• Steven Heller

Before The Tea Party

Patriotism and revolution went hand in hand in during the late ’60s and early ’70s when the “new left” was challenging the authority of government. Even before the so-called Tea Party adopted the American Revolution’s finest slogan and flag (designed by Benjamin Franklin), members of the Students For A Democratic Society (SDS) appropriated the symbol.

Recently, I stumbled upon a collection of a former SDS member, containing some examples of SDS and MDS (Movement for a Democratic Society, which has recently been reconstituted) literature along with a tabloid newspaper produced for the Black Panther Party when the New Haven 9 (including Ericka Huggins, Warren Kimbro, Bobby G. Seale and George Sams Jr.) were being tried for the murder of one of their own members (arguably a ploy to destroy the party by imprisoning its leaders).

These publications were among the wave of polemical pamphlets and periodicals that flooded college campuses and urban Bohemia during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras. Also found is the SDS membership card that states the organization’s goal was to “promote the active participation of young people in the formation of a movement to build a society free from poverty, ignorance, war, exploitation and the inhumanity of man to man.”

Compare these sentiments to one of the many local Tea Party charters: “Richmond Tea Party, Inc. is a non-partisan, grassroots community established to advance and strengthen the Founding principle that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are God-given rights guaranteed to every individual by the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. We believe that government derives its power from the people and is established solely to protect these rights. The core principles of limited government, fiscal restraint, personal responsibility, and governing with virtue and accountability are all necessary to ensure the preservation of our freedom. We believe that local governments, communities, and individuals are best suited to serve and represent the needs of the people. Most importantly, we believe that citizen participation in the political process is a fundamental necessity for good government.”

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