I’ve never participated in a Tea Party rally. My natural habitat is a classroom or behind a keyboard. That said, I’ve had a lot of contact with Tea Party people, and, of course, I hear the angry charges from those doing their worst to discredit the movement. For what it’s worth, here are some personal experiences and observations:
The first time I was contacted for a Tea Party event was by a Pittsburgh woman named Patti. She called last spring. I asked: Who’s behind this Tea Party business? Is the Republican Party running this?
I learned no one was ordering Patti but herself. A mother of three daughters, wife of a physician, and a Harvard MBA, Patti calmly explained that she was so concerned about her country that she got involved. “This is completely grassroots,” she assured me.
Indeed, at that moment, President Obama and the Democratic Congress had taken a record budget deficit from George W. Bush and exploded it in one fell swoop with an enormously destructive $800-billion “stimulus package.” Liberals attacking the Tea Party must understand that it was such extremist policies by their own politicians that sent the likes of Patti into the streets.
Not long after that conversation, I watched in awe as such unceasing fiscal insanity drove a huge swath of concerned citizens to Washington on September 12, 2009. In response to this massive “9/12” march, liberals were apoplectic. They exhibit an intense emotional attachment to Obama, lashing out at anyone who criticizes him. That reaction is particularly pronounced in their fits of rage at Tea Party people, who they denounce with ugly epithets:Nazi, racist, hate-monger.
The hysterics have only gotten worse. Smear groups like “CrashTheTeaParty.org” are infiltrating the Tea Party. The goal, according to Jason Levin, who spearheads the group, is to “act on behalf of the Tea Party in ways which exaggerate their least appealing qualities,” in order to “damage the public’s opinion of them.”
Alas, I don’t think the saboteurs and demonizers realize how this may backfire. Those within the Tea Party don’t seem to care about the nasty names. This is a movement with no single leader wedded to a political future or with politically sensitive ambitions. There’s no one face fearful of being maligned by the New York Times, NPR, and Keith Olbermann. Few movements are so huge and yet so anonymous.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."