The Tea Party is a movement that stands for the liberty and freedom of Americans. It protests against governmental elitism and the influence of big interest groups and lobbyists to bring control of the government back into the hands of the public. So where’s the catch, right? On the surface, it sounds like a great movement that any young feminist would support.
The Tea Party movement gains its name from the Boston Tea Party in December of 1773 when colonial revolutionaries threw crates of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the unfair taxation on the thirteen colonies. This played a major role in instigating the American Revolutionary War lasting from 1775 to 1789. The historical symbolism and ideological “freedom” and “liberty” propaganda tugs at the heart strings of many Americans. While giving the image of a grassroots, average-Joe/Jane organized protest against big government, the Tea Party actually has significant ties to the corporate world.
Big tobacco and oil-industry billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch, planned the formation of the Tea Party movement a decade before it exploded onto the American political scene. Their plan was to create a propaganda war against government in order to abolish regulations and taxation on their billion dollar companies. However, propaganda is all the more credible when it appears to arise from average, non-biased Americans. In order to gain real strength, these industries needed to mobilize the voters to create and elect candidates that support anti-government policies. With the founding of Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1984, the Koch brothers and the tobacco industry began their radical free market war on all government spending, taxation, and regulations. CSE has received over $5.3 million from tobacco industries and around $5 million from the Koch industries to organize major events and protests. In 2004, the group split into FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. The Koch brothers now back Americans for Prosperity.
Charles and David Koch own Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States. It runs oil refineries, coal suppliers, chemical plants and logging firms, and profits are roughly $100 billion a year. The brothers are each worth $43 billion. This makes them the 5th richest persons in the world. In recent years, the brothers have had to spend tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements for oil and chemical spills and other industrial accidents. The Koch brothers want to pay fewer taxes, keep more profits, and gain more control of the market by less governmental regulation. Their challenge has been to persuade the people traditionally harmed by this agenda (the average-Joe/Jane) that it is actually good for them.
The trick of the Tea Party movement is to confuse corrupt capitalism with free enterprise, and free enterprise with individual liberty. These billion dollar industries have constructed the Tea Party movement philosophy to mobilize its members for “freedom” who are in-turn unaware that the freedom they demand is freedom for corporations to exploit them and make more profits. It is important to recognize that the vast majority of Tea Party members are lower middle class Americans who are subject to the problematic tendencies of free market capitalism, like unfair wages and lack of quality benefits. These members generally have little or no political experience which makes them especially susceptible to political persuasion. Movements to support the free market are designed to appeal to the American sense of individualism and fear of socialism. Therefore, the organizers take climate regulation, universal healthcare, and labor regulation policies as a growing government interference in their lives by not recognizing, that these programs are actually there to assist them.
Tea Party members fear a government takeover, but they do not recognize that nothing close to a radical socialist revolution is occurring within the American government and likely will not occur within my lifetime. Even the infamous Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 was so compromised to suit ultra-conservative Republicans and Libertarians that plenty of Democrats reconsidered passing it. Besides this inability to recognize the problems with big business, what I find most confusing about the Tea Party movement is its hypocrisy. While spewing propaganda to restrict government intervention into people’s individual lives, plenty of Tea Party members are supportive of homophobic/transphobic policies and pro-abortion regulations. Conservative religion and conservative politics create an interesting conflictual intersection that is perhaps more restrictive to individual lives (through big business control and traditional values) than made freer.
There are currently 63 Tea Party affiliated members in the 2015 U.S. Congress. Since the 2010 elections, the Tea Party has been a force to be reckoned with in American politics and the growing polarization of the political parties has facilitated further distrust in government within American public. In the last five years, the Koch brothers’ wealth has increased by over $25.5 billion. And their avid support of the Tea Party movement is an “honest” ploy to buy America so they can continue to rig the system. I certainly think that it is disturbing that the “grassroots” movement that Tea Party members are so emotionally attached to was in fact created by billionaires and large corporations with little interest in fighting for the rights of the average person, but instead using the average person to fight for their own growing profits and growing control over the American public.