By: George Noga
More Liberty, Less Government
The recent election proved yet again that America is a center-right country. In the last 40 years only three Democrats have won the presidency. Carter won as a moderate governor of a southern state and only because of Ford’s pardon of Nixon. When he tacked to the left he was trounced by Reagan after only one ignominious term. Clinton, another moderate southern governor, gained a second term only because he swerved right and ran against sacrificial lamb A/K/A Bob Dole. Gore and Kerry lost to Bush precisely because they ran as liberals.
President Obama was elected due to a confluence of unlikely and fortunate (for him) factors: (1) a highly divisive war in Iraq; (2) an unpopular Republican president; (3) a dysfunctional opponent; and (4) the financial meltdown. Even with all this karma Obama managed to win only because he ran a flawless campaign falsely portraying himself as a centrist. Since taking office he has become Jimmy Carter on steroids. And that explains much about the recent election. Yet, there is one thing more you must understand to complete the circle of our felicities, i.e. the phenomenal rise of the Tea Party movement.
The Tea Party: Ten Things You Need to Know
I have attended tea parties and gotten to know its leaders and members. I spent election night at the Tea Party celebration. This past week I listened to Jason Hoyt and Tom Tillison, co-founders of the Tea Party movement in central Florida, talk about the future of the Tea Party. Jason also is a member of the national board of the Tea Party Federation. Afterward, I lunched with Jason and Tom to continue the dialogue. Following are ten things you should know about the Tea Party based on the aforementioned dialogues and on my reading and observations.
“Who can seriously doubt that the power which a multimillionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am allowed to live or to work?” Hayek
- The Tea Party is spontaneous, amorphous, decentralized and leaderless; it relies on small donations. There are competing tea party groups albeit with the same agenda. There are several national boards. The national board on which Jason serves has a limited role primarily responding to specious mass media assertions. Other national boards focus on issues, action alerts and, in one case, political campaigns.
- This one may surprise you. The mission of the Tea Party is as much educational as political. Much of the energy of the movement goes into teaching about the Constitution and founding principles and documents of America. This is a signal strength of the Tea Party inasmuch as a movement based on deeply inculcated and shared values about governing philosophy will trump a movement based on short-term political concerns.
- The elemental unit is the neighborhood tea party, each of which functions independently. These small groups often meet one evening each week (some groups less frequently) with half the time devoted to education such as watching videos about free market principles and the philosophy underlying limited government and individual freedom. In an area such as central Florida there are many tea parties. There is the Central Florida Tea Party Council that now is forming with the purpose of coordinating events, such as major rallies, that encompass tea parties from throughout the entire area.
- The strength of the movement lies in the purity, clarity and simplicity of its goals, i.e. constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual liberty. Thus far they have resisted taking positions on divisive social issues. On a conference call with tea party affiliates from all over the country, someone brought up the subject of abortion. The conference call leader immediately jumped in and ruled the query out of order.
- The Tea Party’s principles and passion meld well with the institutional structure, experience and knowledge of the Republican Party. However, the Republicans are on probation and will be discarded in a microsecond if they revanch. Politicians elected with Tea Party support are being monitored and are on a short leash.
- The influence of the movement goes far beyond those who actually have attended a tea party event. Over 70% of Republicans and 40% of Independents consider themselves tea party supporters. Tea parties flourish all over the USA even in hostile liberal bastions.
- Liberals and big government pukes do not understand the tea party and hold dangerously false views about the movement. They do so at their peril. Yes, any movement as broad as the tea party will attract the occasional kook; however, the movement is as pure as it gets and is not negative or hostile to any group of Americans.
- The Tea Party still is in the ascendancy – and will remain so through at least 2012. In central Florida alone there are initiatives underway to add several new tea party groups such as in East Orlando and Seminole County. I can attest firsthand that the influence of the tea party is still waxing strong and on a steep trajectory at that.
- The history of third parties in the USA is not sanguine; most crest and then spend themselves or are subsumed into other parties. Often they achieve parts of their agenda and the movement loses energy. More recently this was the case with the Perot candidacy and the 1994 Republican Congress. The Tea Party may have more strength because of its focus on education; nevertheless, history is not on its side.
- There will be an inevitable clash between the Tea Party’s goals and the practicalities of governing. It may be difficult to hold the Tea Party movement together given the sheer magnitude of the required cuts in government spending. Will they dissemble when politicians and the media hysterically trumpet they are starving children and throwing grandma down the stairs? In one poll 73% of those who identified themselves as tea partiers opposed cuts in entitlements. This does not auger well and the Tea Party should focus more education on the scope of the cuts required simply to avert disaster.
As reported by Media Matters, 35 stories aired in September and October 2010 on major television networks that focused on and used the terms “fringe” and “extreme”. Of the 35 stories, 100% were about Republicans and absolutely none were about Democrats. QED
The Tea Party – Concluding Thoughts
I have studied American political history and, for the past four decades, have been a keen observer of the American political scene. I could not viscerally feel the strength of the Mugwumps, Greenback Party, Know-Nothings, Farmer-Labor Party, Populists or even the Bull Moose; these were before my time. I do know that I never before have seen or felt anything remotely with the power of the Tea Party. Although history does not offer an upbeat long-term outlook, maybe, just maybe, it will be different this time around.
“Buckle up and enjoy the wild ride. The Tea Party’s star unmistakably is ascendant and the best is yet to come.”
Meantime buckle up and enjoy the wild ride. The Tea Party’s star unmistakably is ascendant and the best is yet to come. Alas, even if its star eventually fades, it will leave us a powerful legacy of many millions of Americans with a deep, abiding understanding of the founding principles of America and the glorious, magnificent power of free people and free markets.
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