A Hot Cup of TEA

Recently, the TEA Party movement celebrated its first anniversary. At first the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party activists were dismissed as a few grumpy right-wingers upset that America elected a black president. They were given little credence beyond being an amusing political side show. That soon changed. On April 15th hundreds of thousands of average Americans showed up at protest rallies across the nation, outraged at the “stimulus” package of goodies doled out to special interests, liberal activism organizations and Democrat pet projects. CNN reported that a few thousand people showed up at the rally in Atlanta, but I was there and can assure you that it was close to ten-fold that amount. It was shoulder-to-shoulder for about four blocks in one direction, not counting the people on the side streets.

Once they could no longer be dismissed as a fringe element, TEA Party activists were labeled as “Astro-turf” (fake grass roots), accused of being flunkies of Big Corporate America, mindlessly doing the bidding of their masters. They were accused of being a fabrication of FOX News and the Republican Party. They were accused of being everything except what they are…average Americans, generally with traditional conservative values, who were fed up over 20 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush politics, two political parties who paid only lip service to the people they claimed to serve while engaging in a bacchanalian orgy of political perks, who had finally been pushed over the edge by a pork-laden spending bill of almost $800 billion. They were saying “Enough is enough!”, and they were going to make their voices be heard.

Contrary to the claims of the left and the MSM, the TEA Party groups are not affiliated with the Republican Party. For that matter they are barely associated with each other. What we refer to as TEA Party groups are an amalgam of grassroots groups with various causes and agendas (although most have as a large part of their goal the reduction of the size and power of the federal government and getting our fiscal house in order). Far from embracing the Republican Party, these groups look at the Republican Party as the lesser of two evils. It’s not that they think Republicans are great…just marginally better than Democrats. In fact, at a number of the TEA Party rallies, politicians were invited to come but were not allowed to speak. They were there to listen to the voice of the people, not to tell them what the politicians think is best for them. They have had enough of a patronizing, condescending political oligarchy which dictates their lives and spends them into oblivion.

If the truth be told, I don’t want to see any formal ties between the TEA Party movement and the Republican Party, and I say that as a member of my county GOP executive committee. The political party structure performs an important function, as do the TEA Party groups. In many cases, the goals are overlapping and we can work together. However, I see the TEA Party as a watchdog against further abuses and usurpations by government at all levels. Regardless of which party is in power, they need to be watched and distrusted to some degree.

In 1994, Republicans shocked the nation and took control of the House and Senate for the first time in four decades, in part because of the Newt Gingrich-engineered Contract With America. Among the promises made were the elimination of the federal Department of Education, a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, an independent auditing agency to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, and the implementation of zero-based line budgeting. The actual results were far different (Gingrich did bring these items up for a vote but some were not passed and some that were passed were vetoed by Clinton).

The reason Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 was not that America had embraced the Pelosi/Reid/Obama leftist agenda, but because they were angry and disillusioned by Republicans that had failed to keep their promises. The actual implementation of fiscal responsibility and a reduction in the size of the federal government never materialized. Republicans controlled the House, Senate and presidency after Bush was elected. And what did we get to show for it? We got tax cuts (good) but no corresponding spending cuts (bad), so the deficits increased. We got the Bridge to Nowhere, an addiction to pork spending and the largest expansion in welfare since LBJ with the Medicare Part D program, the first bailout and TARP. Instead of eliminating the federal DOE we got No Child Left Behind and a skyrocketing education budget. Instead of reducing the power of the federal government, we got Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and a maze confusing regulations. The Federal Register is 25-feet thick, yet failed to prevent the collapse of Enron and WorldCom. Nor did SarbOx prevent the collapse of the financial/mortgage industry. What it did do was cost businesses billions in compliance costs and add more bureaucratic jobs in government. And let’s not forget another Republican gem, the Incumbent Protection and Free Speech Suppression Act, otherwise known as McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

Barring a complete meltdown, Republicans are set to gain a large number of seats in Congress in 2010, with the outside possibility of retaking the majorities. However, that alone does not guarantee a return to constitutional government. To get that, we need a vigilant citizenry that has educated themselves on the Constitution and the legacy of freedom and individual rights left us by our Founding Fathers, who will hold politicians accountable. The TEA Party patriots are quickly becoming that vanguard of freedom. And so I say, Happy Birthday patriots, and many more.

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