D’oh! The Tea Party Kooks Don’t Understand the Actual Boston Tea Party

In the minds of Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and the like, their contemporary opposition to taxes, government, and initiatives like ObamaCare is merely a continuation of the legacy of the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Like their forerunners who dumped tea into Boston Harbor, modern Republican Tea Partiers see themselves as powerfully protesting against an oppressive regime who overtaxes and burdens them with an excessive government.

Unfortunately, modern Tea Partiers don’t understand what the Boston Tea Party was all about.

First, the Boston Tea Party was a protest against a tax break, not a tax hike. The Tea Act of 1773 vastly reduced the taxes on tea from the British East India Company, which actually would have reduced the cost of tea to American colonists by half. The Act did leave in place a small Townshend Act tax that was previously controversial, but the Tea Act itself offered the colonists a net tax break. So, modern day Republican Tea Partiers who think the Boston Tea Party was a protest against higher taxes are embarrassingly incorrect.

Secondly, the Boston Tea Partiers were condemned by numerous Founding Fathers who modern Tea Partiers adore. George Washington, for example, spoke out against the actions in Boston. To Washington and his fellow Virginians, property rights were sacrosanct, and destroying even an enemy’s property was never justified. The idea, then, that the modern Republican Tea Partiers are fighting for values that were universally held by the Founding Fathers is also inaccurate. Ted Cruz, et. al. are not working to restore some mystical, original, “Founding Father America,” because none of the Founders ever agreed on what that version of America actually was.

Finally, the real point of the Boston Tea Party was to oppose Parliament’s assertion that colonists did not have a right to be represented in Parliament. This, of course, is the famous “no taxation without representation” argument, and it is the one central point of the Boston Tea Party. Unfortunately, the modern Tea Party, despite electoral defeat in the Senate and the White House, does not accept democratically-passed legislation like the Affordable Care Act. Despite being represented, and having lost, the modern Tea Party defies all the institutions for which the Boston Tea Partiers protested.

Edited/Published by: SB

Tiffany Willis Clark is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America and AmReading.com. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she had a long and successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. In 2011, she made the decision to pursue her dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.