Depending on the source of your information, the Tea Party is either a right wing, radical, extremist, racist group or a non-partisan grassroots organization following traditional American values. In truth there is no single "Tea Party," but several individual groups through out the country. What they all seem to have in common, from the Tea Party events I have attended and the research I've done, is that their values are essentially the same. Fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.
Tea Party Patriots, Inc. is probably the most representative of the majority of the Tea Party groups. According to its mission statement, it "is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets." I can find nothing in this mission statement that is radical, extreme, right wing or racist. I will admit that a constitutionally limited government was certainly considered radical and extremist when it was first suggested in the Declaration of Independence, and later ratified by the states in our Constitution, but that was more than two and a quarter centuries ago.
Their literature states that they are, "...a non-partisan grassroots organization of individuals united by our core values derived from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights as explained in the Federalist Papers." That statement is pretty important. Their core values are based on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and it strongly implies that Tea Party adherents believe in the "original intent" of those documents.
There are those on the left who say that since these papers are over 200 years old, they have less or little meaning in today's world. They say that we are so technologically advanced now, that the Constitution is virtually meaningless in today's world. The better argument is just the opposite. Because of modern technology, our rights to freedom of speech, of press, of religion, to keep and bear arms, and to be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures are in more need of constitutional protection now than ever before.
The founders also provided an amendment process to enable future generations to change the Constitution when appropriate. It is not an easy process and it shouldn't be. It should be amended only when the vast majority of the states approve or a Constitutional Convention so concludes.
It is significant that the Tea Party Patriots also base its core values on the Declaration of Independence. Here's why: the second paragraph of that august document states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The meaning of this is that our rights come from God, not a king, not a government or a dictator. Since they are divinely given, they are "unalienable," which means they cannot be taken away by any secular power.
Just as an aside, a majority of atheists are honest, moral and ethical people, (although, if they don't believe they have to answer to a higher authority, I can't think of a logical reason why they think they shouldn't do whatever they can get away with). How, then, does the atheist believe we obtained these basic rights? They would have to think that they came from a king or a dictator or a government, in which case they can be taken away by that same entity.
The Tea Party believes in fiscal responsibility. Who doesn't? I hear the leaders of both political parties claiming to be for that and accusing the other party of ruining our economy. The Tea Party is for constitutionally limited government. Who is against that? To some, me included, it seems like progressives and democrats want to expand the government beyond the limits of what the Constitution intended, with bailouts of private companies and governmental intrusion into health care. And finally, the Tea Party advocates free markets or a free-market economy. Many progressives claim to be for free markets, although their policies that put rules, restrictions, taxes and bureaucracy on the backs of businesses makes it much more difficult to start or run a business.
These core values of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets don't make the Tea Party radical and extreme. If the majority of the citizens of this country think these values are radical and extreme, then the Tea Party has its work cut out for it when trying "to attract, educate, organize and mobilize our fellow citizens...," but it is definitely a job that needs to be undertaken.
Buz Williams is a retired Long Beach, Calif., police officer who has lived in Prescott since 2004.