It is said that the Tea Party movement started with a rant by Rick Santelli, of CNBC, on the trading floor of CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) Group in Chicago on Feb. 19, 2009 but the real truth is that it started even before that.
Of course we all know that the Tea Party movement started many years ago, on December 16, 1773, with a simple act of civil disobedience in rejection of a small tax on tea – “a 3 pence.” On that evening, approximately 100 “radicals” from Boston, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, dressed up as Mohawk Indians, boarded three East India Company ships, and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. The Boston Tea Party would have as a direct consequence (albeit in 1775) the firing of the first shots of the Revolutionary War…. and soon, our independence from a tyrannical ruler.
Just as John Adams commented that the American (tax) revolution was in the hearts of the colonists even before a drop of blood was spilled at Lexington – “The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution” – our current (conservative, tax/spend) revolution has been in the hearts and minds of ordinary hardworking folks even before Barack Obama took office.
Conservative voters were already questioning why banks were being bailed out (Bush signed a $700 billion plan to bail out banks), why were billions of their tax money being spent on government programs, and why were they willingly saddling their children with government debt.
Then when Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, he quickly appointed people (czars) like Larry Summer and Tim Geithner to his team who were all seen as people who were part of the problem. Stephanie Jasky, a paralegal from Detroit, Michigan, chatted: “We were hemorrhaging money. I was looking for answers – I wanted to know what had happened. The more I looked the more it became clear to me that the problem was our government, that the government had become the criminal.” Jasky was one of those citizens who took up the idea of sending her elected officials in the US Congress tea bags as a form of protest. She loved the idea. She bought a box of tea bags and sent one to every member of Congress. She said: “All these bailouts and stimulus packages, that was taking our money and spending it without our permission. Taxation without representation. We thought, didn’t that happen to us in the Revolutionary wars? Hello! Anyone remember King George?”
On February 15, 2009, Keli Carender, a blogger known as “Liberty Belle,” spread the word about a grass-roots protest she was organizing in Seattle to express outrage over the passage of the trillion-dollar stimulus/porkulus/Generational Theft Act of 2009. She was enraged that such a bill passed Congress and especially without much discussion or opposition by Republicans. It was the first time she did any kind of political organizing. She was simply a conservative mother who blogged who never thought she would jump into any political arena. Amazingly, she turned around the event in a few days all on her own by reaching out on the Internet, to her local talk station, and to anyone who would listen.
Also in February, local radio host Leland Conway in Kentucky called on his listeners to send liberal NY Senator Chuck Schumer pork rinds. In response, a mountain of 1,500 bags poured into the station on February 16 and was shipped to Schumer. Conway idea was motivated by Schumer’s arrogant statement that only the “chattering classes” cared about the “teeny, tiny” pork amendments in the Generational Theft Act.
On February 18, 500 fed-up taxpayers showed up in Mesa, AZ to oppose President Obama’s plans to expand the government’s mortgage entitlement program. (Think about what happened with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac).
On February 19, ordinary citizen Amanda Grosserode e-mailed that she was organizing a tax revolt protest in Overland Park, KS the following weekend. More than 400 people showed up in freezing weather to protest Rep. Dennis Moore’s vote for the stimulus bill. And also on that same day, CNBC’s Rick Santelli issued his now-famous rant and plans for a Chicago “Tea Party,” prompted by Obama’s mortgage entitlement expansion plans. He accused the Obama administration of “promoting bad behavior” and subsidizing “losers’ mortgages.”
Santelli gave a voice and even a passion to what the Tea Party movement would become…. a frustration with government and its policies of entitlement and fiscal irresponsibility. Here are the words of that rant:
RICK SANTELLI: The government is promoting bad behavior….. You know, the new administration’s big on computers and technology… How about this, President and new administration? Why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages; or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water? This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise your hand.
(Whistling, Cheering.People booing Obama)
SANTELLI: President Obama, are you listening?
RANDOM TRADER: How ’bout we all stop paying our mortgage?
SANTELLI: You know, Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective. Now, they’re driving ’54 Chevys, which is probably the last great car to come out of Detroit.
KERNEN: Hey Rick, how about the notion that you can go down to 2% on the mortgage…
SANTELLI: You could go down to -2%. And they can’t afford the house.
JOE KERNEN: So why are they in the house? Why are we trying to keep them in the house?
SANTELLI: We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.
WILBUR ROSS: Rick, I congratulate you on your new incarnation as a revolutionary leader.
SANTELLI: Somebody needs one. I’ll tell you what, if you read our Founding Fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson,… What we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.
Perhaps Santelli was referring to a warning by James Madison: “The people of the U.S. owe their Independence and their liberty to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings.” For too long, Americans have not been watching.
Within 10 days of Santelli’s rant, on February 27, the first Tea Party rally was held in Washington, Chicago and other cities across the US. The Tea Party movement and Tea Party phenomenon had been born.
Lest we forget what the Tea Party stands for and who itself makes up this informal group of grassroots “radicals,” consider how Mark Alexander summed it up in 2010:
So, just what is the Tea Party? Let me first answer that question by describing who it is.
We are American Patriots, defenders of First Principles and Essential Liberty.
We are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and public servants standing in harm’s way at home and around the world, who are loyal, first and foremost, to our revered oath to “support and defend” our Constitution.
We are grassroots leaders and local, state and national officeholders who, likewise, honor our sacred oath.
We are mothers, fathers and other family members nurturing the next generation of young Patriots. We are farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen and industrial producers. We are small business owners, service providers and professionals in medicine and law. We are employees and employers. We are in ministry at home and missionaries abroad. We are students and professors at colleges and universities, often standing alone for what is good and right.
We are consumers and taxpayers. We are voters.
We are Patriot sons and daughters from all walks of life, heirs to the blessings of Liberty bequeathed to us at great personal cost by our Patriot forebears, confirmed in the opinion that it is our duty to God and Country to extend that blessing to our posterity, and avowed upon our sacred honor to that end. We are vigilant, strong, prepared and faithful.
We are not defined by race, creed, ethnicity, religion, wealth, education or political affiliation, but by our devotion to our Creator, and the liberty He has entrusted to us, one and all.
Second, in answer to the question, the Tea Party is not a political party, per se, organized around a national platform, rather a well-defined and uniform slate of principles on which they center their advocacy and support for political candidates.
Those principles include, first and foremost, advocating for Essential Liberty, the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and the promotion of free enterprise, national defense, and traditional American values.
And the Tea Party is here to stay.
Michele Malkin, “Tax Day Tea Party Cheat Sheet: How it All Started, ” April 15, 2009. Referenced at: http://michellemalkin.com/2009/04/15/a-tax-day-tea-party-cheat-sheet-how-it-all-started/
Ed Pilkington, “How the Tea Party Began,” Oct. 5, 2010. Referenced at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/05/us-midterm-elections-2010-tea-party-movement
Santelli’s Rant – httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp-Jw-5Kx8k
Mark Alexander, “The Tea Party Movement, ” The Patriot Post, June 24, 2010. Referenced at: http://patriotpost.us/alexander/2010/06/24/the-tea-party-movement