Lewis Carroll was way ahead of his time.
It was more than a century ago when he first connected tea parties with madness.
To call last week's scene a zoo would be an insult to the monkeys.
In fact, the multitudes of claims and charges are so complex and storybook-like that it's easy to miss an important fact: Some of them are true.
There are legitimate accusations and questionable money deals in all of this. So let's break it down.
Among the most tantalizing accusations is that Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando is funding the Tea Party movement — or at least those involved with it.
On some levels, this is true.
As previously reported, Grayson's campaign has directed nearly $28,000 to a candidate and member of the newly formed Florida Tea Party — the party that has also fielded a candidate against Grayson.
The philosophy behind why Grayson — or any Democrat — would want a Tea Partyer in their race is that, when both a GOP and Tea Party candidate are in a race, the two candidates split the conservative vote, giving the Dem an edge.
Anyway, Grayson claimed he paid this Tea Partyer for polling services. But when I asked Grayson if he could give me a single example of successful polling work this unknown pollster had performed in the past, he could not. In fact, he chastised me for expecting him to know anything about the pollster's resume.
Silly me. I mistakenly thought that, before Grayson handed over nearly 30 grand, he would have asked for evidence that it would be money well spent.
Grayson is too smart to act that dumb.
There are also Grayson's odd connections to Florida Tea Party chairman Fred O'Neal and his Tea Party buddy, Doug Guetzloe. Grayson spent money buying ads on Guetzloe's radio show — a move that would probably be questionable for most anyone, considering the size of Guetzloe's audience (before his show was recently booted off the air, anyway). It becomes even more questionable when you consider Grayson is a liberal and Guetzloe is a self-proclaimed conservative.
But Republicans all over the state are trying to turn Grayson into some kind of Machiavellian genius, rigging elections from North Florida to Key West. And that claim simply lacks credibility — and proof.
In fact, the best I can gather — after interviewing Republicans, Tea Partyers, Democrats and Grayson himself — is that this issue simply isn't black or white.
I think there are a mix of Tea Party folks out there — some genuine, some scheming and some nuttier than jumbo jar of Jif.
You see, I may be one of the few mainstream media folks who doesn't look down his nose at the Tea Party movement — at least not all of it.
Yes, I think the movement includes many bitter people who are simply mad that Obama won and display far more anger and intolerance than patriotism.
And yes, I think there are some bogus candidates out there — sent in to spoil races. (A candidate who doesn't have a website, for instance, is highly suspicious. In the 21st century, you can't mount a serious campaign for treasurer of your garden club — much less the Florida Legislature — without a website.)
But I also know that the movement includes genuinely frustrated and intelligent people. They come from both sides of the aisle — and include a good number of libertarians — and are people who feel disenfranchised by the current system.
I tend to agree with veteran Republicans such as Dean Cannon and the grass-roots Tea Partyers, who claim that more of the legitimate Tea Party folks are running in, and influencing, Republican primaries instead of running as members of this newly formed "Florida Tea Party."
So how are you going to separate the patsies from the real deals?
Well, some of you may have to do something you haven't in a long time — get off your proverbial duff and actually do some research about the candidates asking for your vote.
If they don't have a website, write 'em off.
If they haven't been able to raise a dime — even from friends and family — consider them non-starters.
If the first time you hear about them is when you see their name on the ballot, move on.
In fact, if there's one upside to all of this mess, it's that voters may be forced to do what they should have done all along — become an educated part of the electorate.
Scott Maxwell can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6141.
Conspiracy, confusion all part of the Tea Party war
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