By Bardia Vaseghi
With all of America holding its breath, President Obama is at a crossroads. In one direction lies revitalized Republicans with the promise of modern conservatism driven by progress and reform. In the other lay Democrats ever more restricted by the radical and moderate factions within their party. As President Obama teeters in the balance, a new diffused grass roots movement named the Tea Party has tapped into antigovernment sentiments and challenged the foundations of both parties. A couple years ago, this movement did not exist and political quarrels were mostly between Democrats and Republicans. Now, it is by some regards the most potent and influential force in modern American politics. When the “Tea Party Nation” began its first national convention in last February, no politicians were paying attention to the tirade against Barack Obama and taxation by the movement’s patron saint, Sarah Palin. As Professor Paul Dougherty from the Belfer School of Government explains, “The decentralized grass roots campaign is without any agreed platform or unified organization and skeptical of any sort of leadership, and neither the Republican Party’s extremist or moderate wings can grab the reigns of the movement.” The bigger message to the citizens of America is this: whatever else their platform consists of, tea-partiers feel that they have been taxed enough already.
Supporters of the movement have cited reasons that are as decentralized as the party’s platform and pay homage to that variety of the party’s advocates. The more radical of the factions assert that the government’s regulation of American markets should be reduced to nothing and that little to no taxes should be placed on the American wealthy. Xavier Sali-i-Martin from Columbia University contends that, “the government is essentially increasing taxes against wealthier citizens for being more educated, hardworking and frugal than their more impoverished counterparts. Basking Ridge has been hurt more than ever before.” In some ways, Mr. Sali-i-Martin is correct. With the recent stimulus and health care packages, citizens have seen a yearly 5% increase on their taxes as a whole to bear the burden of the nation’s woes. This means significantly less luxuries, cars, and up-to-date technology for the rich and poor alike, who will most likely see decreases in their purchases in the next few years. This radical faction has found itself taking the streets and protesting in Nashville, Lexington and even Boston, where thousands have participated in countrywide protests against taxing. The more moderate faction, which consists of more liberal thinkers such as Congressmen Ron Paul, cite the “unconstitutionality of the government’s violation of the states’ rights to certain forms of taxation” as his main conflict with the over-branching government. Both sides, as different as they may be, have converged into a political force that is putting noteworthy pressure on the United States government.
Dissidents from the movement have been generally supportive of President Obama’s policies to rebuild the nation. Professor Simons of the University of Arizona describes the movement as “an attempt by the ailing Republicans to undermine and fire up Americans against the dominant and effective Democrats, who are making reforms to improve the lives of the average American citizen.” The same professor also notes that the decentralized nature of the party can only lead to misinformation and miscommunication amongst the party members and the citizens of the United States. Even notable Republicans such as Senator John McCain are calling the party “a radical phase that will hopefully pass and allow American politics to return to normality and efficiency, because the party is doing nothing but stirring up trouble for the American populace.” Others, especially in Congress, note the misinformed nature of the party. Congressman Harry Reid notes that “the lack of basic commodities for the poorest of America’s citizens is remarkable and no party can justify the isolationist attitudes of President Bush and the Republicans in aiding the poor.” Even Republican Senator John McCain advocates this very claim claim by stating that, “the wealth of some citizens does not necessarily mean that they are more educated or even more capable than impoverished Americans. Luck and inheritance plays a great part in this country’s prosperity, and America is only as rich as its poorest citizens.” It is clear that the opposition to this movement is just as fervent and determined as its supporters.
The debate has raged nationally, tearing apart political parties and social norms. In the face of sweeping reform and unprecedented taxation, the American household is torn apart between moral and financial obligations. The Tea Party has called the financial worries of the nation’s most wealthy citizens to attention, while the opposition is still vehemently advocating the rights of our most impoverished citizens. Indeed, only time will tell which side wins out in this political conflict.