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Sunday, December 10, 2023

End of the line for the Tea Party’s gaggle of loons and goons?

The tea party: Crazy is as crazy does (Mark Humphrey / AP Photo)

In the small Blue Ridge Mountain town of Floyd, Virginia, the local Tea Party meets once a month in the community room of the public library.

Like too many other tea party “chapters” across America, the group is small but vocal and composed primarily of local racists, rabid right-wingers and community malcontents.

They show up at meetings of the county board of supervisors, disrupt the proceedings by talking among themselves or shouting out misinformation from the audience during the meeting.  They used to pack public hearings to unleash tirades against encroaching government and the dangers of United Nations Agenda 21.

But times have changed for the tea party, even here in rural America.

Earlier this year, attended a meeting of the tea party at the request of sergeant-at-arms Jim Connor.  He didn’t invite me as the publisher of Capitol Hill Blue but as a writer for the local newspaper who also publishes a hyperlocal news site called Blue Ridge Muse.

“What don’t you drop by a meeting,” Connor said. “You might find it entertaining.”

Jim Connor has an incredible gift for understatement. A tea party meeting is not only entertaining but also educational, if you choose to define education as the dissemination of misinformation for use as political propaganda.

I’m not sure what rules govern the meetings of the tea party but Roberts Rules of Order are not among them. Vice Chairman Al Pearce ran the meeting, reading emails, offering opinions and often wandering off topic into rants about President Barack Obama, the Virginia Republican Party, United Nations Agenda 21 and other topics. Audience members jumped in whenever they wanted without asking or waiting to be recognized.

At another point, he launched into a tirade about political correctness, telling the meeting that he didn’t believe in using the term “gays.”

“They’re homosexuals or queers, which is what they are,” he said.

Virginia’s Republican Party, Pearce declared, is engaged in a “conspiracy “to assure former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney the GOP nomination for President. Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling head up this conspiracy, he says, and its all part of a grand plot by the national GOP to grease the skids for Romney.

Pearce told the meeting that the Republican Party, not state law, kept Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry off the primary ballot this year. He also said it Republican party rules, not state law, prohibits write-in ballots “in Republican primaries.”

Both statements are wrong. Virginia election law sets the rules that require a specified number of signatures from each Congressional district. It also prohibits write-ins in primary elections. The law applies to both Democratic and Republican primaries. The Virginia Republican party simply enforced state law in denying both Gingrich and Perry spots on the GOP primary ballot because they failed to collect enough signatures in each of the existing districts.

Pearce passed on other misinformation, including the claim that the county will put meters on private wells to limit the amount of water that can be pumped for residential use. No such plan exists nor has one even been discussed.

It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed Pearce pass on misinformation as fact. At a board of supervisors meeting last year, Supervisor Fred Gerald of Indian Valley asked for a moment of silent prayer in honor the the “National Day of Prayer” and Pearce blurted out from the audience that “you can’t do that because the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.”

Not true. An atheist group did file a federal class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the “National Day of Prayer.” A federal appeals court dismissed the challenge in April 2011. The Supreme Court has never considered nor ruled on the constitutionality of the law. The National Day of Prayer has been around since the days of George Washington, who first called for one. President Harry S. Truman issued a proclamation and asked Congress to make it the law of the land, which the House and Senate did in 1952.

When I asked Pearce during a break in the supervisors meeting where he heard the Supreme Court had declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, he shrugged his shoulders and said “oh, on the radio today” but he couldn’t remember what show.

Connor has left the tea party.  He’s a conservative but says the group is “too far out there on the fringe.”   Pearce was ousted as vice chairman and the group has shrunk in size.

At the final public hearing last month on the county’s updated comprehensive plan — which contains language that the local tea party claimed was part of the grand conspiracy of UN Agenda 21 — no one from the tea party showed up to speak.

The all-Republican county board passed the plan unanimously at their next board meeting.

Even lunacy has its limits.

5 thoughts on “End of the line for the Tea Party’s gaggle of loons and goons?”

