If you thought cannibalism is a thing of the past, you may want to rethink that conclusion. Since 2009, when the first tea parties emerged in the Garden State of New Jersey, cannibalism has morphed from the flesh-eating variety to the political kind. But make no mistake about it; it is as vicious and voracious as its counterpart – seeking to consume and destroy those who should be part of the same tribe.
Tea Party as Republican Wing?
Ironically, the tea party movement was originally labeled by the press as a wing of the Republican Party (the Party). And that label, however offensive it might have been to the independent-thinking tea party operatives, was in a sense well-deserved. The press recognized that the “Party” and the emerging movement had much in common. On the surface, both entities stood against the destructive political atrocities that were more apparent in the Democrat wing of the two-party system than in the Party of Lincoln. Therefore the old adage that
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
should have been a logical deduction and the basis of a formidable alliance. It was not.
Cannibalism displaces friendship
Christopher Gadsden’s “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, the unofficial symbol of the Tea Party movement. Photo: User VIkrum/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License
Instead of embracing potentially new and energetic members, the Party in NJ let its cannibalistic shills go on the attack against the unsuspecting and somewhat trusting new tea party movement. In retrospect, the strategy appears to have been – first try to consume, and if not possible, then destroy. If that wasn’t the paranoid strategy developed by the Party, it might as well have been. The Party turned their heads while shill operatives first tried to co-opt the movement, and when that proved unsuccessful, they set their sights on destruction. Alas, what could have been a powerhouse team turned into nothing short of political cannibalism.
As one of the original April 15, 2009 tea party organizers in NJ, I can tell you that there are many devoted, honorable, energetic, and well-informed tea party patriot organizations within this state. The Party in NJ has, through turning a blind eye to the antics of its destructive shills, alienated instead of embracing many within the NJ tea party movement. There are still those who are holding out for the dream of reforming the Party to its once noble standards. But there are others with scars who no longer believe that dream is viable. The cannibalism that the Republican Party surrogates have practiced has destroyed that dream for many.
Purify or separate?
I am reminded constantly of the comparison between today’s tea party and the Pilgrims and the Puritans. When the Gutenberg Press made the Geneva Bible available to the common man in England, people were able to assess whether or not they agreed with the teachings of the Church of England. The Pilgrims did not agree with what the Church was preaching, so they decided to uproot and move to Leyden, Holland, which is why they were originally called “Separatists.”
The Puritans also did not agree with the teachings of the Church of England, but they pursued a different course. They believed that they could “purify” the Church from the inside out, hence the name “Puritans.” They soon discovered that this was not possible and within a few short span of time, joined the Separatists in the New World. By this time the Separatists were now known as Pilgrims, since they journeyed across a hostile ocean to pursue religious freedom.
History may once again be repeating itself –at least in principle. There are still those who believe the Republican Party can be “purified” from the inside out. There are also those who believe it is time to separate. In New Jersey, thanks to the antics of unscrupulous Republican shills, the ranks of the separatists are growing exponentially. So – will the leadership of the Republican Party in NJ wake up to the consequences of political cannibalism? Or will they eventually find themselves to be dinosaurs boiling in the pots meant for the tea party?
Time will tell. One thing that should be mentioned is that the NJ tea parties are no longer as naïve as they were back in 2009 – and they are no longer organizing rallies that make little impact. They have turned their sights to organizing caucuses and congresses that will not be ignored, denigrated or co-opted. We’ve been there and done that. The learning curve is now swinging upward. The power is returning to the people, to whom it rightfully belongs.