The Tea Party Hangover

Catering almost exclusively to the Caucasian, rural, and isolated is a losing strategy

Arizona Governor Janet Brewer vetoed House Bill 2177 on April 18, which would have required presidential candidates to provide extensive proof that they were born in the United States before being able to run. This proof would then be reviewed by the Arizona Secretary of State before securing a place on the state’s ballot.  In similar news, pigs don’t fly, Harvard is a selective college, and aspiring presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hair is anything but natural.

Famously supported by Trump and by other believers in the “birther” movement, the proposed Arizona law was ideological in reasoning, a direct nod to repeatedly refuted rumors about President Obama’s eligibility to hold office. Furthermore, it was impractical in scale, violating the established electoral process in hopes of granting unprecedented power to a state in regard to federal elections. Sadly, HB 2177 is merely one bill among an embarrassing list of recent Tea Party-inspired legislature, suggesting that the radical right has gone much too far.

The distinctly radical implications of Representative Carl Seel’s “birther” bill led Governor Brewer, a Republican who approved Arizona’s controversial immigration law, to deem the proposed legislation “a bridge too far.” Like Seel, other far-right leaders face the challenge of translating lofty ideology into competent laws. The Tea Party’s major goals constitute repealing current Democratic policies and minimizing governance, neither of which entails proactive legislation. Since spending is to be avoided at all costs and government should be minimal, there is little left for a Tea Party representative to do after repealing health care reform and restoring every citizen’s right to use inefficient, incandescent light bulbs.

Consequently, many bills proposed since the Tea Party’s insurgence into state governments after last fall’s midterm election merely aim to propagate the movement’s unrealistic vision for a cultural transformation of America. These bills may fester in the containment of a Tea Party-majority district or state, but they surface in the context of a more moderate national dialogue as extreme and irrelevant. Montana’s House Bill 278 would grant the governor “authority to recruit, train, equip, certify, and activate” a statewide citizen militia. Proposed legislation in Georgia demands that debtors repay the state in silver and gold, and Kentucky legislators aspire to make the state a “coal sanctuary,” exempt from environmental protection laws. No wonder Tea Party legislation is shot down as easily as a moose in Sarah Palin’s backyard. Besides, should Montana enact its bill endorsing global warming as “beneficial” to the state, it remains unclear how citizens will benefit.

Tea Party supporters envision a nation where all white, U.S.-born men are endowed with certain inalienable rights to gas-guzzling trucks, guns, and health care debt. The current landscape of the United States is simply too far from this alarming ideal to fit the Tea Party’s mold. A political movement that caters almost exclusively to the Caucasian, rural, and isolated is hardly sustainable in a country that’s becoming increasingly Latino, urban, and connected. The party may be filled with ideas, but few of them are attainable, whetting the appetite of conservative ideologues without a means to deliver on its promises of a legendary, freedom-filled America.

The Tea Party has served up a potent brew of passionate discontent. Now it’s time to back it up with sensible, implementable legislation that will genuinely contribute to the well being of its constituents, or run the risk of falling out of favor. In the words of a visionary similarly steeped in emotional appeal, Winnie the Pooh, “A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.”

Tarina Quraishi ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Hollis Hall.

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