Tea Party Tories: Co-opted by Loyalists, Tea Party Groups Betray Principles and Heritage

Though the tea party movement is often treated as a monolith, we should distinguish between at least three different types of groups that may be subsumed under that banner: 1) Republican Party front organizations – these make up some of the most well known tea party organizations in the country; 2) multi-partisan, grassroots, people-powered associations that have maintained their political independence and remain relatively open to a diverse array of political views and opinions; 3) third party tea party groups determined to provide a viable alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties. These fault lines were already clearly established as the tea party movement first began gaining steam in the spring of 2009, as I noted at the time.

In recent weeks and months, however, Republican Party operatives within the tea party movement have become ever more brazen, and even hysterical, in their opposition to independent and third party tea party organizations. The hijacking of the tea party movement by these individuals represents a shameless betrayal of the heritage of the Boston Tea Party and the founding principles of these tea party groups themselves.

Let's consider two examples: the West Orlando Tea Party and the Michigan Tea Party Alliance. Currently, both of these groups have devoted significant space on the front pages of their websites to the denunciation of independent and third party tea party organizations in their respective states. The West Orlando Tea Party reports as "Breaking News":
There is a political party in Florida that is on the November ballot that calls itself "The Florida Tea Party", but they are not a Tea Party as you know us, they are Tea Party in "name only".This political party has absolutely nothing to do with the actual Tea Party Movement, which includes the West Orlando Tea Party. None of the true Tea Party organizations in Florida endorse, support or are in any way involved or connected to this political party. And, we see such a third political party serving only as a tool to confuse voters and split the conservative vote.
Similarly, the Michigan Tea Party Alliance literally has its sirens blaring to report an "important announcement":

Event Description: Rally on steps of State Capitol to protest the filing of a political 3rd party named "The Tea Party" by a Mark Steffek who does not belong to any known Tea Party in the state.


Bring signs protesting a Fake Tea Party, etc. Be prepared to give a statement in the board hearing at 10 am if we are allowed to. The purpose of the hearing is to decide how much time will be allocated to challenge the filing. Please encourage anyone who spoke to petition gathers and can speak to their deceptions to be there and speak to the board of canvassers.

Both of these groups have a clearly articulated statement of principles that serve as the foundational documents of their associations. Both clearly stipulate that they have no political party affiliation. The text of the West Orlando Tea Party's Promises and Covenants explicitly asserts that it has "no party affiliation":
No Political Party Affiliation~ This organization is not a political party. We are not, nor have we, nor will we be an appendage of, affiliated with or a component of any political party. Citizens of broad political leanings and various political parties (Independent, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, etc.) are all welcome to participate in our activities.
Similarly, the "Guiding Principles" of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance state:
Our member groups must be groups that are not tied to a political party . . . Our members must not be in favor of a third political party.
Their opposition to the local third party Tea Party organizations is thus in full accord with their statements of principles. However, their reasons for that opposition reveal their duplicitous betrayal of those very same principles. Their claim is effectively that any third party Tea Party candidate will take votes away from the Republican candidate in the same race, and thus act as a so-called spoiler; on the basis of this assertion they then allege that the third party Tea Party groups are actually nothing more than puppets of the local Democratic Party machine. The latter is not necessarily an unreasonable suspicion – one should never doubt the mendacity of Democrats and Republicans –, but the former reveals that these groups are indeed tied to a political party: they have allowed themselves to be hijacked by GOP operatives and turned into appendages of the Republican wing of the political class and ruling establishment.

On the event calendar of the Lakes Area Tea Party, a member of the Michigan Alliance, we find an explicit call for activists to do the grunt labor for their corporatist Republican Party overlords:
We all want to win in November, and it will not be possible unless we start working NOW towards Victory. We will be making phone calls and walking various precincts throughout Oakland county all day long. Please commit a few hours of your time this Saturday to come by and help. We need as many people as possible, we will be identifing ...voters who are dissatisfied with the current administration so that we can turn them out to vote Republican in November. [Emphasis added.]
This group is thus in clear violation of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance's statement of principles. Actions by the West Orlando Tea Party might be considered even more egregious. The West Orlando Tea Party has organized a "Town Hall Meeting" on August 12th that will feature the seven candidates for the Republican Party's nomination in Florida's 8th congressional district. Though the WOTP claims that it is not "an appendage of, affiliated with or a component of any political party," the fact that it has organized a Republican Party primary candidates forum belies their so-called principles. Furthermore, organizers of the "town hall" have also shown an unwillingness to allow representatives from independent and third party groups to attend the forum, calling the Florida Tea Party "an opposing political party no different from the Democrat party."

