You haven’t heard of the Tea Party? Why, they’re the ones protesting Proposition 8 in California, and chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”. WAIT THAT IS NOT CORRECT.
Really the Tea Party is defined by Wikipedia, the Source of All True Knowledge as “…an American populist political movement which is generally recognized as conservative and libertarian, and has sponsored protests and supported political candidates since 2009.” But today we look not at the decentralized Tea Party Movement (which would be about as effective as examining “Liberals” or “Christians”) but rather at a specific organization under the Tea Party umbrella, the Tea Party Patriots.
This particular flavor of Tea Party (witty!) is based in Atlanta, Georgia and operates as a “national grassroots organization that provides logistical, educational, networking and other types of support to over 1000 community based tea party groups around the country.” The great thing about the Tea Party Patriots is that though they fall under the Tea Party banner, they’re not exactly known for playing nice with the other Tea Party groups, with their members doing things like posting itemized expenditures of fellow Tea Party organizations on the interwebs. Mind you, this was specifically pointed out as an individual action, and not one carried out in the name of the Tea Party Patriots. That being said, the actions of individuals reflecting on the organization as a whole (and vice-versa) is inescapable, so suck it up princesses. Maybe this outing-of-financial-information is why The Tea Party Patriots themselves operate under the protective cloak of 501(c)(4) so they do not suffer the same fate; a key component of 501(c)(4) organization is the lack of obligation to disclose expenditures. No disclosure needed to individuals – such as contributors to the not-for-profit, and no disclosure needed to organizations such as the IRS. Though it might seem the very essence of hypocrisy for an organization to demand transparency from the government, and reveal – we might say even exploit – the transparency of other Tea Party groups, while themselves exhibiting no transparency whatsoever, the Tea Party Patriots have a fine explanation, I assure you.
Taking my ball and GOING HOME
…Gotcha! The Tea Party Patriots kind of lack a leg to stand on here. Mother Jones (yes, hardly a non-biased publication – but recognize that the reporting here is solid) essentially set the organization on fire earlier this year, with a three-part article that only mostly ate the Tea Party Patriots’ souls. The highlight of this article is the spotlight on Cindy Chafian, Co-Coordinator of the Chino Hills Tea Party, who was no longer invited to Tea Party Patriot… er, tea parties (!?), after writing a concerned letter (about Tea Party Patriot organizational expenditures, among other things) to the board of the Tea Party Patriots, including founders Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin.* The fun part of the fallout is that the Tea Party Patriots took the inarguably-childish route of immediately threatening her with a lawsuit. Lesson learned. If you ask about the Tea Party Patriots’ monies, then they kick you out of the clubhouse.
But you say “Wait, you’re not a Tea Partier, why are you sip-sipping on that haterade, yo?” What do you know about some Constitution Week, son? Constitution Week (9/17 through 9/23, as enacted in 1956 by President Eisenhower) is meant to “promote study and education about the constitution”; it means that we teach primary and secondary students about the constitution that week. This is A Good Idea. If there is an argument against people being educated in the basic tenants of the government that runs the country in which they live, then it is a stupid argument. And the Tea Party Patriots have taken up the cause of promoting this event. This sounds like a good thing. BUT WAIT THERES MORE.
Where the rubber hits the road?
The Tea Party Patriots have created the Adopt-a-School program (“We must pressure the public schools to teach the Constitution!”) seemingly based on one point of contact with one local school district in Florida, or so the story goes. So if some schools and school districts do not realize they should be teaching the constitution during constitution week, then the idea that schools should be reminded of this obligation is a solid one. Speaking with several educators from across the spectrum (primary, secondary, public, catholic, charter, private), I found only compliance and awareness of Constitution Week – but Nate Silver I am not, and my individual findings don’t reflect the presence or absence of a nationwide epidemic of lack-of-adherence-to-constitution-week. I can point out that my flawed research methods here are nothing to base an organization-wide activism campaign on, but I digress.
So fine, let’s remind the schools to teach Constitution Week, yes, I am behind that. Let’s also supply them with materials produced by a group that promotes the Constitution as a divinely-inspired document. Good.
Hold on. Wait. No. I -
It’s hard to know where to begin to address this. John Miller’s Associated Press article of May 25th points out the following pieces of madness:
- The Tea Party Patriots are encouraging educational institutions to commemorate Constitution Week using materials from the National Center for Constitutional Studies, or NCCS.
