A Tea Party Fairytale

Current attempts to revive that Boston Tea Party of 1773 are marketing gimmicks to masquerade conservative forces bent on defeating Obama and destroying any attempt to reform the present gridlock political system. Examining the history of this faux-movement reveals the actors behind the curtain.

One of the earliest revivals of the Tea Party involved 100 people meeting in Seattle to protest the stimulus bill passed by Congress to keep the U.S. from descending into another Great Depression. After bloggers and libertarians spread a call for protest on the Internet, the media blew it into a major event.

Right-wing groups poured funding into the nascent movement. These groups included: Americans for Prosperity, a pro-tobacco, anti-healthcare and anti-tax lobbying organization; and FreedomWorks, a lobbying firm devoted to opposing taxes, immigration, healthcare reform and solutions to global warming. Koch Industries, an oil, mineral, ranching and securities conglomerate, funds both of these groups, while the Sarah Mellon Scaife foundation, with interests in oil, industry and banking, funds FreedomWorks.

After Fox News began promoting the Tea Party as a social movement, their crowds grew. Fox News entertainer, Glenn Beck, invited viewers to “celebrate with Fox News,” by attending tax protests in Washington on April 15, the date federal tax returns are due.

A mere 3,000 Tea Party supporters attended the rally and grabbed the headlines. More people rallied across the country in support of Single Payer Healthcare Reform but they received few headlines. After much smaller groups of Tea Partiers protested in several cities, right-wing entertainers such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly giddily talked about “a growing movement” for weeks. Soon Republicans Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Ron Paul, Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich jumped on board, hoping to revive their failed political careers.

Seldom has so much been made about so little. Supporters claimed the Tea Party was “a nonpartisan grassroots movement,” but the reality is far different. Not only was the idea supported by right-wing money and promoted by the right-wing propaganda mill, Fox News, but it also garnered no new support. When asked, 18 percent of Americans replied that they identified with the Tea Party. Only 20 percent of those sent money, or about four percent of the public, while 78 percent have done nothing in support.

Essentially, the Tea Party is a new face of the same old right-wing, reactionary forces that have long been working to turn America into a more religious, racist and militaristic country with an unregulated free enterprise system, weak government and low taxation.

Analysts predicted midterm elections would reveal grass-roots support for the Tea Party, but only a handful of candidates they supported won, while two-thirds of registered voters stayed home. However, a poor showing at the polls by this vocal minority doesn’t mean all is well in the U.S.

According to a comprehensive New York Times/CBS News poll, the majority of Tea Party supporters describe themselves as being “very conservative” and more conservative than most Republicans on social issues. They almost always vote Republican and 60 percent favor George W. Bush Jr., compared to 40 percent of the general public. A majority are men who claim the government favors the poor and twice as many as the general public feel Black people get “too much attention.” Almost 50 percent heard about the Tea Party on TV, 80 percent are white, and 60 percent are older than 50. Ninety percent are pessimistic about the direction of the country, disapprove of Obama, and believe America is becoming socialistic. Seventy-five percent want to have smaller government.

Many Tea Partiers live on Social Security, benefit from Medicare, and are frightened. Although they reported their personal financial situation as “fairly good” or “very good,” 55 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party fear someone in their household will lose their job in the coming year. Two-thirds say the recession caused them economic hardship and forced them to make life changes. In summary, it’s fair to characterize the Tea Partiers as fearful old, white, right-wing Republican men.

Progressive forces are organizing to promote social change in the interests of working people, minorities, gays and lesbians, young people, and immigrants, but they confront unified opposition groups with lots of money behind them. These moneyed interests, in addition to the conservatives of the Baby Boomers generation, are currently holding off real change. Coupled with GOP obstructionism in Congress, America is deadlocked. What catastrophe will come to break the deadlock is anyone’s guess.

Don Monkerud is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He is the author of America Unhinged: Politics and Pandemic in the 2020 Election (2021). He can be reached at: monkerud@cruzio.com. Read other articles by Don.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on July 15th, 2010 at 8:42am #


    Take a look and freedom work’s one man who heads this organization in some form or other was on CNN yesterday and am not sure if black pants and tie is standard dress but the man I saw yesterday was perfect Hollywood could not have done a better job, central casting as remember agent Smith from the movie the Matrix perfect except for the rap around dark glasses. Who makes the rules dress code for Freedom Work’s?

