I always defended the Tea Party against charges of racism. And then last week, someone with whom I am Facebook “friends” posted something extremely racist and I called her out on it. Immediately, her friends jumped down my throat, calling me a liberal and saying I wasn’t a real tea partier, despite the fact that I was one of 10 people on the first Tea Party conference calls back in January of 2009.

That was just one of many wake-up calls.

Sadly, what began as a genuine opportunity to make this country more free has deteriorated to racist name calling, fear of anyone with brown skin, and an irrational focus on Sharia law.

A chance for Libertarians to reform the GOP

Nobody has been a bigger supporter of the Tea Party than I have been.

In Orlando, I think we had one of the best organized groups.  Along with Cincinnati and Houston, Orlando was one of the cities that saw the biggest rallies, the most active tea partiers, and attracted the biggest names to speak at our events.  When the left would point to the one nut-job in a crowd of 6,000 with a racist sign and call all 6,000 people racists, the more Libertarian tea partiers like me, would always use ourselves and our groups as examples of of the real, average tea partier.

At our events here in Orlando I met people who said they had never come to a political rally.  Even when the left insisted that the Tea Party was just a bunch of GOP activists, I knew better. The people I talked to at our rallies were usually more independent.  Of course there were lots of Republicans and some even more conservative members of the Whig Party and Conservative Party, but there were also lots of Libertarians, independents, and Constitution Party members.

I always felt like the Tea Party was going to be the chance for Libertarians to do two things:

First, I thought it was a golden opportunity to show Republicans the hypocrisy of their platform.

Secondly, I thought it was a great chance for us to talk to apolitical, independent folks who were genuinely angry about the bank bailouts: folks who work for a living or own a small business and felt like, “hey, I employ 25 people and no one is going to bail me out.  To hell with GM and Lehman Brothers!”

These are people who vote for president every four years but don’t vote in midterm elections. They don’t really care if gays get married or if college kids smoke pot.  They also do not want to have their paychecks confiscated to pay for Obamacare.  They voted for the GOP in 2010 and made John Boehner Speaker of the House.

A movement hijacked by the political and religious right

And then, the Dick Army’s of the political world started to creep in and take over the movement.  They were very slick about it.  They started giving all of these individual Tea Party groups money so people who were selling real estate six months earlier could now make a living watching Fox News and blogging, or posting on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s so sad to me that a movement that began as an organic reaction to big government has been hijacked by the right. The Tea Party’s slogan was, “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets” — but it has now become the religious right in tri-corner hats.

I thought we were going to have Republicans thinking for once and realizing that if Barack Obama put an entire private sector industry out of business and then nationalized that same industry and created a new cabinet level department to oversee and regulate the industry I would call it socialism … so how come I was OK with George W. Bush doing the same thing to the airline security industry? And I am glad that we are all concerned about extra-judicial drone strikes on American citizens, but how come George Bush and Barack Obama can both kill Americans with drones overseas without a trial? Is it because the targets have brown skin and a foreign last name?

But alas we learned no such lessons. We are OK with big government as long as it’s a Republican administration. We are OK with losing our civil liberties as long as a white Republican is the one in the White House taking our freedoms away.