where the writers are
"We welcome all people"

This is the title of a letter to the editor posted in the local St. Paul, Minnesota newspaper on Sunday September 11th.  It was from a tea party member who stated he wrote it because he was “sick and tired of the lies the left is spreading about the Tea Party.”  He referred to the left as calling the tea party “racists, saying we are against poor people and that we are terrorists…”

“We want less government, less taxes and fewer regulations on private business so they can compete with other countries and keep jobs in this country and hire more people.  Those on the left seem to want government to take care of them; we want people to be responsible for their own actions.”  These quotes lifted out of the letter seem benign on the surface with the general, portrayal of the tea party.  Tea party members would like to be seen in this positive light and not be asked specific questions on how they will achieve smaller government, less taxes and fewer regulations.  This letter was long on generalities and short on specifics.  I have seen letters to the editor like this, almost verbatim, in my newspaper before and in other papers in Texas, Arkansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.  It seems to be a propaganda blitz by the tea party to be seen in a more positive light with American bells and whistles attached.

I watched the tea party Republication Candidates Debate and when the cameras panned the audience it was mostly white folks.  I am not saying that tea party folks are racist since I do not know them all.  I believe that the tea party was organized and is led by white folks.  As such their learned white value system for America has to make up a big part of the tea party belief system.  Whites have been the dominate group in America for over three hundred years.  That dominate group are males, heterosexuals, Christens, middle to old age, middle to upper class, and able bodied people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of America.

Tea party members “want to take back America” supposedly to some quintessential time in American history.  To take back America sounds like a call to arms for white folks.  I have believed for a very long time that there is a fear in American whites and that fear is losing power and dominance to people of color.  That fear is a cancer blocking true discussions on race in America.  I don’t wish to say that this is true, but I speculate that taking back America seems very important to tea party members ever since Obama was elected president.  Now is it because Obama is of mixed race, because of the massive government programs undertaken trying to solve the biggest financial crisis in my lifetime or because the tea party has some Regan/Thatcher belief in the good old days – I have my thoughts but they are unproven.

The tea party has been getting more scrutiny of late since they are being interviewed on the national scene and their more “articulated “beliefs are coming to light.  They are no longer able to hide behind less government, less taxes, less regulations and individual responsibility and expect the average person to just accept it at face value.  Their collective vision of America is a white America where individuals make it or break it on their own.  No statements about the effects of discrimination, segregation and myths about people of color are ever discussed; they just don’t want to be called racist because the issue of race has been settled in their vision of America.  They play on Americas fears of immigration, personal freedom, too many regulations and the growing political block of people of color.  I think that the tea party folks should just tell us outright that they want to take back America as white folks.

Less government is a nebulous term and can be interpreted in many ways.  I think that parts of the government are too big:  defense, Homeland Security, Patriot Act.  I do not believe that doing away with the EPA, Department of Education or Social Security, as some tea party candidates propose, is necessarily the right path for America and would reverse some gigantic strides that America has made in education, environment and taking care of our old people.  The tea party wants to make local control a more powerful way to manage big government.  On the surface this sounds good to the everyday American – give me more control where I live.  Local control is what the southern states used to implement Jim Crow.  Perhaps that is the time that tea party folks are referring to as taking back America. 

Local control gives local government the right to raise their own taxes for schools, public transportation, police, fire and other services.  The problem with this block grant type of mentality is that the wealthy and predominantly white suburbs will have the capital to have better schools, public services and development that the older and poorer ghettos of the inner city do not possess.  America already has a huge discrepancy in wealth between whites and persons of color, local control will increase this statistic.  Local control is a validate ideal if the playing field is level to begin with.

Tea party folks want to reestablish the Ronald Regan “Trickle down Theory” that would equalize things between people at the bottom and the top.  If you can’t make it in America it is because of a character flaw or the beliefs of your group that hold you back.  I think that this is what the tea party means when they say that they believe that every individual is responsible for their own actions.  If you are at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid then it is your own fault.  Tea party folks believe that everybody has the same opportunities and don’t understand why some make it and some don’t.  No discussion of dominate or non-dominated groups and the privileges that come with being born in the dominate group seem forth coming by the tea party – it is everyman/woman for his/herself.

The tea party uses time worn patriotic euphemisms to mask their real political agenda.  I hope that their true agenda is realized before the 2012 elections.  If they are a party of the people they should ask themselves why persons of color and moderate whites are not standing at their doors to sign up for membership.

Timothy A. Bess

September 13, 2011