Stirring It Up: Tea Party Movement Brewing

Just the beginning for tea parties?

So, were the "Taxpayer Tea Parties"  (AKA, T.E.A. -- Taxed Enough Already -- Parties) whether grassroots or professionally organized -- successful or not?

Rather than just "reading the tea leaves", saber-metric poll analyst Nate Silver went, as best he could, for hard counts on the successes of the various "Taxpayer Tea Parties" held around the country yesterday.

He estimates that a bit more than 250,000 people tea-partied nationwide. On the other hand, he has a count of only 2,000 at the New York event -- which brought former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But the New York Post figured it to be closer to 5,000 -- which might make the actual figure closer to 270,000 (assuming that there are similar under-counts in the rest of the country). 

The parties aren't bad ideas, in terms of trying to get people to focus on out-of-control government spending (in that regard, they are reminiscent of the old Ross Perot/Reform Party/deficit hawks). So, compared to an Obama-type campaign rally, the parties don't measure up. But for relatively spontaneous events -- only a few of which attracted "name politicians" -- they can't be completely dismissed.

Still, by being called "tea parties," the gatherings remind the public of the Boston Tea Party -- which was a protest over taxes (as opposed to spending) -- without representation. Taxes and spending are always linked (and, indeed, should be if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt).

But while President Obama sticks with his statistic that 95 percent of the public will see (or already has seen) a tax cut (even though some 43 percent of Americans actually pay no or very little income taxes at all), it's questionable whether the tea parties can spark a real nationwide grassroots anti-tax revolution. But again, Perot managed to get the public focused on the deficit problem caused by excess spending. So, don't completely underestimate the power of this issue.  

On the other hand, dumb statements from people like Texas Gov. Rick Perry hardly add much seriousness to these debates. Texas -- seceding? Come on!  Why is it that when liberals find themselves having to deal with an administration that they don't like they talk about running off to Canada -- while conservatives (particularly the Southern kind) start talking about secession? 

Not so smart.   

Still, the Tea Party movement appears to be growing. Freedom Works, a group founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, has already scheduled the next party for Sept. 12 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Aside from being the day after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the date happens to be a Saturday. That may cause an even greater turnout as many possible supporters who had to work on Wednesday might want to take the opportunity for a weekend jaunt to DC to make their concerns known. 

In terms of planting a seed from which a movement can spread, the April 15th parties seem to have been quite successful.

Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.

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