- The NCCS teaches that the Constitution is a divinely inspired document.
- NCCS’s founder *might* have held some pretty unpopular opinions, including but not limited to:
- Jamestown’s original settlers were Communists
- Harold Camping-esque end of the world prophecies
- The Russians stole Sputnik from the US.
- The implication that American slave children had more freedom than white non-slaves.
- The aforementioned founder wrote “The Five Thousand Year Leap”, a book which has been essentially demolished by… I mean, my man is a historian. That is his job. His job is to know history. Seriously.
- The NCCS is totally in the basement of a farmhouse in Idaho. Please understand that this is a part of any perceived lack of legitimacy of the NCCS.
- Look, I don’t think I’m comfortable with any instructional materials being provided to my children from the basement of an Idaho farmhouse. Well, at least not this particular one.
- As if that weren’t enough, Glenn “…I’m on the verge of moral collapse at any time. It can happen by the end of the show.” Beck** loves The Five Thousand Year Leap so much that he wrote the freaking forward for the 2009 edition of the book.
- Educational Materials
Bill Norton, Tea Party Patriot and NCCS lecturer, reminds would-be critics that the materials being recommended for Constitution Week are just that: recommendations. “It’s just a suggestion”. Just a suggestion. Great. Fine. If you want to just “make a suggestion”, and provide educators with materials for teaching the foundations of American government, that is A Good Thing. If you are going to suggest providing educators – and by proxy, children – with learning materials that reek so strongly of not-quite-right-itutde – as indicated by the above bullet points – then that is A Bad Thing.
Celebrate Constitution Week: Yes! In principle, this is something that we can all get behind. Though some might say that the story of one school district being unaware of the necessity to recognize this event is hardly indicative of a nationwide epidemic, the Tea Party Patriots can (and will) spend their money however they like. Literally! They don’t even have to tell you – or the government, or anyone else – how they spend any money at all. Oh, and your donations are not tax-deductible.
Celebrate Constitution Week using Tea Party Patriots suggested materials from Malta, Idaho? No! This even kind of wrecks the seemingly benign intent of promoting Constitution Week. Way to ruin it for everyone, jerks. Still, this leaves a few questions for the Tea Party Patriots:
- Why ruin a great initiative – encouraging educational activities relating to the basics of American government – by recommending that educators use materials so tainted with the crazy?
- Why demand transparency in our government if you are unwilling to run your organization in a transparent fashion?
- Why take your ball and go home when other Tea Partiers point out that the above state of affairs is more than a little hypocritical?
- What do you see in the mirror every day after getting completely obliterated by that Mother Jones article? Even taking their audience and liberal slant into account, I mean… wow. How do you go on? Is it denial? It’s denial isn’t it? I knew it.
Give generously, give often
If you are concerned about what materials your local school district may be using to teach the Constitution, but are unsurprisingly uncomfortable with the Tea Party Patriot’s recommended information, what are you to do? What is a better source of knowledge about the Constitution than materials provided by the NCCS? Here is a suggestion: Anything else. Seriously.
If the Tea Party organizations represent your political ideology, that is fantastic. Find a local chapter and become active. But before you donate your time or money to any cause, do your homework. There are plenty of other organizations in existence – Political and otherwise – that bend over backwards to show donors how their money is spent and how you are helping them to make a difference. Thinking of donating to the Tea Party Patriots? Your money could end up in the hands of Harold Camping.*** Just saying.
You can connect with others disillusioned with the Tea Party Patriots at the Tea Party Patriot$ (clever!) facebook page. And as long as you’re on facebook, you should “like” Fatal Downflaw. SELF PROMOTION.
*Both of whom are far better-educated and influential than all of the Fatal Downflaw staff. Even if you rolled us into one and multiplied exponentially.
** Of course he really said that. Glen Beck is like the Joe Biden of FoxNews.
*** Mr. Camping suffered a stroke on the date of publication of this article, June 13th 2011. The Fatal Downflaw staff sends all hopes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Camping and his family. Harold, losing you before the coming October rapture that you’ve predicted (third time’s a charm!) would be the worst form of Scorpion-Like Torment.
Also hilarious is that Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler’s favicon is not entirely dissimilar to the one used by Mother Jones!