The stirrings of our movement began not long after Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and the sentiment reached critical mass in February of 2009 when Rick Santelli, in the rant heard ’round the world, called for a nationwide “tea party” to protest the raft of massive federal government spending authorized by a Democrat-dominated Congress to the tune of TRILLIONS of dollars.
In the weeks that followed Santelli’s call to action, groups of ordinary citizens gathered together and did something most of them would never have contemplated doing just six months earlier: they formed cohesive, grassroots organizations dedicated to (a) opposing the explosive increase in the size of the federal government and (b) calling for a return to the principles of limited government and maximal personal liberty bequeathed to us by the Founders of this republic and the Framers of the Constitution that governs it.
The Tea Party movement was born and it exploded into the national consciousness on April 15, 2009 when hundreds and perhaps thousands of these groups – in sizes ranging from a dozen patriots to several thousand – rallied in villages, boroughs, townships and cities nationwide to protest the runaway freight train of federal spending and regulation.
Liberals and other statists – including many in the Republican establishment with a vested interest in Big Government – dismissed the Tea Party movement as a passing fad, a flash in the political pan that would fade into oblivion as quickly as it rose from obscurity. The passage of time and the sustained growth of the movement, however, caused them to fall silent and with the approach of November 2010 the silence became a strange mixture of denial and quiet panic as the statist class – with the assistance of a nakedly partisan mainstream media – commenced a full-scale assault on the character and motivation of the Tea Party movement that continues to this day.
For its own part, the Tea Party movement has comported itself with dignity, equanimity and grace in spite of circumstances and tribulations that would have driven other people out of the cause entirely. In many respects, these times try our souls as harshly as they did our forebears in 1776 and I know I’m not alone when I wonder from time to time if the toil, sweat and tears are worth the sacrifice.
In that spirit I offer words of consolation and counsel to fellow Tea Party patriots nationwide: although the price of victory is constant vigilance and hard work, never fear to pause for a moment that you may catch your breath, give your weary bones a brief rest and contemplate the road that lies ahead. Take stock of where you have been but do not dwell too long on past mistakes – learn from them so that the road ahead will be that much smoother.
Practice the Cardinal Strengths of Virtue, Self-Reliance, Education and Unity, for these are what made America an exceptional nation and the greatest force for liberty and prosperity in human history.
If you practice the virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude in a spirit of charity, humility and patience, no travail or tumult can shake the foundation of the Tea Party movement. At all times and in all places foster the spirit of patriotic fraternity first within your own group and then between yours and other Tea Party groups. If you perceive that others have wandered into the brambles of error do not attack them publicly but approach them privately and delicately; it’s amazing how forthcoming people can be in the course of a friendly phone conversation.
Only by dint of self-reliance will the Tea Party movement survive and flourish. In these lean economic times when operational funds are scarce, avoid the temptation to accept the generosity of powerful advocacy organizations – especially if they are politically involved. The surest way for these organizations to exercise total power over a Tea Party group is to make them utterly dependent upon that support for their very means of survival. Be wary of any organization that offers to do for you what you what you ought to do for yourselves, for any organization powerful enough to dispense such largess is likewise powerful enough to control you. At all times and in all places maintain your independence and jealously safeguard it from those who would make you a handmaiden to their agenda.
Nowhere is this counsel more apposite than in your relationship with public officials or those who seek public office. You needn’t be overly concerned with politicians who ridicule or scorn you, because their enmity is obvious and they will naturally keep their distance from you. Rather, be cautious of those who express solidarity with your cause and seek to curry your favor and support: more often than not these people have ulterior motives. If you decide to endorse certain candidates for office, vett them thoroughly and completely .
A candidate for legislative or executive office ought to possess an abundance of common sense and common sensibilities in spite of whatever education they may have received. Likewise, their moral character should be unimpeachable. Most of the damage to this republic has been wrought by highly educated men bereft of morality and I don’t know about you, but I would sooner be governed by a poorly educated farmer whose moral fiber is incorruptible than a Harvard scholar whose moral compass has long since turned to orange dust.
Under no circumstances should they be encumbered by the dictates of petty, parochial interests and the sole desire of their hearts should reflect what is best for both the people they represent and the nation itself.
