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Harris Sherline: Tea Parties Just Tip of the Iceberg

Critics of the American protests seem to be unwilling to look beyond their own biases

The TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Parties drew national attention for a brief period in the recent news cycle. It was an interesting exercise in peaceful public gatherings to protest government policies, the sort of assemblies that our nation’s Founders envisioned.  It was inspiring to many Americans, not just those who attended the estimated 2,000 plus gatherings, but also to substantial numbers of those Americans who did not participate directly in the rallies. 

The Tea Party crowds have been estimated as totaling around 250,000 people who felt the need to be heard. I did not attend any of the Parties because one was not organized in the community where I live. However, I listened on the radio and followed their activities with great interest. I may not have been there to protest in person, but I emphatically agree with the message they were expressing.

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

Columnist Michelle Malkin, who attended the Tea Party in Sacramento, noted: “Let’s use liberal math to calculate attendance at last week’s nationwide Tax Day Tea Party protests. When Left-wing activists make crowd estimates, the algorithm is: six figures = one million. An incomplete survey of newspaper accounts and organizer estimates pegged the Tea Party protest population at a minimum of 250,000. We can now, therefore, officially call it the Million Taxpayer March. Or the Million Right-Wing Extremists March if you work for the Department of Homeland Security.” 

Media coverage was mixed. The leading liberal news sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, ABC, CBS and NBC, etc.) viewed the Tea Parties as an exercise in futility, ginned up by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other right-wing “extremists.” CNN joined them in excoriating and denigrating those who attended. 

These media organizations, and it appears most of those who work for them, simply did not understand the message, claiming that only those who oppose Obama and voted against him participated, or that the Tea Parties were only about taxes and “taxation without representation.” 

In a further effort to marginalize those who participated in the Tea Parties, critics stressed the point that the tax policies of the Obama administration are taxation with representation.  Other assertions about the Tea Party crowds included such characterizations as not including any minorities, specifically blacks and Hispanics, or Democrats and people who voted for Obama.  The critics were not only wrong but they have also been unwilling to look beyond their own biases.

Newt Gingrich noted, “Liberal politicians and pundits did their best to discredit the Tea Parties by describing them, first, as a partisan Republican movement, and, second, as a revolt of greedy old rich people who don’t want to pay more income tax.”

Actress Janeane Garofalo said on CNN: “It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don’t know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. (Emphasis mine).  That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks…” 

And Paul Begala, a CNN contributing commentator, wrote the Tea Party protestors off, saying, “Why are they out there whining with this Tea Party thing? Just a bunch of wimpy, whiny weasels who don’t love their country ...”

However, columnist Mark Steyn offered a different perspective on the motivation behind the protests when he said, “Like the original tea party, it is in the end about freedom. Live tea or die!” 

I believe that what we witnessed on April 15 was an outpouring of concern by tens of thousands of Americans who were protesting the unbridled spending and excessive debt being created by Obama’s policies.  There was no discrimination involved.  It was just a spontaneous demonstration of concern by working Americans.

The Tea Party protests clearly demonstrated that people from all walks of life, both liberal and conservative working Americans, understand that we cannot spend our way to prosperity by borrowing and printing money, which they believe is a sure path to the destruction of our way of life. They see what the Obama administration is doing, and they don’t like it.

But, the Tea Parties were only a beginning. If the protesters do not become organized and focus on specific objectives, they will prove to have been just a temporary outpouring of concern.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his own blog, Opinionfest.com.

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