Here’s What’s Wrong With The Tea Party

Stuart Whatley has nailed it.

In a piece titled, “The Tea Party Movement Is a National Embarrassment,” he puts the teabagging phenomenon in its proper context. Outlining what he called the “history of successful social and political movements” in the United States, including the civil rights movement and the feminist movement, Whatley said this: 

At its core, the Tea Party movement is rife with contradiction, incoherence and a willful contempt for facts or reason. It is but a parody of the legitimate movements for which American democracy has historically been held in such high regard. It is, in fact, the latest installment in quite another American tradition: the exploitation of frustrated, desperate, and susceptible people by monied interests and profiteers. 

The incoherence is partly demonstrated, he said, by teapartiers demanding tax cuts from a president (Obama) and a party (Democratic) that gave us at least “one of the biggest tax cuts ever.”  

The stimulus bill passed last year, which has caused such consternation among many misinformed folks and has revealed much Republican hypocrisy, contained a $282 billion cut in taxes, bigger than the first Bush tax cut in 2001 ($174 billion) and the second round of Bush tax cuts  in 2004 and 2005 ($231 billion) over the same two-year period.

To compound the incoherence, Whatley remarked, teabaggers demand tax cuts and deficit reduction simultaneously.  Not even the most zealous supply-siders in the Republican Party have a plan for making that a reality, nor do they even pretend they do, as far as I know.

Whatley also pointed out the fact that while the Tea Party movement claims to be a grassroots group, with “no defined leadership,” it does have “public figures and entities” who act as leaders. This situation, he continues,

has led to perhaps its greatest irony: a portion of the American populace who carries a populist banner against the coddling of greedy bankers is led by some of the country’s most cynical and base profiteers.

Those “cynical and base profiteers” include Dick Armey of Freedom Works and Fox “News” Channel, which has made a lot of money creating and promoting teabagger anxieties and then “covering” their “movement” as “news.”

Whatley discusses the authoritarian nature of the movement in its reliance on “emotion and instinct in decision-making,” its black and white worldview, its resentment of “confusion or ambiguity in the social order,” which explains the movement’s fear of “gays and immigrants,” who they believe are a threat to our social order.  He reminds us that Tom Tancredo’s bigoted speech at the Tea Party Convention last week was “well received.”

Whatley’s piece ended with a somewhat depressing observation, applicable to those around Southwest Missouri and beyond, who reflexively support the Tea Party movement but rely on “big government” for needed assistance:

While the Tea Party may alienate some who see it for the profit-machine that it is, others who share the fearful, intolerant authoritarian worldview that it is increasingly coalescing around will be lured in and pitted against the very people in power who could actually help them.

Sad, but true.



  1. ansonburlingame

     /  February 12, 2010

    Whately said, “….movement is rife with contradiction, incoherence and a willful contempt for facts or reason” specifically refering to Tea Parties.

    Have you ever attended, heard about, read about or watched on TV other rallies and movements that reflect the same description?

    I believe I have previously described observing first had a “peace rally” of several days duration on the Mall in DC in 1968. The message sent and people in attendance fit the above to a “tea” so to speak. While swimming naked in the Reflection Pool and high as a kite on dope they also put flowers in every rifle barrel they could find.

    Have you ever attended an Acorn rally? How about blacks protesting against Oakland Police Department of late? How about when gay militants take to the streets in all their paraphnalia espousing their cause? How about a minority gathering in NYC to hear the black preacher and former Dem candidate for the Presidency protesting the latest “outrage” of NYPD?

    Would you dare to agree that many, many such events, while completely legal and free as a bird, are viewed as “nuts” or whatever word you choose.? Or do you simply focus on a certain political and ethnic segment of society and really believe all other protests are meaningful, carefully thought out and reflect the true will of “the people”?

    I’d rather watch a baseball game and I don’t particularly like baseball.



    • That’s an interesting recollection. It strikes me as Reaganesque – because it also evokes a scene from ‘Forrest Gump’ ! The Gipper had a way of confabulating things. The Reflecting Pool was pretty shallow back then. Only the deeper center was enough for children (or careful adults) to swim. Those folks that Anson saw may have had consequences *which dirty hippies need* as a result of the water’s critters. Even a river, which is somewhat cleaned by its flow, is cleaner than the Reflection Pool was.


