What is the Tea Party? Who is the Tea Party? Big media types and the larger left have their demagogic spin: Tea Partyers are racist, backwoods, anti-government dunderheads with a predisposition toward domestic terrorism. In a word, they're "extremists."
This disingenuous political packaging was recently divulged as an official Democratic talking point in a gaffe by the ever-loquacious Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. During a super-secret conference call with reporters he explained that, while referencing the Tea Party, "I always use the word 'extreme.' That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week."
This characterization, of course, is twaddle and liberals know it. But when called out on what constitutes genuine extremism, the ad hominem attack remains the "progressive" device of choice for those endeavoring to "fundamentally transform" America. It's impossible to make a secular-socialist omelet without breaking a few constitutional eggs.
Rule 13 of "community organizer" Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" presents the budding provocateur with a template: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."
And so "progressive" ideologues like Chris Matthews, Sen. Harry Reid and the backbiting hate merchants over at the Southern Poverty Law Center busily paint self-serving swastikas across Tea Party Granny's Ol' Glory sweater. It's dishonest, it's tired and America isn't biting. The more they do it, the greater the backlash.
Still, truth is that one can more easily nail Jell-O to a wall than precisely characterize the Tea Party demographic. Its membership crosses racial, generational and party lines. The Tea Party is not so much defined by "who" as it is by "what."
I recently attended the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration hosted by the Republican Party of Virginia. It was co-sponsored by, among others, the Ronald Reagan Institute for Conservative Leadership. Michael Reagan, the oldest child of the man widely considered our greatest modern president, was the keynote speaker.
Mr. Reagan said something that I think concisely sums up the core values shared by the ragtag millions who comprise the Tea Party movement. "People often ask me if Ronald Reagan would have supported the Tea Party," he said. "Ronald Reagan was the Tea Party."
Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).