  2. lichen said on July 15th, 2010 at 4:17pm #

    Thank you for this article! A real relief compared to those other tomes posted here that like to pretend it’s wrong to be against those noble “libertarians” of the tea party.

    “Essentially, the Tea Party is a new face of the same old right-wing, reactionary forces that have long been working to turn America into a more religious, racist and militaristic country with an unregulated free enterprise system, weak government and low taxation.”

  3. teafoe2 said on July 15th, 2010 at 4:59pm #

    Yes. The article corroborates what I found in my brief effort to research the history & origins of the “TP”, but of course is vastly better than my hasty remarks in an earlier “comment”. Thank you Mr M:)

    BTW the Sarah Mellon Scaife foundation is the main front of her son Richard Mellon Scaife, one-time publisher of the now-defunct Sacramento Union, and longtime funder of far-right causes with Nazi & KKK links. Scaife is the kind of guy who thinks the Hunt brothers were liberals.

    Onetime star debutante Sarah Mellon is now safely kaput, deceased. Son Richard must be in his late seventies or eighties by now.

  4. Cameron said on July 15th, 2010 at 9:20pm #

    Coincidence that there is concurrently another article titled “Don’t Fear The Right” suggesting that TP and other right wing organizations could be potential allies. Whose allies? Shouldn’t the focus be on organizing the labor movement? The likes of AFLCIA (yes A not O) should be forced to transform itself to be an INDEPENDENT labor union that is democratic and pro labor. To try to find a few gems (if any) among the natural allies of the capitalists is a waste of time. If TP and others like it take control of power will even be worse. TP as this article shows is a reactionary movement.

  5. Deadbeat said on July 15th, 2010 at 10:30pm #

    There is no doubt that the Tea Party is a reactionary movement and based on this article given the fact that they are so small the attention given to them is disproportionate to the numbers and influence. However the reason for the attention IMO plays into the fear mongering of the “Left” in order get people into action — which doesn’t work and distract from the analysis of this own shortcomings.

    Cameron is correct that there needs to be organizing but the next question is — around what? The “Left” doesn’t present itself as an alternative and in fact has spent the past decades discrediting itself.

    At least with the Tea Party reactionaries one can do an analysis — like the author has done — and walk away with a clear understanding of where they stand. But what about the “Left”? Where does it stand? It appears to be extremely unclear on where it stand nor has it been consistent in providing an idealogical foundation and basis to organize around. IMO a lot of housekeeping is the first call to order.

  6. Deadbeat said on July 15th, 2010 at 10:44pm #

    And here’s another Tea Party perspective …

    What if the Tea Party was Black

  7. Deadbeat said on July 16th, 2010 at 4:23pm #

    Here’s an article that contradicts the idea that the Tea Party primarily consist of elder “white guys”. According to this article 55% of Tea Party participants are — women.

    Tea Party

  8. Cameron said on July 16th, 2010 at 4:35pm #

    European nations with a Europe-wide general strike now scheduled for September 29. Hopefully this will inspire a lot of us. There is a growing movement in Latin America. Sure the current state of the labor movement in the U.S. compared to the previous depression is pathetic. Many are still waiting for the return of the life style they could not afford to arrive as promised by the government and the media. In Europe though workers are beginning to see what’s in it for them and so far seem to want to challenge it. In the U.S. it’s still fantasy land but it’ll get there. We’re not living in ordinary times. Governments around the world will try to foot the bill to the working class. The left will have to abandon Chomskyism (as Deadbeat rightly refers to it) and reformism. There are left parties and organizations worldwide that one can work with via a common platform perhaps on a global scale. If Europe can organize a general strike to take place on Sept 29 then the rest of the world can join.

  9. Deadbeat said on July 16th, 2010 at 6:59pm #

    The author writes …

    In summary, it’s fair to characterize the Tea Partiers as fearful old, white, right-wing Republican men.

    Apparently this is contradicted by the article just posted that the Tea Party supporters are 55% WOMEN. What this indicates to me is that the “Left’s” is more interested in “fairytales” rather than providing the anti-capitalist/anti-Zionist basis and guidance that can help working class folks.

