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May 5, 2009

Tea Parties, Third Parties, and National Discontent
By George Shifflett

Excitement filled the air as the next speaker ascended the platform. After each railing accusation against the government, thunderous applause resounded down the hillside; tension gripped the authorities as participants shook their pitchforks and political signs. While this scene could easily be from 1773, it actually played out on 15 April 2009 below the steps of the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. This was the scene at the Tax Day Tea Party.

That national media ignored the Tea Party is not surprising. Like many other conservatives, I have long accepted that the media is embarrassingly liberal. However, it is the degree to which they are willing to exaggerate the truth that troubles me.

Capitol Police estimated attendance at 9,800; the Tennessean stated it barely touched 3,000, more than three times less. Having attended the rally and discussing it with State legislators who described it as larger than the tax revolt of the 1990s, I’d say the Capitol Police were closer to being right. Yet, Nashville was the site of only one demonstration; organizers held similar events all over the country.

Despite the apparent tension, the White House simply could not bring itself to respond honestly. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fits the description of Daniel Hannan’s “…Brezhnev era apparatchik, giving the party line” when asked about the demonstrators, conveniently ignoring their message for the President to stop spending their money. I am not surprised by his “perfunctory” claims of cutting taxes while simultaneously bankrupting my grandchildren.

The real issue, however, is the crowd and why it appeared.

Some feared government bailouts as the advent of socialism, some railed against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who vicariously accused veterans – through a now infamous policy report – of being a probable source of domestic terrorism. Many attendees criticized the DHS for its Stasi-esque tactic of profiling political thought as “right-wing”, and others just needed an outlet for the frustration they feel at the continuance of the recession.

If there was one unifying theme, it has to be the oft-repeated mantra of, “This cannot be the only day!”

The Tea Party movement may actually be the emergence of a viable third party – no pun intended – in this country. The prospect is not nearly as radical as it sounds. The Polish Solidarity movement was solidly anti-communist; Tea Party goers are solidly anti-socialist, socialism being a branch of the same Marxist tree.

These people are tired of being ignored by the two major political parties and these Tea Parties offer hope and a home for the opposition; Bush started the bailouts and Obama took them to new heights. Of course, with due deference to Belmont professor of political science, Dr. Nathan Griffith, this writer knows that the viability of a third party depends on much more than vehement opposition. For the prospect to have any real chance at success, proportional representation would have to replace our first-past-the-post system. But it is always interesting to speculate.

“We the People” movements often begin in the wake of economic crisis. Like the patriots of 1773, these Americans are Taxed Enough Already.

For those interested in “joining the revolution” or following it a little closer, visit

George Shifflett is a Belmont Alumnus with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy.

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