  2. AB- Are you realy comparing a hippie rally in 68 (free of charge) to the tea party movement? Have you been to an ACORN rally, blacks in Oakland, or gay rally? You sound like you have. Can you provide any facts to their cause or are you just trying to get people’s attention away from the subject by choosing groups that inflame bigotry and hate?


  3. ansonburlingame

     /  February 13, 2010


    You bet I am doing such comparasions. Hippy rallys in the 60’s were as “nuts” as Tea Party and Acorn rallys today. ALL of them promote bigotry (for their particular cause) and generate hate from their opposition which is equally bigoted.

    I don’t oppose rallies of any sort. Let them have their say. But you cross my line of reasonableness when you suggest one “cause” is sanely and rationally promoted in one while the other is “nuts” or whatever term you choose to use. They are all extremist to a degree. Now go pick your side and rant until your heart is content. I’ll be critiquing the umpire.



  4. Anson has not expressed what his “line of reasonableness” actually is. The examples provided indicate that any rally about a contentious issue is “nuts” (his description).

    I attended Hippy rallys in the 60’s and 70’s. They were protests of the Vietnam war and of racism. They had zero corporate sponsorship. They applied facts and reason to the most severe issues of the day. Those facts included an ongoing war which (according to the architects of the Vietnam War) had been contrived and was known by two administrations to be futile. There were scant examples that they “promote bigotry (for their particular cause)” – a cause that sought to end racism and bigotry!

    There was no inconsistency between the message and: nude swimming, recreational drug use, and decoration of weapons with symbols of peace. The first two are non sequiturs.

    The third, “flowers in every rifle barrel”, is supportive of the message. There were armed soldiers of the United States of America in attendance as a counter to the attendees. They did not stand with their backs to the rally, in defense of people exercising their 1st Amendment rights. They stood facing the very people that they swore, in a Constitutional Oath, is defend with their own blood.

    That is the contradiction of a 60’s rally. The attendees responded in a manner that I was taught while young: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27-28

    The skinny dipping and dope smoking produced more social redemption than that offered by Tea Bagging, an activity that encourages attendees to bring their own firearms and ammunition.


  5. dhydar

     /  February 13, 2010

    Meh. I get it; the tea partiers are not of your tribe, so you don’t like ’em… so they are Evilbad cuz thy didn’t appreciate Obama’s “tax cuts” and don’t like his plans to multiple Bush’s deficits a few-fold. KTHX.


    • Duane Graham

       /  February 14, 2010


      KTHX is fairly lame itself these days, don’t you think? And if all you got from the post was that I don’t like the teabaggers because they are not of my “tribe,” and they are “evil” because they don’t support Obama’s tax cuts and don’t like his “plans to multiple [sic] Bush’s deficits a few-fold [sic]”, then your capacity to understand, like your Internet shorthand, needs some serious attention.



  6. AB- I did not say the tea baggers were nuts as you have implied. My comments are not even aimed at the tea baggers. I simply was commenting on you comparing the 60s movement to the baggers. The baggers show up with weapons at various events but it was the hippies who were gunned down and attacked by the National Guard. Most of the hippies promoted peace while the baggers seam to promote hate and anger. I even agree with some of the baggers issues such as the growing deficits, but didn’t that start with the Bush admin.? I don’t recall the protests and weapon carriers then. My second point was that you were using ACORN, blacks, and gay groups as a way of distracting the ultra right. I don’t support these groups myself, I am just wondering why they were even brought up. My own father does the same thing ever since Obama was elected.


  7. ansonburlingame

     /  February 14, 2010

    Jim and KB,

    I remain convinced thru some direct observation that almost all rallys supporting extreme causes, right or left, are observably “nuts”. If you think that free expressions of their causes you are correct. Now go to one of those “free expression” events and stand with a microhpone to speak in opposition of their “free expression”.

    Go to a hippy rally in the 60’s and gve a reasonable speech on “Containment” the government policy of decades supported by all parties of government. Go to an Acorn rally today and speak about eliminating the welfare state. Go to a tea party rally today and defend the welfare state. None of those situations support the exchange of ideas, peacefully and rationally. They are simply one-sided shouting matches with no responses in opposition allowed or tolerated.