    IMO the reason is that the “Left” has NO desire to challenge Capitalism and Zionism and hopes to organize around FEAR rather than coherent Marxist programs and solutions. Fear based organizing is chaotic and won’t address the identity-based divisions. The problem with Chomskyism is that the “Left” have been infiltrated with poseurs who earn great living and wealth from corporate-laundered foundation dollars. Their agenda is designed to misdirect and miseducate activists and avoid reinforcement of traditional leftist ideas. They offer no real structures to confront or subvert the system. At best all you get are the same Liberal Keynesian bromide of “fixing” the Capitalist economy.

    The fact that the “Left” misses that 55% of the Tea Party supporters are women illustrates how misguided it is. This is primarily due to their substitution of Marxist class analysis with identity and “life-style” politics to give it the pretense of dissent.

    Feminism was primarily a top-down movement with a Liberal orientation and deliberately not geared toward Socialism which is what women really need. Now the reactionary consequence of that identity-based strategy is realized in the majority of the Tea Party supporters being women. From the article …

    Women also play a decisive role in the Tea Party and now make up fifty-five percent of its supporters, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. Hanna Rosin reports in Slate magazine that “of the eight board members of the Tea Party Patriots who serve as national coordinators for the movement, six are women. Fifteen of the 25 state coordinators are women.

    Yet the author here wants to scare us into believing the Tea Party resembles the 1930’s brown shirts. We saw this same line coming from Christopher Hedges and Noam Chomsky recently in order to “remind” us what happened to the Jews of Germany as if in 2010 USA those same condition exist when in fact during the decades more black and brown people are the victims of USA state power. Jews ain’t filling up the jails.

    What’s needed is real analysis not this “Left” fear based bullshit that educates no one and distracts from real MARXIST organizing and analysis so that people can understand that the REAL THREAT is CAPITALISM and that the real distraction and misdirection today is the “Liberal/Left” trying to sell us Keynesian axioms, Liberal bromides, and vacuous cliches appropriated from the 1930’s that only PROLONGED and INGRAINED the Capitalist system for the past 80 years.

  10. beverly said on July 18th, 2010 at 4:29pm #

    “Current attempts to revive that Boston Tea Party of 1773 are marketing gimmicks to masquerade conservative forces bent on defeating Obama and destroying any attempt to reform the present gridlock political system. ”

    Conservative forces may be bent on defeating Obama but don’t blame them for destroying attempts at reforming “the system.” ObamaCo is doing quite nicely destroying any real, effective reform. The conservative forces hell bent on defeating Obama are just rank and file righties. Conservative politicians and corporate power players are pleased to let Obama front the corporment’s agenda. The latter wouldn’t be too put out by an Obummer second term as he is able to push through reactionary and facist policies that a Republican president could never pull off.

    All this ado about Tea Partiers obscures the real problem – our govt’s race to become the world’s most totalitarian regime. Check out Lynne Stewart’s re-sentencing (why didn’t the Obummer Justice Dept drop this case?). Check out the Animal Terrorism Law. Thankfully, a judge threw out the indictment on four people accused under this law but scarily said the State could re-indict with more specific charges. Stewart got nailed for simply representing her client. The animal protesters were nabbed for chanting and writing on a sidewalk, I believe. What’s next? Rounding up protesters of the wars and bankster bailouts? Putting Jesse and Al in jail for protesting in favor of some civil rights issue the govt wants to get rid of (actually, that would serve these two sellouts right for their ineptitude and corruption)? Suppose millions of teachers really get radical with their dissent against Obama and Duncan’s quest to destroy public education? How many of them will be jailed on some terrorist type charges? Forget the War on Terror (WOT) , you really need to fear the War on Dissent (WOD).

    All these left leaning mofos who burst blood vessels ranting about BushCheney need to be be going apeshit about not only the WOT but WOD too. Sure it’s just Middle East “terrorists” and PETA sympathizers now but give the State an inch and it will take two miles. Once these facists laws are in the books, it’s difficult to undo them so you mofos better be reigning in Obummer’s Constitution/human rights/civil liberties shredding ASAP. And while you’re at it, stay on his ass to make sure Net Neutrality remains a reality. If not, when the Republicans retake the White House, you are really gonna see the shit split the fan as they run hogwild applying the horrid laws made possible by Barack the Magic Negro.

  11. Lo Ro said on July 21st, 2010 at 9:05pm #

    Hey I enjoyed your interesting blog. Although your comment about Koch funding FreedomWorks isn’t quite right. Check out this article about FreedomWorks’ leader Dick Armey even claiming that Koch doesn’t fund his group and never has. Thoughts?