The Tea Parties: What Next?

The always brilliant Shaun Kenney lays out some of the questions and concerns I’ve had about the “Tea Party” “movement” (yes, that second set of quotation marks is intentional):

I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of “tea parties” to protest what most would accurately view as the mortgaging of our future.  $50 billion dollars in stimulus for Illinois is little more than the federal government whipping out the credit card and cranking up the printers at the Federal Reserve.  

It’s money from thin air, collateral against our children’s future.  OK — be angry about that.

But the way it is taken out on this reporter… this doesn’t help the cause of limited government, does it?

If this represents the mood, approach, and tenor of the liberty movement, count me out.  Doug Mataconisover at Below the Beltway has splendidly criticized the movement to describe not only what precisely they are for, but the outright hypocrisy of not opposing the massive expansion of government under President George W. Bush over the last eight years.

Where were the tea parties for Medicare expansion?  The Ag Bill?  When federal spending on education increased by over 50%?  When property taxes in localities in Virginia skyrocketed year after year?  

Shaun continues by pointing out that activists need to be serious not just in their scope but their direction as well:

In the meantime, until activists get serious not just about reducing and limiting the power and size of their government, but find a manner in which to share their ideals and principles without swearing at reporters (no matter what their bias), the wilderness is precisely what they deserve.  I’m quite certain we’ll see some oscillation — a brief victory here and there from time to time — but the steady march of socialism will remain quite unimpeded until they discover the backbone to do more than protest.

Now, I’m not as down on the Tea Parties as Shaun was. I think that many of the participants and backers here in Virginia (notably Crystal Clear Conservative and Tertium Quids) have been standing on principle for a long time and have taken their fellow Republicans/self-proclaimed conservatives and libertarians to task when they veer from the path of fiscal conservatism. By that same token, though, I do think a fair number of participants were driven by blind anti-Obamaism. I’m not saying that it is necessarily sour grapes, but it is true that many of these people stood aside while Bush ramped up big government programs in a way not seen since the Johnson administration. However, it is very clear that a sizable percentage of the population was heard, and indeed respected (51% of Americans viewed the protests favorably). 

I also agree with Shaun that many of the Tea Party protestors took the same sort of tactics by the same “radical left” that we have derided for years. However, the frustration is palpable. It was going to boil over in some, yes, ugly ways. 

So what do we conservatives do with this? Well, there’s already talk of follow up protests. There’s certainly some good to come out of that. However, I think there is a more fundamental opportunity here: the one for education and activism beyond merely taking it to the streets. has been launched to encourage people to take the movement to the next level. Ned Ryun, the site’s founder, advocated that starting very local is the best way to go on The Next Right:

Think about the 800 or so cities that had tea parties on the 15th. What if those tea parties did the same and decided they were going to focus on taking over their local councils and school boards? Why not? You would have a ready made volunteer base for starters.

And think about the fact that usually half or more of our government spending every year is at the state and local level. I know in 2005 that 53% of government spending was at the state and local level (you can make the argument that federal mandates and some federal money are pushed into state and local to be spent there, but the point is, there is a great deal of government spending that takes place at the local levels). What I’m trying to do is tell people, “Channel the passion, move from protesting to implementing, and thru AftertheTeaParty, American Majority will help empower you to do that.” I think it would be great if all 800 cities focused on their local government, all ran on 3-5 of the same basic points: Transperancy, Fiscal Responsibility, and Accountability for starters.

I agree–if every single locality in Virginia that saw a tea party started a taxpayer’s association, we would see amazing results within just a few years. Once those we get elected to the Board of Supervisors and City Councils come of age as public servants, they will then run for the House and Senate. Think of the possibilities for a golden age of free markets and limited government in Virginia…..

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