Needless to say, they must understand our Constitution and the nature of our government. The Founders did not bequeath us a democracy governed by the whims of men and the rule of the mob nor an empire where a select few wield absolute power over the many. Rather, we inherited a representative republic governed by a Constitution that precisely enumerates the powers of the central government, where the rule of law applies to everyone.
Lastly and most importantly, they – and you – must have integrity: it is the cornerstone of leadership.
A man of integrity is first and foremost true to himself – and if the reflection in the mirror of his own mind is not identical to that which he knows he truly is, then he has become a liar – and worse, he knows he is a liar because the very first falsehood is silently uttered to himself.
A man of integrity does not fear following the dual pathways of empirical and moral truth to whatever destination they lead him – for truth is reality and the denial of such, a corrosive fantasy that further damages an already disfigured visage in the mirror of his own mind.
A man of integrity is willing to engage the hard choices that he inevitably encounters while traveling the pathway of the truth and, upon encountering a fork in the road, does not recoil when asked to make a decision based on the facts in a sincere effort to do good and avoid evil. If his decision is demonstrated to be erroneous, he will have the humility and spiritual fortitude to admit the error and choose the correct road.
A man of integrity does not dwell on the proverbial fence, trying to have it both ways in an effort to avoid making hard choices or to benefit from either playing both sides against the middle or one side against another. He accepts that it’s a far better thing to make a decision and live with consequences that may lead him to the pasture of obscurity than it is to be everything to everyone and don a plastic laurel wreath of shallow public acclamation or indulge himself in the rotted fruit of personal aggrandizement.
It is the difference between a man who, if asked to choose between two radically different flavors of ice cream, declares, “My favorite flavor is this one because it is sweet and pleasing to the palate while the other is rancid and tastes like crap” from the man who says, “You are asking me to choose between two flavors of ice cream, and I won’t because I like them both.”
The former is a man of integrity. The latter is a weasel.
By all means make every effort to educate yourselves. Read the Declaration of Independence, study the Constitution of the United States and become a serious student of American history. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “no nation can expect to be free and ignorant in a state of civilization.” Ditto for the Tea Party movement. A knowledgeable Tea Party group is critical to the longevity of the Tea Party movement just as surely as an ignorant Tea Party group is the most powerful tool an enemy can wield against it.
Lastly, the crowning practical strength of any virtuous, self-reliant and well-educated Tea Party organization is its unity and this finds expression in a common cause and a common sense of patriotism. Adopt the epigram of the United States – E Pluribus Unum (of many, one) – as your own and strive always to emulate the Founders; they found ways to reconcile their differences so that all thirteen clocks struck at the same minute and hour.
Nowhere and at no time is unity within the Tea Party movement more critical to its survival than today, when the forces of statism and Big Government are marshaling their efforts to either destroy you or render you utterly impotent as a force for change. Yesterday I wrote the following in regard to the motive and modus operandi of the Left:
To the average Leftist, for whom the Cause – whatever that cause may be – transcends all other things, the ends will always justify the means and other people become nothing more than the eggs necessary for the perfect omelet…and everyone knows you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
Anyone not blinkered by sympathy to the cause of contemporary American liberalism who has devoted more than a few minutes’ time observing it, cannot avoid being astounded by the extremes to which the Left resorts in order to advance its agenda: there is no stratagem too brutal, no lie too outrageous, no slander or libel too vicious or hurtful that it cannot be effectively employed – especially if people of good will do nothing to oppose the outrage but instead gape and gawk like bystanders at a traffic accident or, worse, accept what they see and hear as the truth.
But not all the attacks will come from the left: desperate and ill-designing people on the Right – for whom patriotism and conservatism are little more than vehicles to power – will not hesitate to attack you the moment they sense you will not bend your will to theirs or allow yourselves to be co-opted by them. If and when that unhappy day comes, stand your ground and do not yield an inch, regardless of the slander and the libels that will be directed toward you. Just as surely as time heals all wounds, it wounds all heels; the truth will eventually vindicate you and implicate them. Therefore embrace the truth: it is both your weapon and your shield and it always prevails.
Be strong. Be courageous. Be proud. And never – ever – compromise your principles, for it is upon them and through you that the free and prosperous future of this republic will be assured.
God bless all of you and God bless America.