Elephants and Tea Parties


By-Robert B. Charles

Life is a matter of perspective, as much as recognition of longstanding truths. Today, the Tea Party is a force in American politics, in the same way that discovering an elephant in your living room would be a newly discovered force in your life. But what is the Tea Party? Like the six blind men who all touch an elephant and see it differently, that depends on your perspective.

One of the blind men in the iconic poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) touches the side of the elephant and feels a wall.  While few of the Tea Party’s adherents urge voter registration under that name, they are grounded in limited government, lower taxes, and the Bill of Rights. They see the movement as a wall of wisdom, built one brick at a time, since the days of our Nation’s Founding.

To Saxe’s second blind man, who discovers a tusk, the elephant is a spear. Faced with an unaccountable, increasingly intrusive and incorrigibly expansive Federal Leviathan, some see the Tea Party as the tip of a popular uprising, the pointy end of what will be a resurgence of accountability, respect for individual rights, and reduced Federal footprint.

The third blind man in the poem grasps the elephant’s trunk. To him the elephant is a snake. To those in opposing camps, the Tea Party — although not a party — seems to present a threat. Like the curling trunk, it is a movement in motion, not defined by shape, size, reach or impact. To some Republicans and to more Democrats, the Tea Party demands caution, distance. It has an ability to strike unexpectedly, to bite. Recently defeated U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor must count himself in that camp. Also in his company are those comfortable with big government, and those less trusting of the individuals, community, or State to make good decisions.

The fourth blind man felt the elephant’s knee, sure he was a tree. To these souls, the Founders’ words, actions, and intent, the conservative doctrine of strict construction of the U.S. Constitution, and a primacy of local decision-making are well-rooted in our past. Our country’s exceptional past – oak timbers like tradition and a free market, trust in creativity and entrepreneurialism, individualism, and self-reliance are self-evidently how we got here, and how we will get to the next level.

The fifth blind man felt only an ear of the elephant. To him the ear was a fan, powerful but fragile, strong, and thin. He misunderstood the ear’s ability to guide the larger body, yet liked what he felt. To some — particularly those of us who remember a Republican Party led by Reagan’s principles, good humor and openness, pride, and peace of heart, the Tea Party is an echo, a welcome echo, but still thin. Reagan was never divisive or quick to condemn Americans who sought, with a good heart, to live by honor and tradition, even when they erred or missed the mark. To him, we were One Nation, blessed by Providence and courage, strong because we knew ourselves, trusted our instincts and each other. We could bend and lend an ear without fear of losing our bearings.

The sixth blind man found only the elephant’s tail, sure it was a rope, and in that way underestimated the whole, even as he disparaged what he knew of it.  Perhaps that is what the media today sees in the Tea Party.  So, today, we enter the living room of our political life and find an elephant, the Tea Party — still a mystery. What exactly is the Tea Party?  Is it who we all are, want to be, or are afraid of being? Is it a wall of comforting principle or spear of activism, a source of suspicion or of rooted solace?  Is it the Nation’s ear, able to guide the body politic to a brighter future, or a foil for detractors, a way to divide the Republican Party?

Maybe there is something bigger afoot, something we are missing?  Is this elephant not new at all, but the living room itself — the Leviathan — what is new? Is it possible that we see in the Tea Party what we want to see, and are all partly wrong? Is it possible that the Tea Party is an outgrowth of our common desire to again be One Nation, hard as it is to get our arms around that idea? Maybe this ill-defined elephant has undefined potential.

If the Tea Party helps us reexamine who we are, as Americans, and better understand what we value most, it is by definition good. If it becomes a distraction, another way for dividing us on ourselves, the potential force for good will be wasted. Not very poetic, but there you have it:  There was more to Saxe’s elephant, and there may be more to the Tea Party than any of us, blind as we are, yet imagine.

This editorial first appeared in the American Thinker

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Helen S
8 years ago

The TeaParties in our area are composed of, and continue to attract more of, the nicest, kindest people you can imagine who are also good citizens and eager to learn more about Constitutional government and how we can restore it.
The author of the lead article should have noted that there is NO single, national, “official” Tea Party. However, many TP groups have joined together in affiliation and have become quite large, conducting fund-raising drives across the country almost on a par with the major political parties. But the majority have remained independent and local, but free to work with other nearby or national groups on particular occasions or projects. In our area there are 8 or 10 separate TP’s within easy driving distance. They range in size from 10-20 people to several hundred or more. Several have their own websites, one of which has over 2000 members!

