In one of the most notorious political mis-steps in political history, the democrat party’s denigrating of the grass roots movement known as the tea party may be its undoing in the elections of 2010. The primary races of September 14th are showing with progressive clarity the strength and will of tea party activists to upset the establishment cart and convert the direction of the American political scene to something more in keeping with their political vision. Derided as racists, nativists, bumpkins, and intellectual midgets, the width and the breath of tea party continues to grow and achieve its aims against all odds of establishment support and establishment money. Starting with the spectacular win of Scott Brown in the bluest of blue states in Massachusetts, to the governor victories in Virginia and New Jersey, the overthrow of senate incumbents like Spector in Philidelphia and Murkowski in Alaska, and the primary night victory of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, the momentum of the tea party into a formidable force is clear.
The origin of the tea party mentality for vigorous push back against perceived governmental overstep is a treasured American tradition. The original Boston Tea Party, on December 16th, 1773, forcably dumped the tea cargo of East India Trading Company into Boston Harbor as a pointed protest against British policy of securing a tax against the colonists without their sense of fair representation of their views. Samuel Adams, cousin of John Adams and a member of the Sons of Liberty group that organized the protest, philosophized the underlying process of trying to achieve change in the face of establishment resistance:
“It does not take a majority to prevail…but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
The modern tea party lives this to a “T” – the sense of an overbearing government unwilling to respect the need for obtaining the advised consent of the people for the bank and subprime bailouts, stimulus bill, cap and trade, and healthcare “reforms”, lit the fire and created the uniting impulse of many people with completely diverse agendas into an organized force. What has been so surprising to establishment figures has been the depth of emotional attachment to arcane ideas like constitutional constructionism, fiscal accountability, pride in individual libertarian traditions, and revulsion against forced public planning instead of private enterprise. These are crystallized into what tea partiers see as the unique American calling. So spoke our friend Samuel Adams again:
“Our contest is not only whether we ourselves will be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum of earth for civil and religious liberty.”
The initial sense that the tea party movement would dissipate in the soft focus of principle in the face of the hard knocks that form the reality of American politics has proved erroneous. If anything the election coming on November 2nd portends an amazing forcewave of political revolution. It doesn’t appear that the genie is going back in the bottle any time soon. Change, real change, appears on the way. Mr. Adams, one more time:
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks…Among the natural rights of all citizens are these: first, a right to life, secondly to liberty, thirdly to property; together with the right to defend as best as they can.”