The Tea Party meets the Republican Party
February 8, 2010
BY MATT KOKKONEN
The modern Tea Party movement hearkens back to the efforts of the Sons of Liberty more than 230 years ago. In 1773, the earlier patriots boarded the vessels of the East India Company and tossed tea overboard to protest high taxes imposed by the British Crown upon the American colonies.
Today, millions of Americans are fed up with the ever-expanding power of the central government in Washington, D.C. They have organized themselves into ‘Tea Parties” from coast-to-coast to protest out-of-control government spending, ever-increasing taxes, and a skyrocketing national debt. They are demanding an end to wasteful government programs, to the progressive debasement of the currency through inflation, and to the endless string of government “bailouts” of everything from Wall Street bankers to Detroit automobile manufacturers, all using taxpayer money. The TARP bailout of 2008 was probably the catalyst for the rebirth of the Tea Party movement. TARP represented a colossal, unprecedented transfer of wealth from hard-working, productive Americans to Wall Street investment bankers giving themselves million dollar bonuses as a reward for their disastrous financial decisions which drove the U.S. economy to the point of near-collapse.
The Obama administration does not see one sector of the American economy which should not be ripe for government management and takeover. It has little or no respect for the free market or the U.S. Constitution. The brazen attempt to nationalize one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the health care proposal has only stimulated the Tea Party movement and brought additional Americans to its ranks. Obama’s pork-laden “stimulus” package which claims to have created jobs in congressional districts which don’t even exist has further fueled the growth of the movement as has “cap and trade” which threatens to bankrupt American industry and send utility bills into the stratosphere. The recent Republican victories in Virginia, New Jersey and especially overwhelmingly
Democratic Massachusetts can be at least partially attributed to the growing Tea Party movement and voters who reflect the philosophy of the movement
“Tea Party” voters are not agents of the Republican Party, as some on the left allege. Nor are they paid stooges of the giant insurance companies or any other corporate entity. In reality, the “Tea Party” movement is neither Republican or Democrat. It is bi-partisan and non-partisan. It boasts a powerful libertarian strain. It rejects the Big Government agenda of both Democrats and Republicans. It is distrustful of the professional politicians in both major parties as it sees both parties as largely dominated by special interests. It has little sympathy for mega-corporations who feed at the government trough. Instead, “Tea Party” voters are Americans who want the restoration of limited Constitutional government. They embrace the vision of the Founders who saw a powerful central government as the chief enemy of the people’s liberties. They seek nothing more and nothing less than limiting the central government in Washington to its original, limited functions under the Constitution and the restoration of all those powers not delegated to the central government to the states or the people, per the Tenth Amendment. They are suspicious of central banking, favor sound money, and take to heart George Washington’s warnings about foreign intervention and President Eisenhower’s warnings about the “military-industrial” complex.
The Republican Party may be the current beneficiary of the “Tea Party” phenomenon, but the GOP can not take the “Tea Party” voters for granted. They must understand that should Republicans betray the fundamental principles of limited government and individual freedom which they claim to embrace, they will be targets of the “Tea Party” voters in the next election.
In 1960, a great Senator from Arizona named Barry Goldwater authored a book called “Conscience of a Conservative” which became the Bible of the modern-day conservative movement. On page 23, Goldwater writes: “I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”
To date, no better summary of conservative principles has ever been articulated.
The Republican Party is well-advised to embrace the “Tea Party” movement with enthusiasm and energy, recognizing that the movement can offer the GOP a much-needed opportunity to see where the Party has departed from the path of Goldwater and Reagan in recent years and how to restore its authentic heritage of being the party of small government.
Matt Kokkonen is a San Luis Obispo financial planner and political activist.