Does The Tea Party Movement Have Weaknesses?

Most of my friends and family are convinced that the Tea Party Movement in “racist”. It is clear that this, for the most part, is media driven, as the Democrat Party does a good job mastering and winning the propaganda warfare.

However, the question should be asked, is the Tea Party movement in any way responsible for some of the negative perceptions many Americans have of it?

I have attended and/or spoken at over 40 Tea Party rallies over the past three years, in the south, north, and east part of our Republic.

I think I have just a little insight into the nature of is strengths and weaknesses.

Being “racist” is not a weakness of the Tea Party movement.

In my evaluation, I don’t personally rely upon either conservative or so called liberal media, but will take both sides into account, for no side is always right and neither is always wrong.

My own view is that I agree with the basic principles of the Tea Party movement, which I have always made clear.

However, the Tea Party did not create those principles and do not have a corner on the market in these principles. There are many Americans who do not want to be aligned with the Tea Party, who are Independent and Republican, for example, and are no less American or “constitutional”.

I think one of the greatest weaknesses of the Tea Party movement is extremism. Not from a Constitutional or policy perspective, but from a relationship perspective. There is a sort of “We are the truth, the way, and the light” mentality that is pervasive.

I meet a lot of type A personalities in the Tea Party who are rather poor at empathetic listening, building relationships with those who may disagree with their perspectives, and are unskilled at knowing how to navigate against the opposition without being given unto bitterness and vitriol.

Few  Tea Party activists/leaders seem to understand that when you want to lead the lost, you have to love and serve the lost. You cannot lead who you will not serve and you cannot serve who you do not love.

I meet few who know anything about loving others unconditionally.

I will never forget that, when Romney won the primary, I was disgusted. For a period of time, I didn’t think I could vote for him because he is a Mormon and, in retrospect, I will never violate my own conscience again to fall in line with a political agenda or candidate or party.

Nevertheless, I ended up not only voting for Mitt Romney, but writing a ton of articles and doing a series of interviews promoting his candidacy directly in urban communities, taking a relentless beating from even friends and family (See: Peace through Strength), as I was one of the few across the country who concentrated my efforts in the inner cities.

I had property destroyed and was even physically attacked, hit with an Obama sign. Yet, there were Tea Party folks who started out with me, who were intolerant and vicious when I did not immediately jump on the Romney bandwagon.

Their message was “We have to rally against Obama”. My thing was that I had to decide whether I could vote for this guy, Mitt Romney, even as I knew I could not vote for Obama no matter what.

They had no respect for my religious conscience and some tried to publicly malign me right away.

Many Christians felt as I did and many stayed home in the end. I did not. Yet, I had to not only deal with my own conscience, but I had to deal with the vitriol of others who alleged to be on the same side I was on, as I tried to work my way through it.

So if Tea Party folks would do me like that, in spite of the sacrifices I had clearly made and the stances I had taken in defense of the Tea Party (on radio, television, news articles, etc), it was ten fold worse towards those who needed to be educated on the other side.

The fact is that you simply cannot take a position, when the lost rejects you, that: “You are stupid anyway” and that is how most in the Tea Party project themselves who I have encountered.

Too many, furthermore, are paternalistic and dismissive.

One of the things I have always tried to model is patience, empathy, and respect even towards those I don’t agree with. I have not come close to “arriving”, for only Jesus has, but I am confident that, over the years, I have developed a skill set to effectively communicate with Americans across all economic and ethnic/cultural lines.

I have tried to share those skills and the lessons learned with Tea Party friends, but few would really listen. I mean REALLY listen. They too often think that a crass, abrasive style is the only way to go and I happen to disagree. Frankly, I don’t think it is an effective approach.

I know Jesus to be of truth, but He was also full of grace.

I don’t believe the Tea Party movement is a “godly” movement, but is a secular movement based upon ideal political principles that are, in fact, Constitutional.

However, the moral/spiritual condition of man is at the core of our ills and to deal only with the law and to ignore the spirit, will never be successful in righting the wrongs caused by the heart and spirit of man.

I think that this is another weakness of the Tea Party movement. It is not a Christian movement and is unable to really spark a great awakening. It respects the history of the Black Robe Regiment, but rejects the practical application.

So no matter how right I may be and how wrong, for example, my neighbor might be about an issue, if I demean, insult and verbally attack my neighbor because he or she believes things that about me, due to my views, that are untrue, then all I do is cement my neighbor in those perceptions and cut myself off from ever being able to win my neighbor to the light.

That is another weakness of most Tea Party activists I have encountered. They don’t tend to think with foresight when it comes to responding to attacks from the so called left or others who might not understand where they are coming from..

I guess what I am saying is that Tea Party activists/leaders are often extremely toxic, albeit absolutely right in ideas about the way this nation needs to be governed. This toxicity is what many are reacting to. Not just the propaganda of the media.

