Tea Party: Which images should we summon to capture the movement?


OV American Tea Party movement
hen Americans say “tea party” this year, we don’t mean fine china and finger sandwiches.

OV Spirit of 76 painting In fact, we’re bursting with images of famous tea parties! There’s a war of imagery over the final definition of an emerging political movement. Sorting it out is going to get even more complicated, because one of the world’s most famous tea parties is resurfacing March 5 in a big-budget Hollywood movie.

This week, I want to hear from you about the so-called Tea Party political movement. As you think about my questions today, consider the colorful imagery surrounding us:

First, there are the grassroots protests (above) that are designed to display discontent among voters.

These protests invoke powerful images from the American Revolution. Some activists have borrowed imagery featuring the famous “Spirit of ‘76” painting. (Others like to evoke paintings of the protest at Boston Harbor or early Revolutionary leaders.) And we’ve also seen the face of Sarah Palin re-emerging as a Tea Party icon.

Then, when March 5 rolls around, movie theaters nationwide will feature Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter serving up the famous tea party for “Alice in Wonderland.” Political activists may not be thinking about the arrival of this wild new Mad Hatter—but the movie is sure to fuel satire from the likes of John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and the rest of the TV comedy crew. This new Mad Hatter’s party will be just too delicious to ignore.

What do you think?

OV Sarah Palin at Tea Party The first National Tea Party Convention was held earlier this month in Nashville, drawing representatives from grassroots Tea Parties around the country.

Sarah Palin was the celebrity draw, earning a reported $100,000 fee.

It only took a year to get from the first Tea Party protests to a national convention. The first few protests took place in early February 2009. February 27th was the first day “Tea Party” was used to label protests—with almost 50 protests around the country.

The Tea Party movement’s mission is a libertarian stance. Here’s
the mission statement of the Tea Party Patriots, the official home of
the American Tea Party Movement: The impetus for the Tea Party
movement is excessive government spending and taxation. Our mission is
to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to
secure public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal
Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets

Clearly this movement is using American icons as aggressively as its critics are invoking them on the other side. How do you sort out these public appeals? This war of icons? Is the Tea Party a serious new force in American politics, or—as Lewis Carroll might call it—part of the Mad Hatter fringe?  

Join us this week as we examine the movement and consider its impact on American politics.

What do you think of the Tea Party’s principles? What do you think of the movement itself?
OV boston_tea_party_currier_colored

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