As we're now fully into the 2010 election season, being bombarded by political ads from all sides whichever way we turn, a question has finally occurred to me: Why are they called the Tea Party? I don't mean, "What's the historical context of the phrase, and does it somehow relate to the famed 'Boston Tea Party' of the American independence movement in the late 1700s?" I mean, why do these guys call themselves a "party"?
Because last I checked, a political party is a group of like-minded individuals that seek to have their views represented in government by fielding candidates for office. And also last I checked, there's not a single Tea Party candidate out there. There are plenty of independents out there--the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Reform Party, the Communist Party, even the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, although oddly enough, it's not fielding a candidate this year. ("You say your name is Fred Lieberman? Well, we just love that name! Can't get enough people in office with the last name 'Lieberman'!") But apart from the entirely unrelated and extremely tiny Boston Tea Party (which is mostly endorsing Libertarians this year anyway) there's not a single "Tea Party" candidate to be found.
Instead, we get Republicans. "Tea Party darling" Rand Paul? He's a Republican. "Tea Party favorite" Sharon Angle? She's a Republican. "Tea Party embarrassment and total headcase" Christine O'Donnell? She's a Republican. All of the supposedly anti-establishment, not-part-of-Washington-politics-as-usual, brand-new-party Tea Party candidates seem to have one thing in common: A little (R) behind their names that they'd just as soon you not notice.
Let's be blunt and call this what it is: An attempt to rebrand the Republican Party in the wake of their disastrous performance over the last decade. The Tea Party is nothing more than the radical right wing of the Republican Party, and should be referred to as such. Anything else is just giving them exactly what they want: A chance to pretend that despite having the same worldview, policies, and goals for America, the Republicans of 2010 have nothing to do with the Republicans we've thrown out of office over the last four years.
Not that I blame them. Heck, if I were a Republican, I'd want to pretend I was someone else too.