The party of those who just don’t get it
They call themselves the Tea Party. This extremist anti-tax faction of the Republican Party claims to be inspired by the famous Boston Tea Party, in which a group of activists disguised as Native Americans, dumped a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor — an act which the current Tea Party claims was done in protest against the tax on tea. This is not exactly correct; let’s go over the facts one more time.
In 1767, the British Parliament passed what was known as the Townsend Act imposing a duty on certain goods imported from England — glass, paper, painters’ colors and tea. In response to vigorous protests from the American Colonists, in 1770 all these taxes were removed except the tax on tea, which was reduced from 3 pence to 2 pence per pound, and was subsequently further reduced, and ultimately eliminated. Then in 1772, the East India Tea Co., which supplied tea to the Colonies, appealed to the British Parliament for relief from competition from the Dutch, who were underselling them. Parliament responded by passing the Tea Act, excluding the Dutch and giving the East India Tea Co. a virtual monopoly over the tea trade with the Colonies. This action was what sparked the Boston Tea Party in 1773, in which the participants showed their displeasure with the arrangement by dumping the shipload of tea, which was the property of the East India Tea Co. (not Britain) overboard. Actions against the East India Tea Co. also occurred in several other colonial ports.
The current Tea Party actually bears a much closer resemblance to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in “Alice in Wonderland,” which Alice drops in on. She and the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse (which is mostly asleep) engage in a strange conversation. She is unable to make any sense out of what anyone is saying, and declares it to be “the stupidest tea party I was ever at in all my life.”
The current Tea Party, over which Sen. Ted Cruz (D-Texas) has now assumed leadership, just doesn’t get a whole lot of things, including the fundamental precepts of democracy — debate and compromise, and majority rule. For a democratic government to function, differences must be resolved by respectful debate and the give and take of compromise by both sides, on the issues that divide them.
Furthermore, the minority must accept majority decisions until such time as the voters make it the majority. Abraham Lincoln affirmed this truth, stating that the willingness of minorities to accept majority rule is the true test of democratic government, and that if a minority refuses to abide by majority rule and resorts to threats, the result will be anarchy.
We have no further to look for confirmation of these truths than the Islamic world. Democracy can never succeed in Islamic countries until they accept those precepts, and no longer respond to political differences with such extreme measure as car bombs, suicide bombers, and assassinations.
Our Constitution was created on the principles of debate and compromise, and acceptance of majority rule, and the delegates who crafted it would be sorely disappointed if they could see how our political process has degenerated from what they envisioned.
The intransigence of the Tea Party has led to its threat to shut down the government if it doesn’t get its way, putting ideological zeal ahead of common sense and the well-being of the American people, and simultaneously doing incalculable damage to its own Republican Party. The cost of this bit of peevishness to our country and its people and economy is estimated to have been as high as $24 billion.
In funding of the farm bill, the Tea Party is clamoring to separate food stamps and cut funding because of the rising cost as the number of people receiving them has grown to nearly 50 million. They ignore the facts that most of those on food stamps are the working poor who are not being paid enough to feed their families, that more than half of the beneficiaries of food stamps are children, and that present food-stamp rations are not enough to provide adequate nutrition. Yet in the same discussion, the Tea Party is just as fixed on continuing to dole out huge subsidies to corporate agribusinesses and wealthy (often absentee) owners of large-scale farming operations.
There are just a few of the issues on which the Tea Party members just don’t get it.
“As I See It” appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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