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The Ethics of the Tea Party Movement

Tea Party Fails to Create Ethical Standards

The Tea Party Mission Statement includes the following: "The impetus for the Tea Party movement is excessive government spending and taxation. Our mission is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets." I am particularly interested in its core values because those underlie ethical behavior. Just as a person of integrity acts based on principle and the belief in honesty, trustworthiness, fair treatment of others, personal responsibility and other admirable traits of character, the core values of those who are supported by the Tea Party movement, either expressly or implicitly, should be consistent with THESE core beliefs. Otherwise, I'm not sure the Tea Party is any different from the Republican Party. At least it may have missed a golden opportunity to distinguish itself as truly a party of the people.

The Tea Party core values are important ones but they do not address personal responsibility, an important aspect of conduct as we have seen in the Anthony Weiner case. His future was doomed because he took no responsibility for his actions until it was too late. He had lost the trust of the media that turned against him and the general public that no longer believed him when it became clear he didn't even fully disclose all of his sordid behavior at his mea culpa.

I searched the Internet to find statements attributed to the Tea Party that address the kinds of core values I am interested in and are lacking in "official" Tea Party statements. The closest I could come was attributed to a group called "Gather Your Armies" out of Montgomery, Alabama. GYA claims as its core values "Fiscal, Moral and Legal Accountability of ALL government officials - Support and Promote our Free Enterprise Market - Protecting the Sanctity of Life, Marriage and our Judeo-Christian Values."

The problem with the Tea Party is there are dozens of on-line groups that purport to espouse Tea Party values. The only one that seems to be officially sanctioned by the Tea Party is Tea Party Patriots, a national group that provides support for community-based tea party groups around the country.

The Tea Party Patriots link to "Tea Party Questions for Political Candidates" posted by Paul Beaird, author of The Freedom Philosophy. The questions are part of Beaird's book, Tea Party Questions. Baird raises 26 questions that appear to be designed for prospective candidates who seek out Tea Party support. They are what you would expect: questions to gauge one's commitment to the Tea Party mission and core values; address restrictive government; and promote free enterprise and social policy issues. None deal directly with questions such as: Are you committed to personal responsibility and ethical conduct in your political and personal behavior to regain the trust of the American people?

One of the most thought-provoking ideas about the Tea Party movement comes from the Georgetown Tea Group that is linked to the Tea Party via the Facebook page of "Robert Wagner for Vermont Senate 2012." One statement by the Georgetown Tea Group ironically questions the relevance of the Tea Party itself, at a time when political parties have been co-opted by special interest groups. Wagner's statement suggests that the public should "petition for a Nonpartisan County Political Public Service that does for ourselves what political parties do for us. We would introduce our own candidate’s strai[gh]t to their job. We don’t want the candidates making a pit stop at the political party filling station. This public version would have its own by-laws that are voted on by the public along with a leader. We the public would set our own preconditions to those who we elect. It is a new train of thought that we are in charge and we can find an individual to vote for instead of a political label."

George Washington's Farewell Address Washington_Farewell_Broadside that was published in 1796 to explain to the American public why his service was no longer necessary addresses nine areas of concern to the American people going forward. One fear he expressed was about "The Dangers of Political Parties." I couldn't help but relate it to politics in the U.S. today, some 215 years later. While Washington accepted the fact that it is natural for people to organize and operate within groups like political parties, he also argued that "every government has recognized political parties as an enemy and has sought to repress them because of their tendency to seek more power than other groups and take revenge on political opponents." Sound familiar you Watergate generation?

Washington recognized the dangers of a fractured system. That is exactly what we have today in U.S. politics. The Republicans look to take revenge against Obamacare in the name of the people and promote "fiscal responsibility" as defined by the GOP. The Democrats still seem to blame the Republicans, and George Bush in particular, for the economic muck that threatens to engulf the nation. Republicans are viewed as heartless and would cut or eliminate all social programs. Democrats are profligate spenders determined to ruin the country.

The bottom line is political parties no longer work for America and that includes the Tea Party. Sooner or later they represent self-identified ideas that purport to represent what is in the best interests of the public but never speak to the public's clamoring for honesty,  integrity, and personal responsibility in government. These are values that hold out hope of reducing or eliminating fraud, waste and abuse in government, and the narcissistic behaviors that have a stranglehold on our moral compass. These are the values that are  missing from the national discussion; they are not addressed in candidate forums or in the debates. My fear is we have lost our sense of purpose as a nation and until we regain it we cannot begin to turn the nation around -- back to the core values envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

 Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, June 17, 2011