If there is one thing that binds TeaParty activists together, it is respect for our Constitution! And our schools, for the most part, do nothing significant to teach it. So Tea Parties undertake to fill the void.

Your reader-commentators above have made some excellent points. Connie Z’s story is super and shows one of the most important functions of TPs: to be there, locally, for people like herself who search for truth amidst all the propaganda! TeaParties in general are NOT aligned with any political party, nor should they be. Most do sponsor or help to sponsor candidate forums where representatives of ALL parties are invited to publicly state their views in the presence of their opponents.

One of your commenters, ( D.A.) above, mentions the newsletter Imprimis. I will add that it is available, free. Write to Hillsdale College, Hillsdale MI 49242 and ask for this excellent monthly published by one of the few colleges that offer real solid courses on our Constitution. Ask about those, too!

Ivan Berry, above, tells where to get bulk copies of the Constitution and also mentions the excellent book, “The Creature From Jekyll Island.” That book and many others essential to understanding what is going on in our world can be obtained at any American Opinion Bookstore or at jbs.org in the STORE section. Especially recommended are “The Law” by Bastiat, and “Shadows of Power” by Perloff. (That one will give you a clue as to why Karen F., above, was skeptical of the lead author’s resume)!

And finally, visit your local TeaParty. If you don’t know where they can be found, try Google or ask at your local public library. If they don’t know, they should!

Ivan Berry
8 years ago
Reply to  Helen S

Helen S,
Thank you for noting the comments of D.A., KarenFAye, and listing the sources of additional material.
My library probably holds near 10,000 volumes, but don’t remember a copy of Perlof’f’s “Shadows of Power.”

Something you may be interested in, I called the publisher and asked if they would allow me to copy an article from “The New American” to present at the next Tea Party gathering near here (near is about 30 miles) and received their permission to copy the Cover Story about both the left and right advocating for a Convention of States (Art. V). Also, The Texas Rifle Association magazine publishers gave their approval, gleefully to permit copies of two articles for presentation. It’s amazing what a couple of phone calls can accomplish.

Noticing that you seldom commented on this addition of AMAC, I am curious whether you would be willing to join us in other instances. Interest in your thoughts would probably welcome you given what you addressed in this instance.
Knowing time is limited for each of us, if you are free to participate, it would be a benefit to hear your thoughts.

Concerned Citizen
8 years ago

Folks, take heart, and GET BUSY NOW! – this November is a very important election for conservatives, and because it is not a presidential election, the tendency is for the “emotion-driven” voters to sit it out, unless there’s a strong motivating reason at their own state or local area. That means we, the “educated” voters, can really make an impact, IF we get the message out to the discouraged conservatives that sat home last couple of elections, and the disgusted middle-of-the-road Americans who see the current administration for the disaster it is!

Who has been affected by the Veteran’s care scandal? Vets and their families – get them out to vote for the congressional candidate that genuinely cares about vets! Lots of our younger candidates are former service men and women – conservative – and really care about our country – volunteer to help them out, or send a donation!

Canter’s defeat should be an encouragement to us – volunteers really do make the difference! He out-spent his opponent Dave Brat on a $40 -1 ratio, but Dave had “boots on the ground” volunteers walking precincts and getting out the vote. You can help make calls, register voters, etc. We had a booth at a local event, and 7 Dems change their registration! Others said they weren’t ready to officially change, but found themselves voting for the conservative candidates because their party’s nominees were so far left! People ARE waking up! They recognize that the Democratic party has left them – left their values, left governing lawfully, etc. So don’t give up hope – just get out the vote! And start NOW!

8 years ago

The Tea Party is the way we are going to educate this nation to realize that what we are, who we are and why we have come so far so soon….TP is the tool for restoring faith, value and morality because that is what made us bond in so many ways, the right to aspire and prove that self reliance will work even under the most dire conditions, it is a statement that our founders left us with a legacy of wisdom that we should protect and cherish forever and pass on this wisdom for all time to all peoples who want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in their future. The US Constitution, the rule of law and the moral concept to maintain and repair a government based on providence and representation by freedom of speech, it is ours to use and keep but no one know has ever said it would be easy or quick…..The Tea Party is this concept, it is not a political party…

Ivan Berry
8 years ago
Reply to  ONTIME

And though it ain’t perfect, it’s the last best hope we’ve got, with the addition of educating the youth in the founding principles. We must get the young involved before they are forever tainted by the establishment and the insiders.

