Two Tea Parties?

Two Tea Parties in less than three years. Who predicted that? Two, you say? Yes, I would argue that the first Tea Party was the movement that brought Barack Obama to the Presidency. To avoid confusion, let’s call the first Tea Party, the Obama Party, and consider the parallels.

  • Both can be considered “grassroots” movements.

  • Both reject the traditional leaders of a major party.

  • Both can legitimately claim to be fully “insurgent movements”, surging against not only a party establishment, but against the opposition as well and simultaneously.

  • Both offer ill-defined slogans, allowing each to be many things to many people. How does “Yes We Can!” differ from “I Want My Country Back!” in substance? Yes we can…what? And what do you mean by “my country”?

  • Both began with a tabula rasa on which their supporters could write what they like, while avoiding their internal differences prior to holding power.

  • Both demonize their opposition and canonize themselves.

There are differences. The Obama Party is focused on a single personality. Sarah Palin may aspire to the same position with the Tea Party, but she still has much more to accomplish before she can claim that. And of course, the Obama Party won real power, not just some party primaries, while the Tea Party awaits the November results. The Obama Party’s tabula rasa has now been written on, indelibly, while the Tea Party’s remains covered with the chalk scrawls of millions.

There is one remaining major difference. The Obama Party won power, but lost its way. Disappointment and confusion have replaced inspiration and a call to action. Will the same occur should the Tea Party and its supporters feel they have won in November, only to feel they have lost their way a few months later?

It is no surprise that during a time of national crisis, an insurgency challenges incumbency. But I suggest the Obama Party is not yet truly an incumbent party, but rather a failed insurgency. In effect, a new insurgency faces a failed insurgency and should it fail as well, what do we have left?

At times of great financial distress threatening the futures of tens of millions of Americans, great leaders have risen. You know that Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were great leaders because both could claim majority support of the public when they needed it, despite a minority that saw each as a grave danger to the republic. With the circumstances they both faced, damaging deflation for Roosevelt and damaging inflation for Reagan, both may have been extremely controversial figures, but no one could deny that both led. You did not have to ask “Who’s in charge?” It was obvious who was in charge. Love him or hate him, he was a leader.

The greatest potential threat facing this United States today is not poor leadership, but no leadership. No one is in charge. We deserve better than that.

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One Response to Two Tea Parties?

  1. Interesting post. Yeah – I agree Obama’s grass-roots campaign had similarities to the Tea Party movement. But I’m not convinced it was as pervasive or powerful. His was animated by a lot of young people that flamed out shortly thereafter. The Tea Party movement seems to be older, middle class people – the sort of silent majority that have been woken out of their slumber. I think these guys are going to be around a lot longer. But it is an interesting comparison.

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