashville to sit through seminars on fundraising, blogging and other political techniques there are almost certainly individuals who will either help the Tea Party movement to succeed or who, in the years to come, will nurture other conservative movements.