On this date in history, a group of rabble-rousers dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest what they determined was excessive taxation and government regulation. Depending on perspective, they were either patriots carrying the banner of freedom, reckless instigators, or terrorists. (To quote the fine philosopher Obi-wan Kenobi, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”)
In today’s political parlance, the term “Tea Party” means something entirely different. But curiously, this movement which took it’s name from the 1773 event also carries some of the same baggage.
There can be no doubt that the tea party events have created excitement around conservative activism that hasn’t been seen in some time. Colin Delaney of Tech President notes that the movement boasts savvy organizers, focusing on creating online fund raising and voter data networks. And while in generic ballots, so-called “Tea Party Candidates” have polled better than Republicans, that doesn’t necessarily mean electoral defeat for the GOP. It will encourage establishment Republicans to take the small-government ideals of the Tea Party movement seriously.
The Tea Party movement does have one key challenge, and that is the plethora of groups taking credit. As the old saying (not by Obi-Wan) goes, failure is an orphan, but success has many fathers. As established, inside-the-beltway conservatives angle for the support (and money) of the tea partiers, the risk is that activists will be turned off by the perception that outsiders are taking over their movement.