How The Tea Party Is Changing America?

“Contact with any nuts could be fatal.”

—Sign on the door of the house of a 6-year-old girl with a food allergy

It appears to me that if you want to see the Tea Party mentality in action, look no further than this, courtesy of Reuters:

ORLANDO, Florida — Some public school parents in Edgewater, Florida, want a first-grade girl with life-threatening peanut allergies removed from the classroom and home-schooled, rather than deal with special rules to protect her health, a school official said.

If you examine this story, it is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the spirit of the movement that has come to dominate right-wing politics, even if this story doesn’t directly have anything to do with the Tea Party per se.

Parents—some even putting placards in the hands of their own kids—are protesting the fact that their children are asked to sacrifice—washing their hands twice a day, for instance—so this little girl can attend school without fear of an allergic reaction, possibly including death.

Parents said they feel their children are being stripped of their classroom rights,” Reuters reported.

Rather than use the opportunity to teach their children the value of looking out for others, these people are teaching their children to look out for themselves, the essence of much Tea Party thinking.  The little girl apparently hasn’t been to school for days now, and who could blame her?

But the worst thing I saw, and the thing that reminded me of Tea Party protests, were a couple of placards visible on a video report on the Today show.

The first is this one:

You can see that the sign on the left—held by a child, for God’s sake—says:

School Board approved Clorox wipes for our kid’s faces. WE SAY NO!

Wow! What an outrage!  Except that a school spokesman said the wipes are used to clean desks, not faces.  Oh.  But that’s okay.  Just like at Tea Party protests, facts just get in the way of a good placard.

And there’s this sign:

The sign on the right appears to say this:

Who’s paying for all of (these) special measures?

Yeah, that’s all that matters, isn’t it? Never mind that the worst that could happen is that kids would get in the habit of washing their hands a couple of times a day and would learn the value of living in a civilization where we take care of one another.  But, heck, that doesn’t compare with the miniscule cost involved, does it?

Nope.  Not to these people, the real nuts in this story.


Here is the Today report:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


  1. How The Tea Party Is Changing America?

    “Contact with any nuts could be fatal,” not necessarily but electing them could be.


    • Maher makes the point that grassroot teapartiers’ understanding of things like taxes is woefully deficient. Taxes have gone down, way down, and they don’t know it. Most think otherwise. Now, that’s quite an indictment of a group of folks who otherwise claim to know what’s going on with our finances, whether you call them a cult or a movement.



  2. Terrance H.

     /  March 24, 2011

    You think the Tea Party extols a self-interest formula and other groups do not? Are you kidding?

    The Tea Party wants a balanced budget. Are they looking out just for themselves, or the country as a whole? They seem to support Gov. Walker’s efforts in Wisconsin. Tell me: Are they looking out for the State of Wisconsin as a whole, or the pockets of public workers, individuals?

    I think you’ve gone a bit too far attempting to equate sheer selfishness with a movement that is, by all accounts, unselfish.

    You’re a fine writer, a smart person, but you blew it on this one.

    As a note: I was incensed by the selfishness and idiocy of the peanut parents just as much you, but I chose not to liken them to liberals for the sake of margin filler. You’re far too bright for flimflam.


    • Terrance,

      Anticipating a response such as yours (partly a legitimate one, in my view), I purposely set my piece in this context:

      If you examine this story, it is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the spirit of the movement that has come to dominate right-wing politics, even if this story doesn’t directly have anything to do with the Tea Party per se.

      The spirit of the movement, as I have watched it over the last two years, is that it is fundamentally a selfish one, whose main beef is really with that strange black man with the foreign name who may or may not have been born in America but is certainly not one of us. Him and his perceived “socialist” policies.

      Where were these folks when W. Bush was running up the deficit, beginning in 2001? If these people had been rallying in 2003—when the final Bush tax cut law was passed (which unquestionably exacerbated our debt problem), or when we went to two wars without asking Americans to financially sacrifice to pay for them (no one knows how much they will eventually cost us), or when Republicans created a large prescription drug entitlement without paying for it—if they had been rallying back then and screaming about the deficit, then you would have a point.

