America’s Tea Party movement has been dubbed many things since it materialized in the early months of 2009. On the positive side, The Economist describes the movement as “America’s most vibrant political force.” In contrast, recently a Newsweek journalist said the movement was “dominated by conspiracist kooks.” And then you have those who might be taking the movement completely out of context, by stereotyping Tea Party members and other supporters as “racists.” Whatever one feels about this newfound populist movement, the reality is that its members and rallies are growing in number. People are beginning to take notice.
Tea Party supporters and beliefs
According to an April 2010 New York Times/CBS poll, 18 percent of Americans currently identify themselves as Tea Party supporters. The poll, said to be “the first reliable look at the tea party movement and its supporters” by the Los Angeles Times, reveals that one in five Americans consider themselves in support of the movement. Ninety percent of the supporters feel that this country is headed in the wrong direction. More than 60 percent say they think Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. Most send their children to public schools. Most of them also describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” And, contrary to some media outlets’ portrayals of Tea Party supporters as radical, uneducated racists, this latest poll shows that many are “wealthier and more educated” than the general public. Supporters also share the general belief that “big government and big spending need to be avoided.”
While supporters agree that government control and spending should be kept to a minimum, the movement is currently without an official organization. Several groups have come forth to try to help the agenda take shape. One of them is The Tea Party Patriots, an organization located throughout the U.S. that says it has over 1,000 chapters. There is also The Tea Party Express, whose members spread their message through a national bus tour. Others include The Tea Party Nation and, most recently, a new National Tea Party Federation. It was formed by several of the Tea Party movement’s major players, uniting in an effort to spread the message effectively, and to be able to respond to critics, the media and others with a speedy and collective response.
Conflicting media coverage
Between the various Tea Party organizations and numerous rallies that have broadcast their message, there has no doubt been obvious media coverage bias. Comparing the above poll results to the media’s Tea Party coverage shows how journalists and the media can diverge from the facts. Howard Kurtz, journalist for The Washington Post, describes the coverage inconsistencies: “Much of the media seems to have chosen sides. Fox News portrayed the protests as a big story, CNN as a modest story, and MSNBC as a great story to make fun of. And for most major Newspapers, it’s a nonstory.”
Shortly after the Taxpayer March on Washington last September, Fox News took out numerous ads in The Washington Post, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, with an attention-grabbing headline that read, “How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN miss this story?” Many of these News outlets later tried to dispute Fox’s claims by pointing to their previous coverage of the story, such as live coverage of the Washington TaxPayer March and evening News broadcasts that led with Tea Party stories.
The future of the Tea Party
Numerous meetings, rallies and protests are in store for the Tea Party over the next few months, including a major protest to be held at Washington D.C. on Sept. 12. For those in the South Florida area who are interested in supporting their local Tea Party organizations, more information can be found at www.SouthFloridaTeaParty.net.
Twenty-year-old Hannah Giles was a recent speaker at a West Palm Beach Tea Party rally. She can be credited with the downfall of ACORN. By posing as a prostitute, she caught the organization, on tape, promoting suspicious and illegal activity in several cities. Shortly after Giles and her partner in the undercover operation, James O’Keefe, released videotape of the ACORN conversations, ACORN’s partnership with the 2010 Census was terminated, as well as its federal funding.
On the topics of ACORN and the Tea Party movement, Giles stated, “My thought process for ACORN was, if you know what is right and pure, and you can for a second imagine obtaining that thing, then you have to, with all your heart and energy, go after it. If not, you will be tormented by regret all your life. I love this country, and I don’t like the route it is going right now, and I don’t think our Founding Fathers would like where it is going. The principles of freedom, liberty and prosperity are good things; we deserve those things. Our Founding Fathers promised us these things, and our soldiers shed their blood so we could have those things, and if we don’t fight on the homefront for that, we are going to see it go away and disappear, and future generations won’t know what it is like to experience freedom.”
During Giles’ speech at the Tea Party rally, she said, “James and I were two people who never met each other the day before we went undercover. We planned the whole thing online, but we did know each other in a way, because we had the same vision for America. We want an America that is free, and we want our kids to live happy, prosperous lives. And so, we went out and did something. Imagine what each one of us could do. There is hope. I am pretty optimistic. I have been to several tea parties this past month, and it’s a wonderful and an exciting time. We need to take back this country.”