By Jessie Fillingim, Columnist
I've tried to ignore their babbling for as long as possible, but it turns out ignorance is contagious. The Tea Party movement, according to a recent poll, is "viewed favorably" by 1/3 of Americans. 40 percent have not heard of the movement or like me, plug their ears when people start talking crazy. So please, allow me to educate you.
It's not that the Tea Party is too Conservative or too Libertarian. No, the Tea Party has the political ideology of an angry old man: taxes are too high, the government's too big, and President Obama is a socialist. This is political speech at its best.
Last week's Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, kicked off with former Congressman and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's heated declaration that Barack "Hussein" Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote. People who could not even spell the word vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House."
Tancredo makes an interesting proposal in saying that we should have a civics or literacy test before allowing American citizens the right to vote. But, having actually taken a civics class, I remember learning that we already tried that once. We ditched literacy tests when we realized they were incredibly racist. We could try giving civics lessons to all voters, but that would probably be too "socialist" for the Tea Party.
Tancredo's not the only Tea Party supporter throwing around the S-word. Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation and organizer of the convention, called the opening speech "fantastic" and agrees with Tancredo's belief that Obama is a Socialist. Several forwarded emails I've received from ultraconservative friends confirm that Obama received the endorsement of the New Party, a social democratic political party, in his 1996 Senate campaign. The President denies the allegations.
Even if Obama was a member of the New Party, social democracy is not synonymous with socialism. To name just a couple differences, social democracy does not advocate political revolution or government control of private industries. Social democrats are really just liberal democrats. They want a mixed economy, fair trade, civil liberties and social justice. Social democracy doesn't really equate with the image of bread lines and sad violin music that Tea Party supporters hope to conjure when they call Obama a Socialist.
We don't even have to analyze the president's alleged affiliations to understand his politics. Just look at his budget proposal. Obama's plan would commercialize the space industry, moving space flight operations from NASA to private contractors. That's not socialism. That's a wise policy decision to cut out nonessential programs in order to provide other resources to the public.
Even if President Obama secretly wants a socialized healthcare system, that doesn't make him a Socialist. The Tea Party's finger-pointing agenda scares people away from making an honest judgment about what services the government should provide for free. As many as 77 percent of Americans believe healthcare should be a right, and I don't think many Americans would say the same about space exploration. Shouldn't a government "for the people" ensure the rights of its citizens before indulging the curiosity of a few? That's not socialism. That's common sense.
And while some Tea Party supporters say that the president has already converted America into a socialist state, others, such as Sarah Palin, complain that Obama hasn't done enough since being in office. "How's that hope-y, change-y stuff workin' out for you?" The former GOP vice presidential nominee quipped in her speech at the Nashville convention.
So which is it? Too much or not enough? The president can't just change whatever he wants. Contrary to what the Tea Party says, the United States is still a democracy, and the legislature is responsible for legislating. As long as our Congress mirrors the division among us, the represented, we will not see change, regardless of who is president.