      But, no, it wasn’t until Democrats took over, particularly when the Right scared the bejesus out of folks about Obama’s “dark” associations, “palling around with terrorists,” and all that nonsense, that they took to the streets and the town halls to raise hell. Sorry. I don’t have any respect for that part of the movement. I do, though, agree that some within that movement have legitimate concerns about long-term debt, but until I hear one damn Tea Party leader stand up and say that we have to have tax increases as well as budget cuts to right the ship, I won’t take them seriously and I will see them as mere shills for corporate and moneyed interests. Selfish, in a word.

      I have read their stuff, I have seen these “grassroots” people interviewed, I have interviewed them myself, and they will all tell you essentially the same thing: Yes, they want to cut the deficit for their children and grandchildren, except they don’t want to cut the things THEY receive from the government, like Social Security and Medicare. And many of them won’t even think about cutting defense spending, although now and then you will hear a leader say “it’s on the table.”

      But first up on the table, Terrance, is that you can find plenty of tea party folks who want to cut Medicaid and food stamps and those kinds of things, things that don’t much affect them and disproportionately affect the poor. And they want to cut public broadcasting funding and Planned Parenthood and such things. But the minute you start talking about raising revenues as part of the solution, they scream bloody murder in your ear and say, “See, I told you Obama wanted to raise taxes!” “It’s a spending problem, not a revenue problem!”

      Thus, the “spirit” of the movement is, in my view, on display in places like the school in Florida, a spirit of selfishness, a lack of understanding of “community” and of a solid civilization. I saw such similarities to what I saw the past two years that I had to mention it. Sorry if that offended you, but I can only call ’em as I sees ’em.



      • Terrance H.

         /  March 26, 2011

        Anticipating a response such as yours (partly a legitimate one, in my view), I purposely set my piece in this context:

        I know why you included the modifier, but I still do not believe the comparison is at all shrewd.

        It’s certainly true the Tea Party had not officially formed until 2009, but there have been flitters of like-minded protests here and there for a long time. I think you’re making too much of the fact that a black man just happened to be POTUS during the greatest of protests.

        Frankly, I’m of the mind that after Bush and the massive debt accrued during his administration, any administration thereafter that added to the debt significantly, whether headed by someone white, black, pink, or polka dotted would have produced has much outrage and protest. Period. The people are finally outraged – and that is my point.

        I don’t think you can realistically claim that Obama’s policies are not, in some way, quite socialist. Some of Bush’s policies and actions were socialist, too, but not to the same extent. And let’s be honest: Democrats have been referred to as socialists by some long before the Tea Party.

        The issue of not raising taxes is not selfish; it’s simply an idea of how best to generate economic growth. Until we begin to see some significant economic progress, then raising taxes is simply stupid. We need to fix what we can now, which, unfortunately, is cutting spending. We generate enough tax revenue.

        To be fair, I will say that I believe most people – including the Tea Party – would be glad to pay the same taxes we paid under Clinton if only we had the same economy. But we should also keep in mind that some research shows that conservatives – who, realistically, comprise the majority of the Tea Party – give more to charity than do liberals; an interesting fact often ignored by the Left who love to talk about the evil, greedy Right. (See Professor Arthur C. Brooks: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.)

        And Rand Paul certainly wants to cut military spending.

        Since taking office Jan. 5, freshman U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has raised some eyebrows in Washington, D.C. by introducing a slew of high-profile bills.

        From a proposal to cut $500 billion in spending now, to a plan to balance the budget in just five years, the Bowling Green Republican hasn’t been afraid to make waves.

        But it takes big ideas, he said Thursday, to tackle the big issues facing the country.

        “I want to be out there with proposals that will fix the situation. I don’t want to just stick our head in the sand,” he told a crowd of about 125 at a meeting of the Campbell County Tea Party.

        “If we can be bold and lead and put these programs out there, then we are the ones creating and shaping the debate,” he said. “…If we lead, and we say this is what we want, we get to hopefully shape what the solution is.”

