Almost immediately after the Tea-Party phenomenon started, piquant questions about language and media materialized. For instance, enough connections between the Tea-Party “movement” and Fox News broadcasts became plain that it seemed reasonable to ask about the extent to which the phenomenon was a professionally crafted one, not really a populist one. Crafted or not, the movement now seems to have its own momentum, so much so that even a post-Modern populist like Sarah Palin has advised the Tea-Partiers to choose a major political party. She doesn’t want them to go rogue, apparently. The stage can accommodate only so many rogues at once, after all.
Then, of course, there was the amusing idiomatic convergence of “tea-bagging” (two kinds, alas).
For me, a nagging question concerns the implied analogy between the Tea Party/Parties (2010) and the Boston Tea Party, which has become part of worn American lore. As I recall–although I wasn’t there–colonialists dumped a particular load of tea from a ship to protest paying taxes on loads of tea in general.
Today’s Tea Partiers bring tea-bags (uniform doses of tea produced on an assembly line) to protests vaguely concerning “big government” and “socialism” and “Obamacare.” By contrast, the colonialists’ concerns seem supremely clear and precise. Also, there’s the matter of representational democracy (what some colonialists wanted), which has, in theory, replaced the colonial arrangements. Consequently, I’m tempted to deduce that the Tea Partiers oppose the American system of government; at least that’s what the spectacle suggests, if logically and analogically interpreted. However, one major point of such spectacle and deployment of symbols (tea, caricatures of a president) seems to be to distract observers and participants from a deployment of logic or a sober interrogation of analogies.
It seems to be working, the distraction. At a recent gathering in Washington state, a leader of a local Tea Party expressed the desire to “hang” Senator Patty Murray. The leader drew on the work of Larry McMurtry for “inspiration,” much to the chagrin of the novelist, no doubt. A blithe, casual reference to lynching: not my cup of tea.