Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate, talked Tea Party… in a lively interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan that [aired] at 9 ET Monday night.
Overall, the Tea Party is a “good” movement, Giuliani said, but it has also attracted “a couple of people that are a little crazy … “
As an active member of the Tea Party movement in Minnesota, I may be expected to take issue with Giuliani’s assertion. However, one of the charms of the Tea Party is its defiance of expectation. I actually agree with the mayor.
There are, in fact, a couple people in the Tea Party that are a little crazy. There is a sound explanations for their presence, and for my ability as a Tea Party activist to acknowledge them.
First and foremost, the Tea Party brand exists in the public domain. No one owns it. No one controls it. No one can prevent another from professing it. Like other political brands such as “conservative,” “progressive,” or “libertarian,” “Tea Party” means different things to different people and is ultimately defined in the eye of the beholder. Couple this with the movement’s lack of overriding organizational structure, and you get a political variable which Miami Herald writer Herb Boyd called “amorphous and unaccountable.” (He was complaining, but still right.)
The Tea Party not only contains a couple of people who are a little crazy, it is intrinsically incapable of excluding them. A good point of comparison is religious identification. “Pastor” Fred Phelps of the atrocious Westboro Baptist Church and I both identify as “Christian.” However, I am not a member of his church, and he is not a member of mine. More to the point, we hold fundamentally conflicting theological beliefs. Yet I have no say over whether he calls himself a Christian. Likewise, he has no say regarding how I identify. We can each make arguments as to why the other is not “really Christian.” Yet, at the end of the day, our respective professions of faith remain intact.
In similar fashion, the Tea Party contains disparate groups and individuals with vastly different ideas and motivations, each thinking they represent the “real” Tea Party. You have the Ron Paul/Alex Jones crowd on one end of the spectrum, and mildly disgruntled caucusing Republicans on the other. In between, there’s everything from libertarian intellectuals to socially conservative religious zealots to once hippies turned fiscal conservatives. It is an inevitable consequence of human nature that any such loosely formed and wholly unorganized coalition would contain among its ranks a nutjob or two.
When [Giuliani] first launched his bid for the White House several years ago, he recalled that “there was a big anti-war movement in this country against the Iraq War, people hanging President Bush in effigy, people saying President Bush should be killed.”
“Well, those people weren’t the core of that movement,” he said.
“The core of that movement legitimately opposed the war in Iraq. I didn’t agree with them, but they had every right to do it. They were very emotional. They’re very angry. But they were respectable people who opposed it, with some extremists who made them look bad. The Tea Party, the same thing – respectable people. They have a legitimate political point. A couple of people that are a little crazy who take it to an extreme.”