    Thus they are all “nuts” IMHO, whether I agree or disagree with the one-sided arguments put forth. They are “nuts” simply in their refusal to listen to counter views of their causes.

    I thought such back and forth was the basis of democracy, just like the comments on this and other blogs.



  8. This does not pass the ‘smell test’ for integrity. The initial example offered was “I have previously described observing first hand a “peace rally” of several days duration on the Mall in DC in 1968.” “Hippy rallys in the 60’s were as “nuts” … ALL of them promote bigotry …

    This false equivalence was rebutted. Now the counter to the rebuttals is not substantive. It is “… direct observation that almost all rallys …”, a generalization which is utterly apart from the specific [and incorrect] example initially offered.

    Yes, it was “extremist to a degree” to oppose a war which many of its own architects have acknowledged as fabricated and politically motivated. It was “extremist to a degree” to oppose the blatant racism that prevailed in the 60’s.

    The opposition was also extremist. There was, otherwise, no equivalence.

    In fact, such protests were and did “… meaningful, carefully thought out and reflect the true will of “the people””.

    Statements which assert that the selected example of protests for the rule of law, civil rights, and racial equality had an equivalent “contradiction, incoherence and a willful contempt for facts or reason” to Teabagging are not “critiquing the umpire”. They are statements of another participant and a partisan. That partisan would accomplish, with such statements, a diminution of the most valuable and constructive protests for America in my lifetime.


  9. Duane Graham

     /  February 14, 2010

    Jim, kb, Anson, et al.,

    All of this reminds me of something Richard Dawkins discusses in his new book, “The Greatest Show On Earth.” He laments the reluctance to teach evolution to school children in America and Britain because of the “teach the controversy” movement made popular by fundamentalist Christians opposed to “the guiding principle of biology,” evolution.

    Honest biology teachers fear they must give “equal time” to the “alternative theory,” when in fact there is no alternative scientific theory. Dawkins compares such a thing to those who deny the Holocaust, who he says, “are vocal, superficially plausible, and adept at seeming learned.”

    To say that Holocaust-deniers should be given equal time while teaching European history is a mockery of the principles of historical inquiry. It gives the deniers’ claims equal standing with the facts of history.

    To say that creationists should be given equal time while teaching biology is a mockery of the principles of scientific inquiry. It gives the creationists’ claims equal standing with the facts of science.

    To say that teabaggers and those who opposed the Vietnam war and argued for equal rights for all during the 60s and 70s are morally or substantively equivalent is a mockery of the principles of moral philosophy. It gives the teabaggers equal moral standing with those prior protesters.

    During the Cold War, many conservatives claimed that liberals equated a free and democratic West with totalitarian societies like the Soviet Union, what folks like Jeane Kirkpatrick called, “the myth of moral equivalence.”

    On a much smaller scale, Anson is declaring that those who agitated for an end to a foolish war and those who agitated for equal rights for all are the same as those who are belatedly arguing for so-called fiscal responsibility (if one takes them at their word and ignores some of the troubling racial/cultural aspects) by agitating for both tax cuts and deficit reduction—a fiscal impossibility.

    His unfortunate moral equivalence of the disparate groups is undoubtedly a judgment only a Republican could make these days.



    • Dan eck

       /  March 31, 2012

      It’s ironic that liberals use a derogatory term for the conservative Tea Party movement, when they fantasize about performing skin flute for the Commander in Chief!


  10. Quid Pro Gnome

     /  February 15, 2010

    For me, the Teabaggers have been one of the more depressing national events of the Great Recession. The movement demonstrates the ability of corporate interests to co-opt grassroots, faux-populist politics (this probably applies to all ends of the political spectrum, historically), while the Teabaggers themselves demonstrate the very same angst with regard to their own authenticity as a movement. But if the Teabaggers are inauthentic as a (contradictory, incoherent) political movement, it doesn’t justify the argument against other forms of sincere populist politics; politics that have been shoved out of the media spotlight, lest any baby-boomer politician should have to face the reality of 25% unemployment amongst the youth—the very youth in whom they trust to pay for massive deficits and an incomparable expansion of government. As I was told my father, to me the Teabagger’s represent a stubborn resistance to face reality in the middle of a hurricane.