  1. Doug, there was a time when you were ill and another person took over Reader Rant. What we saw was the first step of what was to become the Tea Party. The ranters came from many other positical forums and were armed and ready for combat. I’ve got the scars to prove it. I was not prepared for the onslaught of the religious right here at Reader Rant. They hit Etherzone first and several other sites as well. There is still one known as the VRWC Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and another known as “Right Minds” who have taken what was once an okay Republican Party and thrown everyone out.

    The base of the GOP changed from a party under a large tent into a party of revival groups. My enterest in Renaissance History and the Inquisition did not prepare me for an American inquisition.

    I understood from the end of WW2 that the Birch Society had the perfect plan for a Christian America. Dr. Ross Dog Food was the first billionnaire to fund a new and improved Republican Party. Because the GOP had been a party of the people, the Christians found them weak. At this point, I should have ripped up my voter registration card and run from the whole damn mess. I foolishly decided to fight it out. I was a fool.

  2. The Tea Party ain’t down yet. There seems to be a huge surge in numbers for Gov. Romney building up at this time. The religious right will never give in to the liberal left.

    I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday when he did an evaluation of the damage my fall did to my old bones. I did no damage to anything but my ironing board. As I waiting in his waiting room, I struck up a conversation with a man who had been part of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He was newly retired and had his mother in for a check up. His son (second grade) showed me how to use his tablet and I was stunned at the vocabulary of this smart little boy. The ex cop was going into another form of employment as he spoke of the attitude change of his long time friends. I didn’t ask about this but I could tell it was his son who needed some one on one parenting. I never saw such a loving father and son. I suggested that the whole family would enjoy the YMCA aquatic center. His mother was my age and had a little trouble walking. There is no sense of pride in law enforcement and it much be very hard for a lovely family like this one. I come from a lot of Santa Monica cops and have to admit they can strut their stuff very well. My teenage girl friends teased them unmercifully in those days.

    No! I repeat, the Tea Party will be ready and waiting for the winner after the election.

  3. Doug!…You were brave!

    About a year ago, I remember reading a story in my local paper about a woman-member of the local Tea Party who had no experience in local office or public service & who desired to run in the Rep. primary for the state senate, because other tea partiers kept telling her she’d be a great state senator. I think the woman was a real estate agent….Even before a vetting meeting before the local Rep. officials began, I remember her stating some bizarre, off-the-wall comments re: political issues.

    When the big meeting came to decide if she had met all the qualifications to run in the primary, she fell short. A local Repub. state senator chaired the meeting which was packed with tea partiers. When the tea party faithful heard the bad news, chaos erupted….shouting, waving, screaming…all kinds of turmoil…The state senator chair tried to keep order and let people take turns talking, but it was utter pandemonium….The state senator chair finally walked out in disgust.

    I’ve had profound differences in philosophy with that state senator chair re: certain political issues, but after reading the article, I had deep empathy and sympathy for what he experienced that day.

  4. Pretty good post DT.
    Sandy, I’ll always remember Arlen Specter at that town hall meeting (tea baggers) during the healthcare recess.

    “Now wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!…” (hilarious, Aug 11, 2009 Youtube)

  5. I tried to reply earlier and found a comment that I could not.

    Great Commentary Chief, and just in time to focus on American values not the values of some strange group out of the 1950s who want out of the United Nations. This strange Tea Party started when the GOP took on the fight against Communism and the UN being the place to fight. In 1950 my private high school in BelAire California was asked to send a student to the United Nations to represent our academic achievements. The student chosen was the daughter of the owner of 20th Century Fox Studios who threatened to close the school if anyone from the school attended the U.N. meeting. The school denied this (of course) but no student from the three top all girls’ school was sent. This man had great authority over the fact that we had more studio girls than any other private school on the list. We were sworn to secrecy and I could not even tell my bigoted mother.

    The psychology behind this labelling of other Americans indicates a lack of individual respect we continue to have for all Americans. It has hurt not only our values but tends to shut us down when opinions are often wanted. I learn from others and will share my opinions openly.

    We also must realize how dirty this election continues to be and how necessary it is to point this out. Reader Rant is doing just fine when we disagree. We know each other so well that we never want to shut anyone down.

    I find the GOP insulting to all Americans as they have lost what they represent. Men like Specter stand for the best part of the GOP.

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