In their craven advocacy for the Republican Party and the reproduction of the tyrannical two-party state, the West Orlando Tea Party and the Michigan Tea Party Alliance have not only betrayed their own "Guiding Principles" and "Promises and Covenants," they have also betrayed their very heritage. The original tea party from which these groups derive their names is, of course, the Boston Tea Party. But the Sons of Liberty did not advocate accommodation with the British parliament and king. The Boston Tea Party was part of a radical revolutionary movement for political independence from a tyrannical government. By allowing themselves to be co-opted by the Republican Party, the West Orlando Tea Party and the Michigan Tea Party Alliance demonstrate that they have proven incapable of maintaining even a minimal level of political independence. They make a mockery of the Boston Tea Party's legacy. The patriots of the American revolution had their own terms for such individuals and groups: Loyalists, Royalists, Tories and King's Men. Indeed, they subjected such individuals to their own brand of punishment: they were tarred, feathered and forced to drink scalding hot tea.


Anonymous said...

You should really learn more about what you write. Most Tea Parties in Michigan have agreed that the best chance of success is to stay within the two party system. To try to win as an independent is extremely hard, and would most likely harm the candidate with similar views. If you want a third party, you really need to change a large number of state laws, so that the third party could put up the same candidate as either of the other parties.

d.eris said...

The Michigan Tea Parties are doomed to failure if their plan is literally to become part of the problem, unless reproducing the problem is your goal, I suppose. You do know that the Boston Tea Party was part of a movement for political independence, right? By acquiescing to the dictates of the two-party state and the duopoly system of government, such "Tea Party" groups make a mockery of the legacy of the BTP. Maybe you should read up on what you write about yourself.

You say it is hard to win as an independent. Well, I guess if it isn't easy to do, it just isn't worth doing? Is that really your position here? You should be ashamed to hold such a position.

Finally, I agree that state laws need to be loosened to allow for more easy access to the ballot. You seem to suggest fusion voting. But it really is fairly pointless for third party groups to do nothing more than endorse major party candidates. The point is to offer alternatives to them, depose them. Liberate ourselves from the tyranny of party government by the ruling political class. But you seem more interested in continuing the present course of complete dependence on the Democrats and Republicans, on subservience to their corporate masters.

You need to do a bit more reading yourself, Anonymous.

Unknown said...

The two-party system has left us with two groups who are horribly similar and a lot more alike than many will believe.

Bush was further left than JFK. In many ways, Bush was further left than Jimmy Carter. Eisenhower was more right than Reagan and Lincoln was a progressive.

Still, we have the unwashed masses believing that the Republicans are conservative and the Democrats are all liberal. THEY ARE BOTH LEADING US PROGRESSIVELY TOWARD SOCIALISM.

Any "Tea Party" group that agrees to work within the two party system isn't a grass-roots tea party at all; rather, they are only an extension of the Republican party.

Here in Arizona, the Tea Party battle is on which Republican insider to elect/re-elect - Hayworth or McCain. Instead, they should be pushing for those like Jim Deakin who are not part of the same old same old.

In states like Arizona, you're at a decided disadvantage if you're not within the two-party system. Instead of pushing for a change in that, many of the Arizona tea-party groups are pushing for whatever candidate is pro-gun, anti-abortion or claims they will seal the border (all by themselves?). All are noble causes, but by themselves make up the occasional establishment Republican.

It was establishment Republicans who gave us Obama, but the majority of the Tea Party groups are too myopic & lacking long-term memory to realize that.

Excellent article, by the way - I will be sharing the link here with those I know.