    • Duane Graham

       /  February 15, 2010

      Quid Pro Gnome,

      Depressing, indeed. I am ready to pull out what’s left of my hair over teabagging guests on the cable news shows who go on television and say this: “The politicians and the political parties just aren’t listening to us.”

      That’s bullshit. Unfortunately, they are listening—that’s what makes it so depressing to me—and in the meantime the politicians (Democrats included) are underfunding the “war against unemployment” we should be undertaking at this time.

      If teabaggers were protesting on behalf of the unemployed, and against the economic policies that created the massive unemployment, that would be the kind of populism I could support.



  11. SickOfItAll

     /  April 16, 2010

    I laugh/cried yesterday while driving by a hefty group of, what I assumed to be, Teabaggers gathered at a busy intersection near our local Government Center protesting taxes. As is popular these days, I would bet all of their hard earned tax money that they did not attend one rally protesting the billions of dollars, not to mention thousands of lives, thrown away during our “War on Terrorism”, which has gained us, as a Nation, nothing but an ever increasing national debt. I’m pretty sure one of the hallmarks of being a terrorist, is that you take credit for said acts, and welcome retaliation as it furthurs your cause. I don’t seem to recall Saddam Hussein doing any such thing. I digress…

    The Teabaggers are protesting the wrong money grabbers. As much as I often dislike the easiest marks of all, Politicians, they should be protesting the uberbanks, lobbyists and corporations that have learned how to make stealing from the poor and giving to the rich perfectly legal.


    • Duane Graham

       /  April 17, 2010

      I know what you mean about the laugh/cry thing. It’s both funny and sad to contemplate what is going on. And I agree with your point about the real money grabbers, which is how the real transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy happens.



  12. Freeport56

     /  October 21, 2010

    Okay, so that is about $100. for everyone. If memory serves me correctly, $3 the first year and $8 the second year…big wup!


  13. Due

     /  September 5, 2011

    Time has shown that the author of this article needs both a history lesson and one on the proper analysis of political movements.

    Take a careful look at our “instructions” from the founders of the United States.


  14. thenmen

     /  September 13, 2011

    I wonder if I might use a typewriter manual to learn all I need to know about computers? A rotary phone manual to learn all I need to know about my smart phone. A model T manual for my auto with 5.1 and GPS?

    Maybe we all need to take a full look at the “instrutions” from the founders of the united states and add some new chapters cuz I’m confused.


  15. Dan eck

     /  March 31, 2012

    Liberalism is a. Mental disorder characterized by a disconnect from reality and faulty and retarded. Reasoning!


    • steve

       /  July 6, 2012

      The problem is the leaders on the right lie all the time so the tea baggers are not getting the truth. Wake up and listen to other sources of news. The tea baggers really believe what have heard and have good intentions. The country is so divided that we cant even carry on a conversation without nasty insults it’s so bad.


    • Why don’t you shut the hell up.


  16. Scotty Searan

     /  October 25, 2013

    What is wrong with the TEA PARTY?
    We want God to be put back in our government and schools.
    We want all branches of the government to abide by the Constitution.
    We want the government to let the people have freedom.
    Patrick Henry said it best – GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH.
    We want the government to for the people and of the people.
    We want to be governed at the lowest levels. Federal government have very little say.
    We want freedom of speech.
    We want freedom to bear arms.
    We want our borders secured.
    We want ILLEGAL immigrants prosecuted.
    We want law officers in whom you can put trust in and not be entrapped.
    We want a balance budget in all levels of government.
    We want American business to be able to make a profit without the government taking away from them to pay for people who will not work.
    We believe in paying a fair wage for a fair days work.
    We believe that if you don’t work you should not eat.
    We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
    We believe that if you have sex outside of wedlock it is ADULTERY. We the people should not required to reward you for your life of sin by having an ABORTION or by paying for the expense of that child.
    We want a drug free America.
    We want to able to walk down the street and not be attacked.
    We believe in supporting the VETERANS who have sacrificed for this country.
    We believe that Social Security has problems that need to be addressed and there are no easy solutions to this problem.
    We believe that the government needs to get out of the EDUCATION business. Get rid of the Dept. of Education.
    We want our schools to quit indoctrinating our children with socialism, homosexuality, and Islam.
    We want to do away with the EPA.
    We believe that college education is an privilege, not a right.
    Do I need to say more. I could.


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