Monday, March 8, 2010

The Tea Party, The Grassroots & The Republican Party

There are some important things that need to be said about the “tea party” movement, the grassroots and the Republican Party. In the past 9-12 months, we have witnessed a remarkable, non-violent uprising throughout this nation – a revolution like nothing before seen in our lifetimes. It started last spring when President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress passed the $800 billion so-called “stimulus”, a trillion dollar omnibus spending package, cap and tax legislation and few other massive, unfunded spending bills. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Obama also signed a series of executive orders before setting his sights on the implementation of a socialized healthcare plan that he cleverly attempted to sell to the American people as “healthcare reform”. All of this took place even as unemployment skyrocketed to over 8% (something the president promised wouldn’t happen if his stimulus was passed). And in response to the passionate outcry of displeasure from the American electorate, expressed via phone calls, faxes, emails and letters to their elected representatives, many members of Congress – along with a complicit media – either blatantly ignored them, or disparaged, maligned and dismissed them as angry racists, unable to get over the fact that a black man was now in the White House.

As the nation’s frustration and anger continued to rise, a CNBC anchor by the name of Rick Santelli went on an on-air rant, clearly articulating what many everyday Americans were feeling as they watched from their living rooms – exasperation at the economic illiteracy of the White House and Congress. Citizens around the country who had never protested anything in their lives got tired of yelling at their televisions and being ignored by those with whom they’d entrusted the responsibility of leadership and representation by and of the people. Thus they were compelled to get up, get out of their comfort zones and protest the out-of-control spending and taxation they’d been subjected to for far too long from both Democrats and Republicans. “Taxed Enough Already” or T.E.A. became a national slogan. And in the spirit of 1776, the modern-day TEA Party movement was born. Some may argue the order of events, or the actual individuals responsible for setting it in motion, but what is undeniable is the fact that a signification movement had been established.

“Tea Party” has now become synonymous with the preponderance of grassroots organizations that have sprung up in all 50 states, and in every corner of the country. Groups like Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, 9/12 and DC Works For Us – all grassroots organizations with parallel goals – have grown and attracted like-minded, patriotic Americans, offering them a vehicle through which they can assemble peacefully to express their discontent, make their voices heard, and above all, stop the radical agenda of the Obama Administration and their ultra-left wing allies in Congress – an agenda aided and instigated by special interest groups including the labor unions; the environmental lobby; ACORN; and other far-left groups.

By way of town hall meetings, street corner protests, mass phone calling drives, emailing and faxing campaigns, social networking and of course, the million-plus person 9/12 March on Washington, D.C., Americans have repeatedly tried to get the message across to those who are supposed to represent them, that they fully reject statism and socialism – the obvious and undesired direction in which their elected leaders are moving this nation.

In response to the sincere efforts of average, hard-working, tax-paying American citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully express their grievances, the President of the United States, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives promptly branded them as “racists”, “Nazis”, “tea baggers” (an especially repugnant term), “Astroturf” and even “un-American”. Members of Congress have literally laughed at the notion of reading bills that will have long-reaching and potentially devastating effects on our nation, imposing an even greater burden on already struggling people and businesses.

But in spite of the smear campaign propagated against them, freedom-loving Americans refused to be stopped; the voices of true patriots would not be silenced.

Now several months later, due to the tenacity of the American people, passage of Obamacare is still in doubt, cap and trade is stalled in the Senate and the Democrats are poised to suffer an electoral massacre in November.

However, the narrative has also changed somewhat. Many Republicans, seeing an opportunity unavailable to them since 1994, are fighting the good fight against the president’s agenda by voting against the harmful, socialist legislation Obama, Reid and Pelosi seem hell bent on passing, even at the cost of their majorities in both houses of Congress. Some, but unfortunately not all, appear to have gotten the people’s message and are heeding it, while RINOs like Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Charlie Crist continue to play footsie with progressives on things like “climate change”, “cap and trade” and amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Simultaneously, just this past week Nancy Pelosi, the same woman who once demonized everyone who opposed the radical agenda of the Democrat majority, publicly stated that when you get right down to it, she actually has “a lot in common with the Tea Party”. No doubt the speaker herself is still trying to figure out exactly what she meant, along with every member of legitimate, grassroots organizations.

Pelosi aside, there are other much more sinister, disturbing changes in the narrative of the movement. Some self-appointed “leaders” of the Tea Party have begun to enjoy the power and notoriety involved in steering and orchestrating a large group in the achievement of a shared goal. They’re no longer involved in order to save our nation from the runaway spending and relentless march towards socialism and statism, but instead to promote themselves and – in some cases – make a nice, healthy, self-serving profit (assuming their motivations were even pure to begin with). There are some that have never met a television camera, a microphone, or a reporter they didn’t like. When mugging for the camera and getting your name in print become more important than the ultimate goal of the movement, then either the movement collapses or a new one replaces it.

Some have tried to spawn a Tea Party political party, which has led to lawsuits and distracted from the basic purpose of the movement. Not all the attempts at creating a political party using the Tea Party name have come from within, however. Here in Florida for instance, it’s rumored that two Democrat lawyers filed the papers and have been suing Tea Party groups, in an effort to force them to stop using the name. Obviously, this is a concerted attempt to hurt the movement from the outside, but it’s still an unwanted distraction.

Either way, forming a third party now won’t stop the progressive agenda everyone has been valiantly fighting against. Like it or not, at its core, the Republican Party is the party of smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense and pretty much everything else the Tea Party and companion grassroots groups hold dear. We simply have to elect Republicans who will support, uphold and fight for the ideals outlined in the party platform – Republicans who have not been corrupted by Beltway-itis. In other words: voters must take responsibility for informing themselves, and then choosing their candidates wisely.

Human nature being what it is, yet another problem has cropped up in the grassroots movement: inter-group rivalries. As Democrats, Republicans and the media have come to call every grassroots person a “tea partier”, and every group by the generic term “tea party”, some within certain Tea Party Patriot groups have expressed their disdain for members of other grassroots groups for working within our established political system to effect positive change through dialogue with party leaders. Such folks are doing everything they can possibly do to get both Republicans and Democrats to heed the will of the people – a simultaneously valid and welcome approach that should be applauded by all like-minded Americans.

Is it jealousy? Is it vanity? Is it a desire for the party to never end? Historians and citizens can be the judges of that. But what’s apparent is that there are members and true leaders who have become disenchanted with what has become of the movement and have decided to move on to other things. There is a splintering occurring – not everywhere or in every organization – but definitely within some of the most powerful and most well-known groups. So far they’ve managed to keep the disharmony quiet, but it’s becoming more pronounced and detrimental.

This writer is not a member of any aforementioned group, but is well-acquainted with many of their members, and is quite concerned by what he sees. He’s spent much of his time trying to get the Republican Party back to its fiscally conservative roots from the inside, because ultimately the genuine platform of the GOP is in line with the goals of the various grassroots organizations. All the while, he’s been supporting friends who are actively involved in their fight to let those in power know that they’ve lost the consent of the governed. When he observes the infighting, and the resulting departure of genuine grassroots leaders due to understandable disgust and frustration, he feels legitimate concern that the movement may come to a crashing halt.

Those who are in it for themselves should either get with the program or step aside. If they can’t or won’t do the right thing, then their members should either remove these selfish figureheads or move on to another group. With our very freedoms at stake, real American patriots have no room or tolerance for grandstanders and camera hogs.