Tea Party – The Second Coming of Gandhi & King?


In Monday’s issue of The Post, the editorial board published an interesting opinion letter, wherein Ohio University student Eric Brakey wrote to compare the practices of the radically-conservative Tea Party to the nonviolent resistance campaigns of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Screenshot from The Posts website of opinion letter (click to enlarge)

In his letter, Brakey discusses the mainstream media’s negligence in covering the Tea Party’s mission and actions, comparing this lack of attention to the cold shoulders that were given to nonviolent resistant activists fronted by Gandhi. To compare the struggles of the Tea Party with those that Gandhi’s activists went through, Brakey quotes Gandhi’s “four unofficial  stages” of nonviolent resistance:

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then they win.

Brakey claims that the Tea Party was been largely ignored in the mainstream press for far too long (“first they ignore you”), and that recognition of the governmental party and its actions were only acknowledged with terms of ridicule and sarcasm, such as the “teabagger” label given to Tea Party members (“then they ridicule you”).

Regardless of whether or not the comparison between Gandhi/King and the Tea Party is too extreme (personally, I think it is),  the Tea Party can be commended for doing a great job of leading a nonviolent protest. As Gandhi and King both believe, success in nonviolence is impossible without prioritizing process goals, achievement goals and ultimate goals. What I want to examine is what the Tea Party has done in order to gain the press’s attention — moreover, what their “achievement goals” were, and how the party succeeded in executing them.

  • As Brakey mentions, February 27, 2009 proved to be a breakthrough moment for the Tea Party, as they organized the Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party in order to draw attention to what they feel was a biased and unfair liberal agenda. By utilizing such resources as Smart Girl Politics and Top Conservatives on Twitter, the Tea Party was able to draw massive amounts of attention towards itself (which is, of course, the ultimate priority with achievement goals).
  • The best thing the Tea Party did to promote their cause? They got a nationally-recognized political figure on their side. With Sarah Palin as the Tea Party’s unofficial spokesperson, the group really gave the press something to talk about and showed that they had an element of power, all without exercising any forms of violence.

Sarah Palin tweets in favor of the Tea Party (www.twitter.com/SarahPalinUSA)

  • The Tea Party has done a great job creating social media devices. While these may have been created as part of the party’s process goals (in order to establish organization), these social media devices have also been outlets that the mainstream press has kept a close eye on, and whose updates garner attention from supporters and condemners alike. The Tea Party has their own official website, Twitter page and PR reps. What is most effective is that all of these social media devices condemn violence, and they also show their disappointment in the physical and vocal harassment that the have received from opponents.

In creating large-scale events, establishing a large-scale supporter and publicizing their media and online presence, the Tea Party is well on their way towards organizing and implementing a nonviolent resistance campaign. Admittedly, their campaign looks nothing like those which Gandhi might implement (no fasting, no civil disobedience and very vague noncooperation), however Brakey may be onto something in examining how 21st century American politics can best approach nonviolence.


2 Responses to “Tea Party – The Second Coming of Gandhi & King?”

  1. 1 Eric Brakey

    Eric Brakey here. I just happened to stumble upon this as I had no idea it existed. Glad to see my letter did not go unnoticed.

    • Sorry for the late reply, Eric! Great letter, and I’m glad my analysis of it did not go unnoticed, either 🙂

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