8 years ago

Interesting article, although I am skeptical of Mr. Charles’ resume. Most who are associated with Harvard in an instructor capacity are Left leaning. Colin Powell has veered that way himself, thus losing most of his credibility with me. I’d have to see more articles to fully judge Mr. Charles, but he has given folks more to think about.

Richard A
8 years ago

Wow, interesting comments from all. I am an old geezer and have watched the evolution of the U S A becoming a less free and more “government dependent” country, starting in the early 1960’s. Many of the 60’s generation rebelled against the conservatism of the U S A and insisted on free love and cumbiah (spelling?) life styles. The result is a hooray for me and my beliefs and screw all else. So long as I am doing well (as in John Kerry) the rest matters not!! It seems that too many have forgotten the famous lines of JFK, “Ask not what your government can do for you, ask what you can do for your government”. Then he, LBJ and subsequent politicians, manly Democrats, proceeded to form a self serving government that corrupted itself and too many of the rest of its citizens with “give away” programs. In my opinion, the Tea Party is protesting this form of self serving government that has evolved over the past 50 years or so. The blind men and elephant analogy is a clever way of describing the seemingly lack of understanding of the Tea Party but to me, a very old man, it is easy to understand. “We do not like what is happening to our country and we want our voices heard!!”

8 years ago

The tea party is a movement not a party,most people in the movement are conservative and libertarian or a combination of both.

8 years ago

Great comments, Rik. Isn’t it sad that we can’t even trust the elected officials WE put into office? They thank us for our loyalty and support by what? Doing nothing, looking the other way, or grandstanding, head nodding, and muttering under their breath “what a shame” — while they do NOTHING about anything. Calls for Obama’s impeachment and actual movements toward it should have happened a year ago!!!!!!!! How many more lives have to be ruined or changed forever before someone in Congress grows enough of a set to actually DO SOMETHING! I think America proper is at a crossroads — and if the right turn isn’t made, it’s over.

Van Hamlin
8 years ago

This was a good article with an entertaining theme! There was a seventh blind man who ran his hand down the elephant’s side before he exclaimed “The girth of this beast is enormous! Do you smell that horrible odor coming from behind this behemoth? It smells like government!” We all know the stench of the BS government tries to feed us on a daily basis to mask their corruption.” The tea party phenomenon is growing as more and more people recognize that we must purge government of the corruption that creates this foul stench!

Please! All Democrats, Republicans and Independents who recognize that government must represent the best interests of their citizens and ignore the best interests of the lobbyists, who would bribe them, must rise up and go to the ballot box. All patriots must vote in this coming election and replace the corrupt with someone who is not yet corrupted. By doing this, we send a message to the Progressives in both parties that there is a voter’s revolution underway. A revolution that will eventually bring the power of government back to the citizens and thereby guarantee the freedom our constitution guarantees.

We can save The United States if we act decisively – NOW!

Stephen Saunders
8 years ago

the coming election Will be a much larger landslide than we have ever seen if We expound on the Greatness of America and True Freedom and what they mean to all classes of people! God Bless America !

Connie Zimmermann
8 years ago

Thank you for the refreshing and thought-provoking article on the Tea Party. As a member of the Tea Party movement, I and millions of others have worked hard to understand the Constitution and the role it is supposed to play in governing our country. Like many others who have been indoctrinated in many of the school systems since the 1960s and later, what I was taught was the polar opposite of what is true.

Had we known the truth of the path our Founders laid for us, and the gift they gave us, I would hope that we would never have allowed our political landscape to be commandeered by such Marxist ideology, which takes our freedom at every turn.

The way I see it is that it has been so long since many of us have actually lived in freedom, and some of us have never actually known freedom, that millions upon millions are comfortable in their bondage. I totally get that.

For example, until I started learning true American history, I didn’t know:

->The Federal Department of Education did not always exist
->The EPA did not always exist
->The Federal Reserve did not always exist
-> Federal Income Tax did not always exist

I grew up thinking that these things were always there. I had NO IDEA that they are a complete violation of the Constitution.

I had never heard of the Kloward-Piven strategy to break the back of America.
I had never heard of Saul Alinsky, and his sick/twisted rule-book for “community organizers.”

Fortunately, millions of others did know, and had been writing about them since the 1960s. Unfortunately, they were very effectively dismissed by the media. But their writings and research are out there to be found and consumed.

