A lot has been mentioned about the Tea Party, Conservatism, and the Constitution. But how did the three come to join up? Just how is the Tea Party of today a major force in American conservatism? Charles R. Kesler, the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College delivered a speech at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Studies and Citizenship in Washington, DC, on October 21, 2013. Listen to what he had to say.
The Tea Party movement is named, of course, for the famous event in late 1773 when cases of tea were dumped unceremoniously into the Boston harbor. The Boston Tea Party—a carefully orchestrated strike against a commodity that was being taxed and sold by a monopoly provider—was intended as a one-time thing, though it ended up being an important link in the chain of events that led to the American Revolution. Today’s Tea Party, on the other hand, has ambitions to become an ongoing force—maybe even the major force—in American conservatism. And it strives for a revolution of its own, a return to a more limited, more constitutional form of government. If I had to judge its performance so far, I would say that it has been courageous and right in its diagnosis of the problems facing American politics, but somewhat off in its prescriptions.
When I say the Tea Party is correct in its diagnosis, I mean it is correct in its
very clear sense that Obamacare is not just another costly, bureaucratic, top-down, regulatory scheme, of which we have, alas, so many. There is something genuinely tyrannical (despite the good intentions of many of its supporters) about Obamacare. It threatens not only to ruin our medical care system, but indirectly and directly—and sooner as well as later—to subvert our form of government and our way of life, fundamentally changing the relation between citizens and government.
Kesler begins the speech by saying that the Tea Party of today is striving for a revolution of its own, just like it’s predecessor of 1773 when the Sons of Liberty (led by John and Samuel Adams) led a carefully orchestrated strike against the ships that brought a commodity which was being taxed and sold by a monopoly provider. Now it was intended as a one-time thing, one-hit wonder if you will. However, that was just a very important fuse in the powder keg that set off the American Revolution. In a sense we are in a revolution today. The only thing is our weapons are not guns and bayonets but rather the ballot box and our own words. Our battle is not against the tyrannical King an ocean away but rather a tyrannical political system right at our own backdoor.
Many people differ as to when the Tea Party started. Some say it was CNBC Business News Editor Rick Santelli’s epic rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2009. Others say that it started because of a money bomb started by followers of Ron Paul back in 2007. And even others say that Newt Gingrich started it with the original Contract With America back in 1994 and revised it with the 21st Century Contract with America when he ran in 2012. But regardless of who started it, we can all safely say that the Tea Party is here to stay for a long time.
Granted, there have been hiccups along the way – like Barack Obama winning a second term as President in 2012 and victories by House Speaker John Boehner (Republican from Ohio’s 8th Congressional District) as well as Senator John McCain (Republican from Arizona) – but even with those minor losses the Tea Party remains a vital force against ObamaCare and other policies that Obama and the Democrats put in front of America since 2010 in the “Tea Party Election” when the Republicans won 64 seats in the House of Representatives to regain control from the Democrats.
As we enter the 2014 midterm election. we need to support viable Tea Party contenders in the primary election. At the same time we need to also be pragmatic and first win elections come November if we are to stand a chance of surviving until the presidential election of 2016.