Column: Tea Party's values anything but radical
One of the practices of extremists of every bent is to attempt to marginalize political oppo-nents by spreading lies, half-truths and innuendo. This is particularly true of those who refer to the Tea Party as "tea-baggers." This is historically inaccurate, since there was no such thing as tea bags when the original Tea Party participants threw crates of tea into Boston Harbor. It is also an attempt to demean, since tea-bagging also refers to a prurient sex act.
Tea Party members have also been called racist since the vast majority of them are white. Not all of them are white, however. Many black conservatives, such as former Congressman Alan West, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Deneen Berelli, Lloyd Marcus and former Congressional candidate Angela McGlowan claim affiliation with the Tea Party. This takes some courage, since some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have claimed that the Tea Party is racist.
The fact is, any conservative organization can be accused of racism without any evidence, other than their views are different than those making that claim. Accusations that Tea Party people called black members of Congress racist names and spit on them were debunked when the numerous videos of the event were reviewed and showed no evidence that these events occurred.
The Tea Party is most often described as "extremist." But are their self-professed core principles radical or extreme? Since it started out as a grassroots movement, it is not a unified "party" as such. Many of the supporters of the movement felt that the TEA stood for Taxed Enough Already. Although there are a few nationwide groups, like Freedom Works and Tea Party Patriots, that are trying to unify the disparate local groups, this has not yet been accomplished. Yet the majority of the Tea Parties have the same core values: fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and a free-market economy.
None of these three principles seem radical or extremist by themselves, or cumulatively for that matter.
The question then presents itself, are these values out of the norm in today's world? They certainly were considered revolutionary when our government was originally founded.
One of the main reason the Revolutionary War started was the American colonists were rebelling against what they felt were oppressive taxes. In addition to the American colonist believing it was unfair for England to tax them when they had no representation in Parliament, they felt that the British were not being fiscally responsible. Is it radical to think that the government should not spend more money then they take in? Is it extremist to think that maybe the tax burden is too much when one has to pay federal, state and, in some jurisdictions city taxes on income, property taxes, sale taxes, inheritance and other taxes, ad nauseam, in the form of registrations and licenses?
The Tea Party's next principle is constitutionally limited government. This means that the people "consent" to be governed and therefore, the power lies with the people, not the government. This was really radical when our Constitution was written. If the people didn't like the way those officials were running things, they could vote them out of office.
In addition, the Tenth Amendment limited the powers of the federal government, which were few and listed. All rights not expressly delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states or the people themselves. This was because our founders, having recently gone through a long war with the most powerful country in the world, feared an oppressive faraway government. They also felt that the most local government possible to solve a given problem would handle it best and be held most accountable to the people. Is that extreme?
The last value that most Tea Party members profess is a belief in a free-market economy. They believe that the free-market economy was the result of constitutional restrictions on government and this is the reason why our country became the most prosperous in the history of the world.
Most Tea Party people I know believe that our Constitution granted our people four freedoms never allowed by prior kingdoms or governments. These were: the freedom to buy what one wanted, not just what the government allowed to be sold. The freedom to sell what one wanted without government interference or governmental competition. The freedom to try new products or inventions without overly oppressive, restrictive and/or time-consuming regulations. The last freedom our Constitution conferred on us is probably the most important. It is the freedom to fail. Under older forms of government, a company that was backed by that government or kingdom was not allowed to fail. Human nature, being what it is, we learn more from failure than we do from success. Learning from failure, and implementing what we learn in new endeavors, is the essence of real progress.
Most Tea Party people believe that the federal government has overstepped its Constitutional limits and this has had a negative effect on our economy and our freedoms. I would point to President Bush's TARP bailout of financial institution the were considered "too big to fail" and President Obama's disastrous Affordable Care Act as just two examples showing that the Tea Party is correct, however radical it may be considered in the press or by the left.