Addressing some Tea Party concerns

Believe me, I certainly understand the reluctance of libertarians and some fiscal conservatives to become involved in Tea Parties.  Legitimate concerns abound regarding big-government Republicans astroturfing the movement and about other issues and players being added to the agenda.   I’ve written a lot about these issues, and likely will in the future.  I’d like to approach a different group of concerns right now.  For those of you sympathetic with small-government ideals but concerned about “the futility of protesting” or that they will be “ineffective“, consider the following.

In promoting one of the Alabama Tea Party events, I sent out an e-mail which began like this:

On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists boarded ships and dumped tea into the Boston Harbor. The Boston Tea Party was the symbolic start of our battle against British tyranny and taxation. On Saturday, August 9, 2003, the Alabama Tea Party was the symbolic beginning of our overwhelming defeat of the largest planned tax increase in Alabama’s history.

On April 15, we’ll be throwing another Tea Party – this one to begin the overthrow of the greatest expansion of federal spending in our nation’s history. In conjunction with other Tea Parties to be held across the nation on April 15, the Birmingham and Shelby County Tea Parties have merged in order for Alabamians to provide the most incredibly successful event possible.

It’s important that as many people as possible attend so we can ensure that our elected representatives in Washington hear our demand for limited government and a return to our constitutional roots. We’ll be holding a family-friendly rally starting at 6:30PM on Wednesday, April 15th. It will take place at Veteran’s (Spain) Park on Valleydale Road in Hoover. Additionally, Sean Hannity will be running a live stream from Tea Parties across the country and the Birmingham Tea Party will be one of them…

While driving to Birmingham to meet with a candidate for an upcoming city council race I’ll be working, I heard WYDE’s Lee Davis repeat the same general reason I provided above.  Davis is perhaps the biggest GOP cheerleader in Alabama radio and obviously I’m not.  However, Davis will be speaking at the same event I was promoting. While we may disagree on much, we certainly agree about this.

Tonight, 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim James sent out his Tea Party email.  I should note that James has been a consistent fiscal conservative.  His note states:

People are fed up with out-of-control government spending, regulations and taxes. It’s time to stand up and be counted. Support your local tea party and send a message to the politicians in Montgomery and Washington DC that you’re fed up with irresponsible spending and taxation.

WAPI’s Matt Murphy will be speaking, as well.  He was so upset with John McCain and the Republican Party that he endorsed Bob Barr on the air last Election Day.  Another Barr supporter, Robert Stacy McCain, will be leaving D.C. for my house tomorrow.  He’ll be speaking in Birmingham, as well.

Sorry for all of the background, but I needed it to make three points.

For the skeptics out there, most Tea Parties haven’t been taken over by the big-government Republican machine.  Some have.  Most are grassroots-driven activities with a broad spectrum of conservative and libertarian participation.  As I’ve noted before, even GOP Chairman Michael Steele couldn’t bully his way into a speaking slot at the upcoming highly publicized Chicago rally.

The second point is that while the left may deservedly take jabs at some crackpots on the right and the media coverage may not be as great as some people desire, the political impact of a successful Tea Party may indeed provide something more important: A date for the history books marking the beginning of the overthrow excessive taxation and spending.  Both with the original Tea Party and with the 2003 Alabama Tea Party, I’ll suggest that those dates above were pivotal moments in our history.

My final message is for organizers and speakers.  Mark Thompson writes:

To them, the Tea Parties aren’t just an outlet for expressing frustration over the recent orgy of government spending, they are an opportunity to complain about gay marriage, affirmative action programs in government hiring policies, and just about everything else that movement conservatives oppose even more vehemently now that they’ve been beaten – badly – in consecutive national elections.  Never mind that the original point of the Tea Parties, so far as I can tell, was completely libertarian in nature and was to be as much a protest of the Republicans as it was of the Democrats.

The successful Tea Party in Alabama was the rallying point which turned into a major defeat of the largest tax hike (proposed by a Republican, no less) in our state’s history.  Some organizers tried to hold similar events in later years.  However, the rallying cries became more about issues like abortion and especially immigration.  Not surprisingly, the movement fell apart.

If you are an event organizer or speaker, keep in mind that pretty much everyone will agree with your fiscally conservative message.  The Second Amendment is probably pretty safe turf, but not necessary for the purpose of this coalition.  Conservatives or libertarians wandering off into territory such as abortion, gay rights, immigration, medical marijuana, and the Iraq War will be creating unnecessarily divisive issues.

As Brad Warbiany writes: “The art of politics is knowing where coalitions can be formed, and making use of them.”