Among my family and friends, many are Democrat and none are getting ‘freebies” from the government. That kind of commentary, for example, fosters stereotypes and breeds resentments. That is not a public policy discussion, but is an insult that paints a broad brush.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the principles and ideas of the Tea Party as it relates to the Constitution and Public policy. The problem is few seem to be effective at dealing with people on a personal level, particularly those who do not line up with their ideas and expectations.

Thus, I can see why many have the perception that it is divisive and hateful, even as many who make these accusations are indeed hypocritical, in that they are also divisive and hateful.

In any event, Tea Party leaders and activists would benefit greatly from debating, and critical thinking classes (to learn the skill of empathetic listening and proper responses rather than being reactionary), as well as discipleship classes. And yes, I have met Tea Party activists who I knew were racists.

However, that did not make me go out and declare the Tea Party is racist. I did call them out and called on other Tea Party activists and leaders to weed them out, but most would refuse to hold these people accountable.

I had one Tea Party  leader tell me, “When Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are held accountable by the left, then we can talk.”. So the last thing I will point out about its weaknesses is that there is an absence of vetting and accountability.

The Tea Party movement is not racist. Period, but it does not do a good job of vetting itself and making sure it silences those buffoons who come among them with a different agenda than reducing the size of government. Well, my long ‘two cents”.

Here is an article I wrote in response to the vicious attacks from the Congressional Black Caucus that were launched against the Tea Party some time ago: http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21NVSwimpTeaParty91011.html.

If I had it to do all over again, I don’t think I would take a stand in that manner for them, for I learned over the course of time that I was fighting for people who did not have MY back, but would stand with me only if I was 100 percent in agreement with all they said or did. That to me, is another form of tyranny. Control.

I am not interested in being the puppet of either the Democrat Party or any other kind of party. The sense I got, in the end, is that they only wanted a Black Conservative to use in response to Black liberals because they felt they could not say certain things. Some are more than willing to play that role. That is not who I am.

I want to know I am fighting with and for people that actually care about me as a person, in agreement and disagreement. They rarely had interest in me personally or in my family. Not one ever invited me to church or to their house for dinner to fellowship, etc. There was no real unity centered around each other that I experienced.

This is where, in my opinion, the so called left far outdistances the Tea Party movement. They are more people oriented and really tend to rally around each other personally and not just politically. They tend to deeply care about each other. So, while they rarely seem to understand the role of government in their good intentions, they do have each other’s back more often than not.

So I ultimately, for the sake of my personal well being and health, I began to distance myself and, since that time, I have a great peace of mind since doing so and me much more effective in building relationships, as well as reconciling relationships, especially in my own family.

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About sswimp

I am not an "African-American'. I am a proud American, who happens to be of African descent. I am Christian. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the Word of God shapes my concepts of what it means to be a conservative. I am Pro Life. Devoted to the principles of free enterprise, limited government,and individual responsibility. I believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman.
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9 Responses to Does The Tea Party Movement Have Weaknesses?

  1. Mary M. says:

    Stacy, I think this was a very good article and well thought out. It really helps me understand your position on this. I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps you are right and that the delivery of the message by the Tea Party is flawed, and their effectiveness is thereby greatly hampered. I also agree with your assessment that it is not a ‘Christian movement,’ but a secular constitutional one, altho they embrace and support christianity. Thanks for writing this.

    • sswimp says:

      Mary, your response is food to my soul for more reasons that I care to outline here. You are someone I have held dear to my heart for sometime and, at times, there has been a gap that I have found very difficult. Bless you.

  2. Jim Chiodo says:

    Just as the media narrative has branded the tea party as racist, they continue to divide, ignore the real tea party. Instead they focus on those who seek fame, fortune and media spotlight to express their view for personal gain. The media continues to ignore the real example of tea parties just like they ignored when you came to speak at our meeting this last June.

    Yes, tea party people are full of “A” type made even more so by constant berating, called terrorist, extremist, radical, racist and worse. For many, (myself included) the more we are attacked, the stronger our resolve. I clearly see my grandchildren in danger of loosing the America I know and love. There are some who are so frustrated and believe the downward spiral of America may be past the critical point of no return.

    A major example of the real tea party that was ignored by the media yesterday was an event called the “pow wow” held in Mt. Pleasant yesterday. Well past the original 300 estimated arrived at Soaring Eagle to hear a dozen speakers whose words were punctuated with prayers and encouragement for others whose faith drives them to serve.

    The keynote speaker Emery McClendon underscored this. If you don’t know Emery, he is an African American who started the first Tea Party in Indiana in 2009. You can imagine how much the media attacked him. Hearing him speak was an inspiration. I am going to share your article with him and ask his opinion.

    • sswimp says:

      Thank you for your input. I would add, however, that you did exactly the same thing I have warned are weaknesses. All you say about the left media is par for the course. However, there are other considerations for those who are interested in getting results and not just being heard. Food for thought.

