Is the Tea Party the New Black Panther Party?

As implausible as it may seem, much of the insurgent movement's rhetoric sounds like the views of Eldridge Cleaver's old gang.

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Chris Littleton disagrees with Brown. As president of the Cincinnati Tea Party and co-founder of Tea Party coalition group the Ohio Liberty Council, Brown has been a driving force in Ohio's Tea Party operations. "For generations and generations, we've slowly let little tiny things slip away," he says. "There are now requirements from the government to control what your children eat in school. That's an obscure example, but it points out how much of everyday life they're touching now. I don't disagree that children need to eat nutritious food, but should the government be in control of personal diets of families? That stuff is intrusive; it's oppressive."


Littleton argues that American prosperity has led to "entitlement" and a citizenry whose primary goal is maintaining its comfort. This stagnation, he says, has contributed to an ineffectual government muddied with special interests. "It's not a Republican-Democrat thing, because Republicans have their special interests and Democrats have their special interests," he says. "All these different things come into play so [that] we have administrators who are basically corrupt."

Asked if he realizes that some of his ideas sound akin to many leftist ideologies, Littleton says, "I think the solutions I have for the problems are different from what [liberals] would do, but I think we can agree on many of the problems."


In 1986, two decades after the founding of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver turned away from his Leninist past and ran for the U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket in California. After years spent exiled in Cuba, China and other communist regimes, Cleaver had developed a new outlook on politics and power, famously declaring, "Pig power in America was infuriating. ... But pig power in the communist framework was awesome and unaccountable."

Though he lost the election, Cleaver's platforms were all his own. He advocated using the private sector to eliminate poverty, said the welfare state had put blacks in a "negative relationship with the economic system," and praised the North Vietnamese communists for their "anti-big [governmental] power" stance. He had become a Black Panther whom a Tea Partier could love. "The truth is," he told Reason magazine before beginning his campaign, "is that any form of constraint on our freedoms is not acceptable."


Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.


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