The federal government has gone too far! That is what the "Tea Party" would have Americans thinking. To some extent, these fed up populist-types are correct. The federal government has consistently expanded and broadened their powers throughout the history of this nation.
Federalism, or the division of powers between state and national governments, is the system of government we have used since the implementation of the Constitution. Initially, state governments and the federal government each had their defined roles according to the Constitution. Federal powers mainly consisted of those specifically spelled out in the Constitution and according to the 10th Amendment, states had legislative control on all over issues (or so they thought). This era of dual federalism was doomed to failure.
Due to the Supremacy, Elastic, and Interstate Commerce clauses in the Constitution, the federal government greatly expanded their power and left state governments greatly diminished in their role. This time, called "marble cake" federalism (I'm not making that up), saw Americans mostly comfortable with the way the federal government handled business. After all, people weren't exactly looking to their state governments for solutions to problems like the Great Depression. Additionally, states lack the adequate remedies to fight the federal government. Couldn't they appeal to the court system, you ask! Indeed, but the Supreme Court (part of the federal government) has consistently ruled against states in their quest for more power.
The Reagan administration claimed to start a practice of "devolution," or returning powers and responsibilities to the states, yet little fruit has been produced, with the notable exception being the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. This "new" federalism has fizzled.
Americans have now become so frustrated with those who control our governmental structure, that the "Tea Party Movement" has gained momentum. What exactly is this movement all about? The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back is the heavy tax crunch the citizens of this nation are feeling. Though the federal government has been heavy handed in some of their tax policies for decades, Americans are perhaps reaching the boiling point due to the economic conditions in the past few years.
The angst toward federal tax & spending policies is not new, but this movement materialized because of the rough economic conditions and the large amounts of federal deficit spending on programs many Americans believe to be excessive or altogether not within the scope of the federal government's authority.
Due to the economic recession that hit the United States in 2008, members of Congress and the President took it upon themselves to "bail out" several key banks (in connection with poor loan policy and overall shady dealings), General Motors, AIG, etc. (Very impressive for General Motors to have already repaid their loan, plus interest.) Federal spending also invoked the anger of many Americans for the early 2009 "Stimulus package," which included hundreds of billions of dollars in spending in an attempt to spur the economy in a positive direction.
Upset Americans took to the streets in droves to protest the massive amounts of spending -- particularly irked by the government's rescue of many organizations that helped incur economic chaos by their less than reputable activities. These "Tea Parties" were popping up all over the country and now have morphed into a stronger movement than origianlly anticipated.
Primarily made up of conservatives, with a hint of libertarian, their ranks include supporters such as: poster girl Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and a host of other fiscally conservatives, who became even more enraged by the health care reform package pushed through Congress by Democrats. In the minds of these folks, the government only added to their irresponsibility by bloating the national debt to an astronomical number ($12 trillion and counting).
The Tea Partiers have several legitimate complaints. The national debt is out of control and the interest on the national debt annually is well into the billions of dollars. This money could be spent on numerous other worthwhile projects instead of being paid back to nations like China, who buy up American loans.
Tea Partiers also have rightly complained about the federal government increasing the scope of their authority. Areas such as marriage (see: Defense of Marriage Act) and education (the dreaded No Child Left Behind Act) have traditionally been aspects of society left to individual states to legislate. No longer is that the case. Moreover, several states have passed legislation pertaining to gun ownership that suggests any weapons produced and kept within a state classify as "intrastate commerce" and are thus beyond federal regulation. Good luck with that states -- check out Gonzales v. Raich for a more in depth look at a similar situation.
Despite legitimate complaints that need to be addressed, the Tea Party Movement causes more harm than good. This movement fails to realize their effect on the politics in America. Not only are they further polarizing this nation (thanks to the Bush administration for doing most of that work), but they risk creating a fracture in the Republican Party that will result in a 2012 victory for President Obama. I doubt neither moderate Republicans or conservative Tea Party goers want such a future.
Moreover, the bulk of these Tea Partiers seem to not understand what they are protesting. Many of these citizens are upset because economic conditions are making life difficult and they need someone to blame. I would be interested to know how many of these people have actually read the Constitution. I cannot be convinced most people understand or even care about the underlying Constitutional conflict or the preservation of the delicate balance of federalism.
The Tea Party Rallies are filled with rhetoric and waving around flags with catchy historic sayings like "Don't Tread on Me." In some strange sense, these people have been led to believe they are taking part in an event on par with the original Boston Tea Party in 1773. However, the members of that Tea Party (part of the Sons of Liberty) put their freedoms and lives on the line by dumping tea into the Boston Harbor. Today's Tea Party is no such risk. These rallies offer no courage, no patriotism -- only loud voices proclaiming how they are unfairly taxed. Do they not realize the original Tea Party was a protest on taxes only because colonists were irked they had no represntatives of their own participating in the vote to tax them?
Of particular annoyance was investigating the Tea Party Movement's main website, http://taxdayteaparty.com/, which devotes more resources into defeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D - NV) than promoting their own candidates. The site also includes an article that is overly critical of President Obama for not flying the American flag at military installations in Haiti. Their rationale as to why it should be flown? Our large economic contribution to the country (since they probably caused their own earthquake, right?) and other nations fly their flags. Since when do we care what the likes of France do?
More concerning now are the threats coming from the fringe of the political spectrum. Though not part of the Tea Parties, per se, this movement has brought forth all the political radicals who have been in hiding for some time. A group known as the Guardians of the Republics sent out messages to the governors of all 50 states, demanding them to resign or their offices would be "commandeered."
Texas, Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont are a few of the states who have strong contingents advocating secession as a remedy to their problems with the federal government. Perhaps Southerners could remind them how that path turns out.
Threats of violence? Secession? Has this what we have become? This is not the United States the founders envisioned (Jefferson aside). Politicans at the local, state, and federal levels need to learn to work together and at times must learn to compromise. Politicians have lost that ability -- to discuss, debate, compromise and yet manage to celebrate our common bond as Americans. The Tea Party serves only to incite and weaken what has taken years to put together.
I urge you to reject their rhetoric and aggressive nature. Our nation has a uniqe mechanism of ridding ourselves of poor political leadership. Is it another revolution? A radical change in governmental structure? Much simpler, actually. Exercise your right to vote! This is how Americans should be conducting themselves. Instead of plotting or scheming, perhaps we should try promoting the values and ideals we stand for in peaceful, honest and forthright ways.