By Jesse Phillips
Ever since the tea party’s historic victories in the November election, the nation has been watching very closely to see how the movement would act on its new found influence. Two things happened recently which show the amazing potential of the movement to accomplish needed changes, but also to shoot itself in the foot.
Let’s examine these two examples.
Good example: Letter to Rick Scott
During his campaign, Rick Scott campaigned against the Sun-Rail system. Various members of his transition team, however, tried to influence him to change his position and support it. So we signed a letter, sent it to the governor elect, and talked to him personally to encourage him to follow through on his campaign promises.
This is an example of good advocacy. Chalk up a few points for the tea party movement.
Bad example: Blasting Personal Cell Numbers
Unfortunately, we also have a recent example of how NOT to advocate. A national group called “Tea Party Patriots” attempted to schedule a meeting with all of the newly elected representatives. However, another group scheduled a meeting that same day. The TPP emailed out the personal cell phone numbers and email addresses of the newly elected congressmen and women and told their members to call and tell them which meeting to attend.
I tried to smooth things over with my representative and heard that many of the incoming freshman were not too happy with their personal information being blasted nationwide. Hardly a way to win friends and influence people. Deduct a few points from the tea party.
The long-term influence of the tea party movement will be depend on whether it learns the lessons from events like these. Here are two lessons we can learn about how to be effective in our involvement as citizens:
1. Stay true to principles: Advocating for the government to oppose a project or spending bill is one thing. Lobbying for them to skip another group’s meeting to come to your own meeting is completely different.
2. Be constructive, not vindictive: Politics is personal and constructive relationships require trust. Calling your representative and expressing solidarity for a campaign position is constructive. Sending out their personal contact information nationwide to be spammed is counter productive.
If the tea party can stay true to principals and learn to overlook petty differences to focus on the important issues at hand in a way that is constructive, we will see our influence increased and freedom preserved.
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