Now I know the special hidden knowledge. And now amazingly, and with the help of social media, millions upon millions of others have the knowledge too. They may not identify themselves as Tea Partiers, but they know the language of Liberty, and they are voting, and attending rallies, and reading and writing about it. They are donating to candidates who they hope will carry the torch of Liberty, and who will be strong enough to overcome the onslaught of power, money and evil, which permeates Washington, DC as well as State Capitols and County and City governments.

We get fooled by some candidates, but in the end, we are moving in a much healthier and free-er direction. (I can only imagine that the words “Constitution” and “Principles” are being used more today than in all of the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the following 100 years. Note: Primarily due to the gift of the First Amendment that our Founders gave us.)

Thank you again Mr.. Charles, for the article.

Ivan Berry
8 years ago

Connie Zimmerman, so glad to welcome you to the real founding. Better late than never.
I call 1913 the evil year because of the 16th and 17th Amendments and the legislation that created the Federal Reserve. But even before 1913 we had the 1890s, when the first really Progressive came to be viewed in a positive light–Teddy Roosevelt. The forgoing Amendments gave a direct popular vote to elect our Senators and to take their appointments from the States’ Legislatures, and imposed the direct tax upon income.
I have been centered upon our Declaration of Independance (the What) and the Constitution (the How) for decades and have been giving away copies to friends, relatives, service providers (like medical now that I’m old and puny), as well as those I meet casually. I have become active in Tea Party gatherings as much as health will allow and have made some small contribution.
But the real reason I’m replying to your comment is that in the event you would like an inexpensive source for the Declaration and Constitution copies, the National Center for Constitutional Studies has bulk orders. You can get a box of 100 copies of the combined documents for 35 cents each at $35 per box shipping included.
See them at nccs.net.
That’s nccs.net
Have you run into Quigley, Gramschii (spelling may be wrong), and do you per chance already know when and By whom the ACLU and CFR were founded. and have you read “The Creature From Jeckel Island?”
Ten lifetimes would not be enough to learn everything pertaining to Liberty and the enemies thereof, but it is interesting and broadening and it’s nice to have company on the journey.
I really enjoyed your comments even more than the article above. Thank you.

8 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

Hey Connie and Ivan. Check out latest from Imprimus, article by Anthony Daniels, titled ‘ the worldview that makes the underclass’. Great piece on the results of the international communist movement and it’s metasteses.

Ivan Berry
8 years ago
Reply to  D.A.

D.A., will do and thanks.

8 years ago
Reply to  D.A.

Just read it. A remarkable revelation about how a culture on “social” can bring down a nation, even as it tries to do good without knowing that they are stripping the individuals of there freedom, independence, and self-worth.

Connie Zimmermann
8 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

Thank you Ivan for your intelligence, your patriotism, and your reading/study suggestions. A friend and I were just discussing our desire to read “The Creature From Jeckel Island” after we read a Facebook post mentioning that the Federal Reserve was created shortly after two very wealthy opponents were killed on the Titanic, and that JFK died shortly after denouncing the Federal Reserve. I haven’t researched the validity of these assertions, but they did spur me to remember that I had not jet read the Jeckel Island book.

Being in the Tea Party has caused me to read about 50 books that I would have otherwise not read, as well as about 500 articles, and a zillion fascinating and informative facebook posts!

8 years ago

The reality is the Tea Party has been masterfully marginalized by Big Media, Hollywood, Establishment Republicans and the DC-NYC Libtard Establishment and is thus ineffective, Cantor’s recent butt-kicking being the exception. I doubt if you will see another Cantor situation once the above realign their attack methodology. Hate be so cynical since I once loved the purity and simplicity of the Tea Party message. Reminds me of what happened to Barry Goldwater once upon a time.

Martin Kimmons
8 years ago

The Tea Party in the beginning was a great idea but in the election when the
party should have been talking about what a sorry job the Democrats have
Been doing they went after the Republication hot and heavy. If you are going to
Help the the conservatives then help get rid of the
problems in Washington. What I am Saying we need three or four parties. DEMOCRATE, REPUBLICAN, TEA PARTY AND INDEPENDENT. All of the Parties should be on the ballots not just two.