        It was his first appearance in Northern Kentucky since the November election, when the region’s votes played a key role in his victory.
        Paul’s top priority during the campaign remains his top concern now: cutting the $14.2 trillion national debt.

        “Since I’ve gotten to Washington, I’m more worried (about it) than I was when I ran for office,” he said.

        Thursday, Paul outlined what he calls “some inconvenient truths” about the issue: he said military spending will have to be cut and entitlement programs reformed.

        Paul said conservatives “have to overcome” the idea of military spending as a sacred cow that can’t be cut. It has increased by 120 percent since 2001 – so “there is savings that can be found there,” he said.

        “If we say no, we won’t cut military spending, then we just have to acknowledge that we are not serious about balancing the budget and we aren’t serious about the debt,” he said.

        On entitlement programs, Paul said he plans to introduce legislation next week to gradually raise the Social Security eligibility age to age 70 over about 24 years.

        “Not because I want to,” he said, “but because if we don’t, the system will collapse under its own weight.”

        CBS News

        With all that said, I certainly agree that some individuals in the Tea Party are selfish. I’ve heard plenty of folks put up a fight over someone even hinting at the possibility of raising the retirement age. But liberals seem to be just as upset over the notion. And frankly, they seem to be even more upset.

        Selfishness exists on both sides, and if Wisconsin isn’t proof of that, then indeed, nothing is. Big Union doesn’t want money taken away from them any more than Big Business.


  3. Jane Reaction

     /  March 25, 2011

    Every group and individual has an agenda. Civil Libertarians like me think it only proper, in a society, to share with others and practice understanding and neighborliness. It appears Terrance thinks so also.

    The problem among teabaggers is that they bought into the idea that a “balanced budget” could, or should, be obtained through corporate tax cuts which are ‘paid for’ by taking needed services away from the poor and vulnerable.

    And in that way, the teabaggers are no better than the incredibly mean-spirited parents of Edgewater asking ‘Who is paying for these special measures?’

    The teabag party is generally infected with similar selfish motivations, including a preponderance of selfish retired ‘warriors’ who should be carrying posters saying ‘Don’t means-test my Tricare for Life.’


    • Jane,

      I agree that many of the teapartiers have been fooled by their leaders into defending tax cuts as a way to prosperity. I witnessed this here in Joplin at their rallies, and I have to say I was dismayed. Just as I continue to be dismayed that folks around here, some of them desperately poor and without much economic hope, vote for Republicans time and time again.

      And I have to hand it to Republicans, in a devilish sort of way, they are very good at getting people to vote against their own economic interests. It’s amazing, if you think about it. I even know a lot of members of my own union who not only vote for Republicans, but salivate at the thought of getting to do so.

      As I said, it’s amazing.



  4. Rick Sanchez does a really great job of hammering Rick Scott. Now is it just me or is there something creepy about Rick Scott’s gaze? Anyway watch the video because it’s worth it.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  March 26, 2011

    to all,

    I am amazed at the length of comments above saying one side ofrthe other is more selfish. Amazing, again. BOTH SIDES OF POLITICS ARE SELFISH. And to suggest that either Dems or Reps are less selfish than the other is so onesided to be, yep, amazing, again, to me.

    Remember the black woman filmed right after Obama’s win in 2008 saying “now I don’t have to worry about my mortgage”?

    Now tell me the incessant demand for entitlements in not SELF motivated by those demanding the entitlements. Then show me ANY Rep or Dem that personally sacrificed ANYTHING during now 10 years and counting of WAR.

    I recently commented to a classmate as we debated the WPA. Long ago Kennedy said, let’s go to the moon. We the people turned it over to our “experts” and 9 years later we were on the moon. And then we the people stood tall, thumping ourselves in “victory”. But we the people did not do a GD thing to go to the moon.

    Now we go to war, turn it over to our “experts”, all volunteer experts, and scream in dismay when victory is not at hand in about a week or so.

    Some, even many, important things in society demand sacrifice by all to achieve “good” things. And when we all don’t pull together, united in our purpose, “bad” things really happen. How many examples would you like to see with each political side to blame?



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