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Howard Steven Friedman

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Time to Retire the Phrase "Tea Party"

Posted: 09/08/11 02:22 PM ET

Every news outlet loves reporting about the activities of the Tea Party, the influence of the Tea Party, which candidate is most supported by the Tea Party.... Some talk about the Tea Party as being a great positive influence on American democracy and others mock the Tea Party and its shining lights -- either way, the media is talking. The fervent repeating of the phrase "Tea Party" has some people wondering why, when they went to the polls in 2010, they didn't see any candidates from this party on the ballot.

The answer is very simple: there is no Tea Party. If the key principles of the Contract from America, like low taxes, low debt, small federal government, repealing the Health Care reforms, etc. seem familiar, that is because these are core principles of the Republican Party.

Survey after survey has shown what everyone knows intuitively, that the vast majority of people who identify themselves as belonging to the Tea Party are registered Republicans.

So, why is the media going on and on as if this is a separate entity? Why are people in the streets repeating this phrase as if this is anything more than the passionate supporters of the Republican Party? Perhaps Americans have a basic need to convince themselves that they are not trapped in a 2-party system. Perhaps the media repeats this phrase because it succeeds at getting people's attention, which then helps sell advertising. Perhaps people feel the need to associate themselves with what they think is a new entity in order to arouse political passion.

Nobody expects that in 2012 there will be one presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, one from the Republican Party and a third candidate from the Tea Party.

If a separate political party called the "Tea Party" is formed, then I am happy to use that phrase but, until that day, I propose that we encourage the media to retire this phrase and, simply call this group of voters by their correct name, the Republican base.

Speech and behaviors can be changed one person at a time. You can start the momentum to retire this phrase in a very simple way -- the next time someone you are talking with mentions the "Tea Party," just cut them off immediately and say, "since it is not a third party, please call these voters by their accurate name, the Republican base." When you do this, you will notice that nearly every person will agree with you that it isn't a separate political party. Perhaps that speaker will start to ask themselves why they keep referring to a third-party that doesn't exist.


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