I’m traveling this week, so I asked Martha Zoller if she wouldn’t mind helping out with a guest column. She was kind enough to pitch in, and writes this one as a follow on to continue this discussion we started on Tuesday.
There is much “lamenting and gnashing of teeth” over the future of the Tea Party. There’s turmoil at Freedomworks, “cleansing” of Tea Party conservatives in Congress and at home and around the country, local groups want to know what’s next?
Let’s step back for a moment and look at the history. This is a movement and in every movement there are ups and downs. When you ask people about Tea Party values of less spending, smaller government and getting back to the Constitution, most people agree with us. They didn’t vote that way in November, though. If the first Tea Party patriots backed down after early setbacks, we wouldn’t have the United States of America. In the founding of our Republic, only about a third agreed with independence. Through leadership and perseverance, we prevailed.
And we must remember, the big loss in November wasn’t the Presidency. It was losing ground in the United States Senate. That should have been a win for Republicans and conservatives. Our presidential candidate was never comfortable with the grassroots and the Tea Party. And candidates failed to use the resources and media that were on their side, again. There’s work to do.
I attended my first Tea Party rally in Gainesville in 2009. The organizers got the permit for Poultry Park in Downtown Gainesville, but didn’t’ know they needed a permit for a sound system. Don’t you love bureaucracy? If the Tea Party folks had been like yesterday’s union thugs in Michigan, we would have just torn the place up. But that’s not what we are. So, I took my shoes off, stepped up on the bench and used my “big Broadway voice” to talk to the couple of hundred folks who came. Later that same day, I spoke to a much smaller event in Athens.
Since then, I’ve attended and spoken at Tea Party Events big and small. I believe in the movement of “Taxed Enough Already.” I believe the Tea Party is best as a return to limited (by the US Constitution) government and fiscal policy. However, as I travelled the 9th district in my campaign for Congress and around the state since, what is clear to me is the “Tea Party” is many things. Depending on where you are, there may be more focus on social issues or international issues or fiscal issues.
I’m a Tea Partier from the outset and on the inside and proud of it. This is a truly grassroots movement. But to my friends in the movement, we have to be careful not to be co-opted and become just another bunch of people co-opted into giving more credence to Washington insiders than to the grassroots that made this movement.
We had mixed results in the 2012 elections but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support candidates with volunteer hours and money. So what to do next?
First, we need to stay focused on being Constitutional and Fiscal Conservatives. We can’t get bogged down in every issue out there. The most important thing we can do is get our country back on track fiscally. The mainstream of both parties are counting on us to give up and “go back to work.” They think they can wait us out; we need to show them we are not going away. The opportunity to deal with the issues out there comes only from getting our fiscal house in order.
Second, we need to work with the people in power between elections. We’ve lost the rhythm of separating campaigns from governing. Finding common ground is not selling out. One prominent Tea Party leader in Georgia said, “Because we disagree on one thing, it doesn’t mean we disagree on everything.” In the recent amendment to the Constitution of Georgia, Tea Partiers were pretty unified in their opposition to the T-SLOST, but were split on the Charter School Amendment. We are not monolithic, but we should be on fiscal issues. So work together where you can and regroup when you have to.
Finally, the Tea Party principles are as strong as ever. We need to be “Happy Warriors.” The Progressives are willing to work for generations to chip away at the Republic that we love. Conservatives, Tea Party folks, Republicans and Libertarians have to do the same thing. We don’t feel like the majority right now, but we are.
The best thing I did in my political life was to make the first phone call to Tea Party leaders and ask how I could help. It’s an honorable movement of substance and should be lifted up, not town down.
Martha Zoller is a Tea Party activist, recovering Congressional Candidate and will be back on the air soon. You can contact her through marthazoller.com