Does the Tea Party Have a Pulse?

Print Share on LinkedIn More

February 21, 2012; Source: Lodi News

With all the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the intrepid supporters of the Tea Party movement have been relatively quiescent. Some Tea Partiers are out to make sure that they define themselves and their movement as they see it, not through the lens of the mainstream media.

In Lodi, Calif., Ed Miller and Kim Parigoris of Lodi Citizens in Action have launched a regular newspaper column to address topics “important to Lodians and the American way of life.” Their inaugural column describes their local group as affiliated with the national Tea Party Patriots (TPP), a 501(c)(4) that they say is “prohibited by federal law from affiliation with or funding from any political party of Political Action Committee,” in contrast to the Tea Party Express, which is a PAC that supports the Republican Party.

In “The Patriot Corner,” Kim and Ed engage in a faux dialogue to reveal that they and the TPP are not (and do not aspire to become) a third party either, despite Kim’s assertion that “neither political party has been honest or inclusive with their constituents, and has kept us in the dark when it comes to the political process.”

Kim goes on to contrast the Tea Party with the Occupy movement. “[W]e are not interested in adding to the problems by disrupting other people’s lives, politicizing issues or promoting the political agendas of any political party,” she writes. “Our goal is to be a part of the solution by first identifying issues, then contributing possible solutions while educating the public. Just complaining does not cut it.”

Emphasizing Tea Party Patriots’ support for limited government and free markets, Kim makes a particular point of eschewing the social conservatism associated in the Republican presidential race with Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, and now Rick Santorum: “As a group, the Patriots avoid social issues because they are divisive,” she writes. “[S]ocial issues drive wedges between people and distract from the issues that unite Americans. As individuals, there is no problem promoting social issues, just not under the banner of the TPPs.” You see the same absence of social issues in other restatements of Tea Party credos—for example, in a recently published letter from the 501(c)(4) Amarillo Tea Party.

There have been several recent efforts to show that the Tea Party is still alive and kicking. For instance, American Majority president Ned Ryun suggested that Partiers have eschewed “street theater” to instead focus “on the long haul for fundamental, generational change for this great nation.” And we’ve also seen articles about the successes of Tea Party-affiliated candidates in state legislative and local government elections. But it does seem that the Occupy Wall Streeters have captured the public imagination that was once focused on Tea Party rallies.

Kim and Ed might have put their finger on the problem. Elvin Lim, a political science professor at Wesleyan University, suggests that many conservatives’ focus on social issues diminishes the Tea Partiers’ main concern about government and fiscal issues. In this way, it seems the Tea Partiers’ movement has been hijacked. –Rick Cohen

  • Michael

    Let me give you a first hand account from a swing state. In stunning fashion, Pennsylvania is transforming from a dominate Blue State into a solid Red….and it’s apparent that the Tea Party effect is driving this change. Pat Toomey sits in the Senate and the House delegation added true fiscal hawks such as Kelley, Fitzpatrick and Barletta. In addition, oldtime congressmen like Shuster and Gerlach now talk the language of limited government (even while these two have yet to fully reform their actions to match their rhetoric). And most remarkably, the Governorship went to Tom Corbett, who campaigned as a fiscal conservative and has shown a fiscal discipline unusual in PA politics.

  • michael

    In addition…So while from afar you may think Pennsylvania = Santorum, the perspective from inside the Keystone state is quite different. And this is where the Tea Party is having its greatest effect, cleaning up the Republican Party and forcing it back to core principles. It is the kind of impact one hopes the Occupy movement will have upon the Democratic Party…get back to core principles: to cut it’s ties to Wall Street (Obama/Geithner/Goldman Sachs), to end the crony bailouts to giant corporations (General Motors) and to stop the sweetheart tax breaks to favored companies (Immelt/General Electric).

  • Bob Diamond R.Ph

    The Tea Party is making a difference. Look at Santora’s resurgence and Romney’s inability to gain traction as examples. The Occupy movement to glorify handouts and extract more money from the middle-class has fizzled out.They can’t even get a headline in that Progressive-bastion the Charlotte Observer.