8 years ago
Reply to  Martin Kimmons

I don’t find that a very plausible plan – with votes often being messed up by “Independent” votes alone…. The two party system is antiquated and quite jaded, I agree; but launching in several more directions isn’t the answer. It would scatter votes in different directions making it easier to elect another bum. I don’t agree with the above comment that the coming election will be a “landslide” – unless more Republican and Independent voters are stirred up enough to make the effort to go to the polls. If we can’t get a candidate that sparks enough interest for people to put their clothes on and make the trip to the voting booth – we’ll just get more of what we already have. The Mid-terms are super important – and will set the stage for 2016. We HAVE TO GET RID OF THE DEAD WOOD AND SENILE DEADBEATS that are nothing more than seat polishers. I noticed one old guy yesterday during the hearings of the IRS dozing off!!!! TERM LIMITS, AND AGE LIMITS must be established!!!! If you can’t remember what you ate for lunch an hour ago, you don’t need to represent the public!!!

Ivan Berry
8 years ago
Reply to  KarenFaye

KarenFaye, I’m old but not yet senile (I don’t think so, at least). Age isn’t the important thing in itself. Ability and honesty are what’s important. And like you, I don’t agree with Martin that the Tea Party need be an independant political party. Also don’t agree that the Tea Party went after Republicans. What I witnessed was establishment Republicans going after the Tea Party members.

8 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

Ivan, let me clarify: It’s not so much the AGE, as the duration in office. I’m speaking of those like Charlie Rangel, at age 80+ = going on 43 years in his position. Look at Harry Reid – don’t know how many years he’s put in , but he can barely hobble along. These people should not be allowed to serve more than 3 consecutive terms, and I don’t care HOW GOOD THEY ARE. Complacency, disinterest, boredom, and dishonesty come with too many years working “for the people”. I would be willing to bet that not 10% of the long termers could hold down a “regular job”. I, like you, know that 60 is the new 40 — but not when the 40 means years served in the House or Senate!!

Frank S
8 years ago
Reply to  Martin Kimmons

I agree, partially. The Tea Party is not a party, but it NEEDS to be. Independent of the republicans. Less government, more constitution. Out with the OLD, in with the NEW, strong support of the ENTIRE constitution. Let this be the REVOLUTION Party, which is what the people of this country want! The PEOPLE NEED to regain control of this country. Get rid of the all lobbyists, they brow beat the politicians into submission, and don’t have time to listen to THEIR constituents. CHANGE, (not Obama’s change).

I can not believe CONGRESS allows Benghazi ( State Department), Fast and Furious (BATF), IRS (?), and VA (?) corruption without accountability. Which all leads back to the DOJ and President doing whatever they feel they can by manipulating the law to accomplish whatever task they feel suits their agenda for ‘change’. What happened to checks and balances? It appears ALL congress people are ‘in it’ for themselves and NONE of them care about the United States of America! The NATIONAL DEBT has to be RESOLVED, not IGNORED, as is the present case.

I wish I could say what I have said eloquently enough that people would ‘get off their butts’ and actively participant in the this country’s future! PEOPLE, TAKE CHARGE, YOUR FUTURE AND YOUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT!

Thank YOU, Mr. Charles for instigating thought, regarding our questionable country’s future!

8 years ago

Today’s Republican party is divided. The old GOP, the Rockefeller “Big Business” wing that gave us both Bush’s, John McCain and Romney did exactly that, catered to “Big Business” Wall Street ideals, and again is pushing for amnesty for illegals. Why? All for increasing corporate profits with low income wage earners. We’re all familiar with the old saying, “money talks” … More so, in buying expensive tv advertising in attacking political opponents, whether in GOP primaries or in campaigns against Democrats. There’s another old saying that goes something like “fool me once, shame on me … Fool me twice, shame on you” or how about “once bitten, twice shy” … Haven’t we, people had enough of lying liberals that now we can’t trust Republican party leaders either. Where are the calls for impeachment??? I do understand that impeachment proceedings would fail if Republicans don’t control both Houses of Congress.

I think Repuplican strategy would be stronger if candidates run on impeaching this lying president. After all, look what happened to Cantor because his opponent played up the amnesty issue. We, the people, are tired of our party leaders ignoring the people and catering to “special interest monies” and “big business wall street types”. Maybe, it’s time for the Tea Party to break away and form a Third Party!

I’m tired of losing elections that we should win … We need the right candidates with the right message. Why do more and more people claim “independent” party status? More people are conservative than liberal, we’re losing because our candidates can be bought. This is what happens when most of our candidates are money-grubbing, reasonable doubt attorneys. Imagine, a political party that has NO attorneys as candidates, now there is the formula for winning!

Ivan Berry
8 years ago
Reply to  Rik

Rik, as usual you get much of it right. I’m satisfied to leave it lie. No suggestions from me.

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