The Tea Party Isn’t Dead. It’s More Vibrant & Essential Than Ever
by Jenny Beth Martin
Rand Paul is mistaken.
It’s not often I say that, so let me explain.
Speaking on the Senate floor last month, Kentucky’s junior senator—elected with tea party support in his first run for public office in 2010—declared the following in response to a massive two-year spending deal: “Today is the final nail in the coffin. The tea party is no more. … Adoption of this deal marks the death of the tea party movement in America.”
Give Paul credit for a flair for the dramatic. He can hyperbolize with the best of them. It’s one of the things we Tea Partiers love about him.
But to suggest that because a bunch of politicians in Washington got together and did what politicians regularly do—that is, conspire to serve their own interests rather than the interests of the larger public—therefore “the tea party is dead,” is just silly.
Paul, of course, was not the only one to bemoan the “death” of the tea party last month. CNN, National Review, and other media outlets made the same mistake.
They all missed a fundamental piece of the tea party movement’s original set of principles and aims that continue on to this day.
This is incredibly unfair to the millions of Americans who have put in hundreds of millions of volunteer hours over the last 10 years, and who continue to work to restore America’s government to its constitutional limits and founding values every day.
It is for them that I write this response.
Our movement is hardly “dead.” From getting President Barack Obama to sign the USA Freedom Act to seeing President Donald Trump first commit to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal at one of our rallies, and then watching him fulfill that commitment as president, our successes have laid the groundwork for much more work to be done.
The gathering dark clouds of socialism are a direct threat to everything our supporters believe in. Though it has failed as an ideology, it will still need to be defeated again if more victories are to be won.
Let me back up and explain the beginning of the modern-day tea party movement, our core principles, and history over the last 10 years.
How We Got Started
After Rick Santelli’s rant on Feb. 19, 2009 on CNBC—wherein he declared his intent to hold a “tea party” to protest Obama’s trillion-dollar “stimulus” bill—conservatives excitedly began to connect on Twitter.
Michael Patrick Leahy organized a conference call with nearly two dozen people who didn’t know each other. We discussed organizing the first round of nationwide tea party protests.
It’s important to note that not only were most people who started organizing in the early days strangers to each other, but most had no experience as political activists.
As the months went by, more and more Americans joined the movement, more protests were held, and local tea party leaders pulled together to form organizations like ours to pool information and resources.
From the very start, we held weekly conference calls with tea party organizers all across the nation—a practice that still continues. Through these calls, the nascent tea party website, and other online forums, concerned Americans debated—much as our Founders did—the meaning and direction of the tea party movement.
After a massive amount of discussion, debate, and votes with thousands of participants, we agreed to the following principles as the core values we would work to advance: fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.
Clearly, fiscal responsibility is one of our guiding principles, and as such, it is something we have fought for over the last 10 years. We have been involved in many of the major budget and spending fights of the last decade, and we have had wins and losses in those fights—including the fight over the current budget-busting bill just signed by the president.
But losing a battle does not somehow mean you’re “dead.” That really implies that there’s no hope and we should give up.
I’ve got news for Paul and anyone else who thinks the tea party movement is dead: That’s just not how anyone in the tea party movement thinks.
When millions of us first got involved in the tea party movement, we had many expectations that proved to go unmet and held many assumptions that we learned were wrong.
Let me put it bluntly: We were naïve. We believed the Republican Party would be a true opposition party and that Republican leaders meant what they said when they pledged to cut spending, repeal Obamacare, and build the wall (remember Sen. John McCain’s ad?).
When we started getting antsy about results after we helped deliver the historic 2010 win in the House of Representatives, and the seven-seat gain in the Senate (not to mention the massive number of state–level wins), we were told to be patient. After all, Republicans only held one-half of one-third of the federal government.
When, in 2014, we helped the GOP recapture the Senate, we were told again to be patient about the lack of results because we still didn’t control the White House.
But then, when, against all odds, we helped Trump win the White House while holding the Senate and the House, congressional Republicans didn’t even bother to try to send a fiscally responsible bill to Trump’s desk.
And who was it that single-handedly killed the repeal of Obamacare? None other than McCain.
I’m still angry about that and every other broken promise from the Republicans, who vow every election to do what their voters want and then fail to follow through.
Eventually, the grassroots began to realize that everything we thought we knew was actually wrong.
I remember being in Washington, D.C., one time in 2009 and thinking that the problems our country faced were confined within the buildings that make up the Senate, the House, and the White House—in other words, our elected leadership.
Years later, I came to understand that the problems may have started there, but have expanded outward, and now encompass the entirety of the federal bureaucracy: the departments, agencies, offices, and bureaus occupied and staffed by faceless, unelected, and (most importantly) unaccountable bureaucrats whose attitude when encountering a superior with whom they disagree is, “I’ll be here after you’re long gone, buddy.”
