Defining the Tea Party

Who are they? What do they want?

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On Sunday two stalwart liberals made assertions about the Tea Party movement that differed greatly. The first was New York Times columnist Frank Rich, who described the movement as radically far-right and dangerously anti-government. The second was Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said, "We share some of the views of the Tea Partiers." The remarks from both have stimulated a discussion on the nature of this growing movement:

  • Tea Party Is Armed and Dangerous, writes Frank Rich: "Tea Party groups have no affiliation with the G.O.P. despite the party’s ham-handed efforts to co-opt them. The more we learn about the Tea Partiers, the more we can see why. They loathe John McCain and the free-spending, TARP-tainted presidency of George W. Bush. They really do hate all of Washington, and if they hate Obama more than the Republican establishment, it’s only by a hair or two. (Were Obama not earning extra demerits in some circles for his race, it might be a dead heat.) The Tea Partiers want to eliminate most government agencies, starting with the Fed and the I.R.S., and end spending on entitlement programs. They are not to be confused with the Party of No holding forth in Washington."
  • Just a Second There, Frank, writes the CentristNet blog: "Basically Rich is saying here that the GOP has no control over the tea party, and they are so crazy that their very existence is 'far more troubling' than the national Republican party ... The hysteria in his commentary is particularly odious as the 'ideology' Rich is so troubled by is simply a limited government, low spending, low tax, strong national defense point of view – hardly revolutionary ideas. It seems the real problem for Rich is that he considers the national GOP 'domesticated' to some extent regarding big government policies, and therefore preferable to the explicitly anti-big government stance of the tea party movement."
  • Make No Mistake, This Movement Is Dangerous, writes J. P. Green at The Democratic Strategist: "The wholesale government-bashing that became epidemic during the Reagan Administration took root in the conservative fringe until it warped and found tragic expression in Oklahoma City in in 1995. Back then conservatives roundly denounced McVeigh's act of domestic terrorism. It would have been good for conservatives to denounce with equal fervor the domestic terrorist attempt at mass murder that ocurred on Feb 18th."

  • Pelosi Said What? ask Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: "Every Tea Party features speakers — both politicians and regular citizens — that address the need to reduce government interference in the lives of Americans, roll back federal spending, and reduce the burden that Washington places on the economy.  What exactly does that have in common with Pelosi’s radical-Left agenda, which the Tea Party has successfully stalled for more than a year?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.