      I respect Emory. I have interacted with him via social media. I think we have different styles and approaches and even different views on how to move the message forward where it is needed most, but I consider him sincere.

  3. Pingback: The Ugly Truth About Tea Party Politics | The Ugly "Truth" Site

  4. A really interesting piece you have written, at least interesting to me, mostly because you are writing as someone with some up close and personal experience with Tea Party members. I think the things you have pointed out are fairly accurate, but I also think you are holding back a bit in terms of addressing the issue of race or prejudice as it relates to the Tea Party.

    Let me preface what I say next but pointing out that in my opinion, the issue of whether the Tea Party is or is not racist is complicated by the fact that we as a community of citizens no longer have a shared understanding of what we mean when we say something is racist. The terminology, through misuse, abuse and overuse by black and white, has become nearly useless to discuss the issue among ourselves. I’m black, so on this topic I talk about it from perspective of blacks and whites.

    I would agree with you that Tea Party members are not racist, meaning that I don’t believe they are motivated by a belief in the racial superiority of white people over black people in a way more prevalent than the general population. I’m sure there is some percentage of TP members who we would all agree could reasonably be labeled racist, but that’s true of the universe of non TP members.

    So sure, racism is not the prime motivation of TP members. However, I think you can’t end the analysis there. You are glossing over the topic if you do. To be sure, the Tea Party is motivated by concerns about the growth of government, the size of the debt, the erosion of freedom and liberty. Those issues are real to them because they are real issues and it would be unfair to say that those concerns don’t motivate the Tea Party. But its no coincidence that these concerns racheted up to near hysterical levels of anger, venom and activism when there was a black president to personify the government and all the concerns, spoken and unspoken, the Tea Party has.

    I don’t charge that racism is what typifies the Tea Party faction of the GOP. That’s not accurate. But there is little denying that part of what is operating in their mental background is a concern that their control of America and its government as part of a white voting majority in this country is coming to a close. The browning of America and transition to a country politically guided by a multiracial electorate is one that they fear.

    Here is where the smallness of the Tea Party vision is exposed. Rather than pursue a path of inclusion or of shared opportunity (which requires tolerance of dissenting views as you noted), the Tea Party champions positions which will help to preserve the political strength they have enjoyed and maintain their competitive advantage as against other demographics (so called voter integrity efforts, for example). It is TRUE that government IS too big and spends TOO much money. But the makers vs. takers meme widely bought into by Tea Party supporters betrays the other impulse at work here. Within 40 years, a multi-racial electorate will determine our elected leaders, not a white majority. The reality is that a degree of Tea Party fervor is in part about shrinking and diminishing government power to tax them, or to restrain their behavior before that moment arrives to preserve their advantage.

    That is part of what’s motivating TP members. And while I think few would admit to the impulse, that it is there is implicitly clear in the tone, tenor and content of their rhetoric, whether its something they can acknowledge consciously or not.

    • Mary M. says:

      I appreciate the fact that you don’t believe TP members are ‘racist’ but utterly disagree with your premise that all this stuff about gov’t concern came out only because Obama is now President. I think you overlook the fact that TP members also oppose many many politicians who are white also, such as Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Clinton, etc. I am not a TP member, but I sympathize with many of their views and positions. I also recall back when those Town Halls were being held by members of Congress back when the House and Senate were both Democrat controlled, and the Health Care issue was still in the process of being rammed through, the citizens at those meetings were railing at almost exclusively white Congresspeople. I would encourage you to expand your viewpoint to understand that the TP and those like me are reacting to POLICIES with which we vehemently disagree and that we believe are absolutely harming this nation. Had Hillary Clinton been elected as President, the outcry and backlash would have been just as great. The color of one’s skin has NOTHING to do with how the TP views politicians as evidenced by their huge support for people like Col. Allen West, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and other black conservatives. it is just simply very unfortunate that the first mixed race man elected President happens to be a hard-core Leftist who is determined to undermine our Constitution. THAT is the real problem.

      • sswimp says:

        Mary, as you know, I absolutely stand upon the principles of limited government, strong defense, free market, and individual liberty.

        I am an advocate of Personhood, which means I am Pro Life. NO exceptions.

        I stand for the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. I oppose both civil unions and same sex marriage, for they both violate God’s moral law and will set God’s wrath against our nation if we sanction these things.

        However, not everyone is skilled or savvy at articulating the above stated principles outside of our comfort zones, which simply means most of us do not have the skills to do anything except preach to the choir.

        I think getting the message out to others who are different than we are, who see the world differently than we do, and who are at a different stage of their lives than we are, is a skillset that we all should strive to improve upon.

        That includes me, as I have not “arrived”. Not even close.

        If we all could be more humble, teachable, and remember that all of us have required patience from others as we learned to be and do better, what a difference it could make.

      • Mary says:

        No argument there!! Totally agree!!

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