What is the Tea Party really like in 2011?

With all the pundits that are calling the Tea Party terrorists, and enacting a jihad (terms that these same pundits would not use in describing Al Quaeda), we decided that a trip to one of the several local Tea Party meetings was in order. M V Consulting, Inc. president Michael Vass went out to check on the potential dangers that the Tea Party is being accused of enacting on America right now.

With luck, there happened to be a meeting on August 2nd. It was the monthly first Tuesday meeting of the Southern Tier Tea Party (STTP). Not only that, but this month there was a special speaker scheduled, Dave Hamlin – the acting chairman of the Broome County GOP. It was a chance to see a jihad underway and to see how the Tea Party was taking control of the GOP. Or so pundits and some elected officials have claimed. The best part was that we were not expected, and this was an open meeting.

Now it should be mentioned that we have been to Tea Party rallies and meetings in the past. In fact Michael Vass spoke at a Tea Party Rally in 2010. But neither Mr. Vass nor M V Consulting is part of the Tea Party – past or present. Our past observations were that the Tea Party organizations we were aware of were all reasonable and peaceful. Just a bunch of Americans that believe the Constitution is the guiding principle of the Government, and that America would be better off following a more direct interpetation of that document than the current far more liberal/progressive interpertations.

Mr. Vass arrived at Brothers 2 in Endwell, New York, where the monthly meeting takes place. It so happened that a fundraiser for Juvenille diabetes was also taking place in another part of the location, the importance of which will come up later. The meeting started at 6:37, just past the announced 6:30 start time.

There were roughly 45 individuals at the meeting. A good number for a meeting of any type in the Broome County area, based on our experience. Those in attendance ranged in age from roughly 30 – 70+, but most were 40 – 50 years of age. Not exactly the age group associated with rabblerousing, but consistent with the area and from what has been observed at rallies and other political events during the 2010 mid-term elections. Also consistent was the fact that everyone present was White, though Binghamton, and Broome County, are about 93% White – so no shock or disproportionate results in that.

The meeting was like any other you might expect. Everyone stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, facing an American flag, and then the meeting began. There was the review of the notes from the prior meeting. There was a review of the finances of the group. There was a review of the projects that are coming up. Like the booth at the Spiedie Fest this weekend in Binghamton. The Southern Tier Tea Party will again (2nd year we are aware of) participate and spread the word about their organization. They discussed the bell they had purchased in 2010, and how it represents the Liberty Bell. They discussed donations, and considered the possibility of a fundraiser in the future – which will be reviewed by the board of the STTP.

If it sounds a bit dry, it is because it was. Board members of the STTP were introduced for any new attendees. They went over the business of the organization. They were organized, but not to assault the government, just to cover the things they wanted to talk about in an orderly manner.

Our visit was to see if anything had changed since late November 2010. Could the pundits be right? Had the Tea Party transformed into a behemoth that could endanger America? We saw no sign to indicate that any of the claims of violence, racisim, or anti-government extremism existed now any more than they did in the past. Which is to say, not at all.

At this point Dave Hamlin was introduced and spoke to the group. He went over his expereince, and some of the ways the Tea Party could help the GOP in 2012 – getting signatures for candidates and rallying support for occassional voters to get out and vote. He then opened the floor to questions.

One of the first questions asked was why the Tea Party was so attached to the Republicans. The answer, from Mr. Hamlin and Bud Caldwell (a boardmember of the STTP) was that the Tea Party is not. Both the GOP and the STTP acknowledged that the Tea Party may or may not support some Republican, or Democrat, candidates. They might even support Independent candidates. But the fact was, as Mr. Caldwell stated,

“We asked the Democrats to come and make a presentation, and they blew us off.”

Which may explain why there are few examples of the Tea Party supporting Democrats, though some members of Congress (not in NY) do share similar principles as the organization. Democrats are rejecting the Tea Party. Which explains the pundits that are so radically angry with the existence of the movement. They don’t want the Tea Party to exist, and desperately do not want to have it divert members from the ideals currently in sway.

The rest of the questions centered on issues of who the Tea Party might support, theoretically as the field for 2012 is still very open, and what actions STTP members could take to advance the position of candidates they believed in. Mr. Hamlin stated,

“The best form of government is at the local level. Be involved. Get up and do something. That is the best answer.”

That was the meeting. And then there was pizza and soda.

We cannot say that every Tea Party organization was like this meeting. We cannot say that every organization has members of this same age range and make up. Nor can we say that any organization is or is not speaking with Republican and Democrat leadership. Then again, neither can detractors make a blanket statement that the Tea Party is racist, jihadists, or terrorists. Such terms do not apply to Code Pink or Moveon.org, nor do they apply to the Tea Party. To make such a claim is a bald-faced lie, and our observations in 2010 and now in 2011 prove as much.

We can say that of the Tea Party organizations we have observed, there is passion in the membership. There is diversity in views based on a core principle of the Constitution. And we can say that we have never observed a hint of violence or racism. In fact we were asked if we knew of any other people of color that might be interested in learning more, or visiting a meeting.

Not only did we observe this, but so did a reporter from Action News 12. The reporter was at Brothers 2 to cover the Juvenille diabetes fundraiser mentioned earlier. He took the opportunity to listen in to the meeting. He also got tape of the response to his questions by the chairman of the STTP on the debt ceiling deal.

So to conclude, is the Tea Party a bunch of terrorists, as Vice President Biden appears to believe? Is there a jihad underway, as Liberal pundits are trying to propmote? Is the GOP being usuped by the Tea Party as many Democrats and Liberals decried during the debt ceiling debate? The answer to all of these is no, at least not in Binghamton, and not at the Southern Tier Tea Party.

We suggest that if you want to know what the Tea Party is really about, go to a meeting around you and find out first-hand. You may be surprised at what you find.

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About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

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