The behaviour of the Tea Party is reminiscent of the Aesop fable about the frog and scorpion. The two meet on the bank of a river and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across. But, the frog is wary and asks “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion replies, “Because if I do, I will die too.” The frog agrees to carry the scorpion across but in midstream the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog becomes paralysed and starts to sink he asks the scorpion, “Why did you sting me because now we will both die?” The scorpion replies, “It’s my nature.” Like the scorpion, the Tea Party seems determined to destroy the democratic system that gives it oxygen.
The Idiocy of the Tea Party
The rest of the world is bewildered by how a small minority of right-wing ideologues can bring the only superpower to its knees
International View of the Tea Party
Outside the United States most people are baffled by the racist, homophobic, ignorant extremism of Tea Party followers, who number 22 percent of the American public
In October 2010, the Pakistani magazine Dawn accused the Tea Party and other “right-wing zealots” of unleashing a “venomous discourse” against Islam. It described talk-show host and Tea Party favourite Glenn Beck (left) as a “bigoted rabble-rouser” who accuses President Barack Obama of being a “closet Muslim.”
A few months earlier, the German magazine Spiegel also took on Glenn Beck in somewhat more measured tones “he spreads a message of fear and dread of a new America…It is a country of poverty, deprivation, and an omnipotent government, a cross between the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.”
Writing for The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (March 2013) Chris Berg comments that “Our ideas of the Tea Party are pretty entrenched. Either you think that the Tea Party is a white, racist, gun-toting, revolt of the middle class, or… well… in Australia it’s not clear there is an alternative view.”
The French newspaper La Monde (October 2010) commented that the Tea Party is filled with conspiracy theorists who “wish to be left alone, to live as before when everything was going well, when America embodied the Anglo-Saxon status quo, when the Taliban were on the CIA payroll, and when neither the Chinese nor al-Qaeda opposed the hegemony of Uncle Sam.”
And, long-time Canadian political analyst Geoffrey Stevens writes (October 2013) “The Tea Party began as an amusing diversion on the lunatic fringe of the political landscape.” Now, he writes, it “could destroy the spirit of goodwill, consensus, and willingness to compromise that make it possible for democracy to function.”
BBC Documentary of the Tea Party
Political journalist Andrew Neil also encounters Glenn Beck and his frequent weeping spells on the eve of America’s 2010 mid-term elections
Nonsense from Tea Party Speakers
Leaders of the movement and their followers are given to spouting rubbish
Judging people by what they say is a pretty sound method of getting a handle on their character and intelligence. Of course, everybody is prone to a slip of the tongue from time to time but Tea Party folk seem to have cornered the market in saying ridiculous things:
“American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.” Tea Party Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, 2007
“You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult, whatever you want to call it.” Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey of Tennessee, 2010
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.” Todd Akin, Missouri Republican Representative, 2012
“Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.” Stephen Broden, Tea Party-backed Texas congressional candidate, 2010
“People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and some of the other things.” Chris Collins, New York Republican State Representative, 2013
“I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change…It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time.” Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republic Senate candidate 2010
“U.S. taxpayers are now paying to give arms to terrorists including al-Qaeda.” Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican Representative, 2013.
These are not rank-and-file members who take their poorly spelled placards to rallies; these are the party’s best and brightest offered as candidates for positions of political leadership.
Tea Party tactics are a threat to democracy
Danger of the Far Right
Nationalistic conservative groups such as the Tea Party emerge occasionally in democracies
Political movements of the far right feed on the disillusionment of people whose lives are not going as well as they’d hoped. Their supporters need someone to blame for their disappointments and the demagogues who lead them offer up targets, usually people with darker skins. And, they propose crude solutions to complex problems that simply will not work.
France has its Front National founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen. Jörg Haider was the long-time leader of the Austrian Freedom Party. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders has had some success at the head of his Party for Freedom. The neo-Fascist National Front in the U.K. has had a minority appeal.
But, none of these or other extremist groups have been able to hold the democratic process hostage as the Tea Party has done in the United States. One disturbing aspect of the Tea Party’s success is that it is based on misinformation and outright lies such as:
- Barack Obama is an Islamic Communist born in Kenya;
- Global warming is a hoax;
- Detention camps are being built to house dissenters;
- The Affordable Care Act will set up death panels;
- Obama plans to take away all guns;
- It's possible have big tax cuts and reduce the deficit at the same time;
- Oh, why not add that the Earth is flat?
Why do so many people believe these falsehoods? Let’s turn to Michael Lind at Salon for an explanation: “The answer is that members of the right-wing counterculture are brainwashed - that is the only appropriate term - by the apocalyptic propaganda ground out constantly by the conservative media establishment.”
Facts and rational argument cannot penetrate the bubble of certainty in which the true believers of the Tea Party live.
“Poll: Support among Americans for Tea Party Movement on the Wane.” UPI, September 26, 2013.
“The Horror, The Horror…and the Pity.” Elizabeth Dickinson, Joshua E. Keating, Foreign Policy, October 26, 2010.
“Muslims in the U.S. Living on the Edge.” Dawn, October 10, 2010.
“Tea Party Movement Mirrors a Deeply Divided America.” Marc Hujer and Thomas Schulz, Spiegel, April 14, 2010.
“Tea Party Paul’s Stand for Civil Liberties.” Chris Berg, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, March 12, 2013.
“Tea Party not an Amusing Diversion.” Geoffrey Stevens, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, October 7, 2013.
“The Top 20 Craziest Quotes by Tea Party Candidates.” Daniel Kurtzman, Huffington Post, October 25, 2010.
“15 Mind-Numbingly Dumb Things TEApublicans Have Said Lately.” Americans Against the Tea Party, March 10, 2013
“How Conservatives Lie about Government.” Michael Lind, Salon, January 24, 2012