What the Tea Partiers Must Do to Coalesce Their Movement
We went to the tea party outside the Southern Pines post office on Tax Day.
We listened, learned and heard from people protesting big and intrusive government, runaway unfunded entitlements and upcoming high taxes to pay for these entitlements. We saw friends, familiar faces, and some we did not know. While exuberant, all behaved respectfully and politely. Why wouldn't they? These were our neighbors and friends.
Since that day, there's been much media attention, both on a national and local level. The Pilot has been a source of editorials, articles, letters and debate. Among other things, discussion ranges from questioning the tea partiers' legitimacy, and confusion about their mission, to efforts at explanation of that mission and defense against ridicule.
Detractors tend to sling all manner of verbal rocks and stones by citing polling data that suits their cause. Polling data is interesting, but not particularly relevant. What's clear is that the tea party movement is significant and it is growing. Once ignored, it now has the full attention of the media, and very likely those in Washington who dream of re-election this November, or again in 2012.
What is not so clear is how constructively this movement can coalesce with broader conservatism, and whether it can mobilize a sustainable and supportive public to peacefully effect upcoming elections. Some things seem important to reach these goals.
The first may be to recognize that real leadership is needed. Critical to the establishment of America's founding principles was that among us were men like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Adams and Madison.
Paul Johnson, who wrote "A History of The American People," is just one of many historians who argue that at just the right time, our founders were able to take their keen understanding of political, social and religious enlightenment of the age, and use it to great advantage against the astounding arrogance, tone deafness and bungling leadership of King George III and his equally limited subordinates.
While it is true that today's government was elected, as opposed to the imperial British government that ruled the colonies, the Obama government has been as notably tone deaf to public sentiment as were the British to colonials. Passage of a massive government-run health-care entitlement at a time of extreme fiscal crisis went directly against the wishes of the American people.
For any political movement today that gravitates back to strict adherence to our Constitution, that movement will want as its leaders people who can re-articulate the message of American exceptionalism - and who can, coherently and with passion and eloquence, ignite a larger majority.
That majority must then continue to stay politically awake and be active in finding the right representative candidates to hold office. These can be Republicans, Democrats or independents, just as long as they will defend our constitutional principles. It is worrisome that these types of leaders have yet to emerge.
Secondly, it seems important now for conservatives and tea partiers to begin to politely point out to detractors and those who are confused or would ridicule the movement that limited -government, freedom of speech, reasonable taxation, free enterprise and a strong defense are not new, odd or -mysterious principles in our country. That those who cherish and defend these principles are the ones who are in step with America and that those who don't get it may be the ones out of touch.
Lastly, for there to be sustainable -protection and election of leaders who will guard our principles of freedom, conservative-minded Americans, including groups like the tea partiers, will want to direct attention toward our schools and begin to ask some tough questions like: How is it that we continue to graduate kids at all levels with little to no understanding of America and what made her exceptional?
Any gains in upcoming elections will be temporary unless we once again instill in our children's minds that in America, we were not born to rights, entitlements and handouts. That government can and should help those truly need help, but otherwise, we work as individuals to better ourselves. That our inalienable rights to pursue our own happiness are granted by God, not government.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines and is a regular contributor to The Pilot and PineStraw magazine. Contact him at geoffcutler @embarqmail.com.
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