Sometimes, it feels like we’re fighting the mythological Greek hydra: We cut off one head, only to find that two have grown in its place.
It’s upsetting. It truly is, and that is why I don’t begrudge Paul for lashing out, because I and millions of other Americans feel the same frustration and anger with the out-of-control spending.
Overspending and the ever-increasing debt have created a crisis that threatens America’s future prosperity and security, and we will continue to fight for spending cuts and reduced debt every chance we get.
But we are also committed to other issues that threaten the very foundation of our constitutional republic. On these issues, we’ve had real success.
Tea Party Victories
One example is the existential crisis of a radically out-of-control judiciary.
The judiciary has stolen authority and power from the legislative and executive branches that the Constitution never gave to the courts, and we are reaping the consequences of this at an ever-increasing pace.
Judges now rewrite statutes from the bench, use international law to make decisions, pervert and exploit the 14th Amendment, and have basically declared the Constitution unconstitutional. We have societal transformation without representation as a result of judicial tyranny.
Now, leading Democrats are pushing court-packing schemes reminiscent of FDR. They are demanding that the next Democrat president create new positions throughout the federal court system and on the Supreme Court that would be filled with supporters of their left-wing agenda.
Not surprisingly, these are issues that greatly concern us.
Another example is the seemingly limitless waves of mass migration—mostly illegal—from third-world countries with people who do not share American values or views on limited government, and who have little to no loyalty to America.
Fundamental changes to our society are now happening and have been happening because we have de facto open borders—in large part due to activist judges. It’s all an ugly circle of rot.
So, beginning in 2013, we worked hard to block the Gang of Eight’s amnesty bill, and we’ve been working on border security and immigration reform ever since.
In 2014, Tea Party Patriots produced “The Border States of America,” an hourlong documentary about the crisis on our southern border. Perhaps Paul hasn’t seen the film, but more than a million of his fellow citizens have.
We continue to stand for a secure border, and we are proud to have helped elect and now work with a president who catapulted border security to the top of his agenda.
For 10 years now, Tea Party Patriots and its affiliated Super PAC and foundation have worked to organize, educate, and mobilize our fellow grassroots activists in support of constitutionally limited government.
In 2015, when the Patriot Act was being reauthorized, we worked with the ACLU and the NAACP to support elements of the USA Freedom Act, which enhanced U.S. security against terror threats even as it enhanced privacy.
Later that year, when opponents of Obama’s terrible Iran nuclear deal were disorganized, it was left to us to organize the opposition rally on the west face of the U.S. Capitol. So we did. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump—both of whom were running for the GOP nomination for president—spoke at that landmark rally.
In the fall of 2017, we led the effort to put together a nationwide coalition of individuals, organizations, and small businesses to support the first successful tax reform in more than three decades.
To help educate our fellow citizens, we produced and aired a television ad featuring Arthur Laffer explaining how Trump’s proposed tax reform plan was similar to the successful Reagan tax reform that Laffer helped author more than three decades ago.
More recently, we’ve produced another hourlong documentarycalled “Invalidated: The Shredding of the U.S. Patent System.” Available on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video, the documentary recently won the award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2019 Anthem Film Festival, the annual screening of the latest libertarian films and documentaries.
In 2017 and 2018, we strongly supported the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Our activists came to Washington, rallied, and worked with allied groups to lobby their senators in support of those nominations.
In 2018, we helped over 500 high school student leadersorganize walkouts to stand for the Second Amendment in order to counter the liberal voices in their high schools.
And, earlier this year, in honor of our 10th anniversary, our grassroots activists hosted “Stop Socialism Choose Freedom” rallies in more than 400 events around the country.
For 10 years now, Tea Party Patriots and its affiliated Super PAC and foundation have worked to organize, educate, and mobilize our fellow grassroots activists in support of constitutionally limited government.
We hold those weekly conference calls with hundreds of local group leaders I mentioned before, and nearly every week that Congress is in session we produce and air a Facebook Live broadcast where we share important political and legislative news with our activists and answer their questions about the topics of the day.
We publish op-eds and guest columns on a weekly basis, and I long ago lost count of the number of TV and radio appearances I’ve done to comment on the issues of the day.
Our issues are many: Tax reform. Intellectual property rights. Health care freedom. Border security and immigration reform. Fourth Amendment protections for privacy rights. First Amendment protections for speech, press, and religion. The Second Amendment. Term limits. An end to Common Core. The Iran nuclear deal. The threat from China. Judicial nominations.
That’s a wide variety of issues—far broader than what Paul and others may be aware of that the tea party is concerned with. What do they all have in common? They’re all manifestations of our determination to support a constitutionally limited government.
We’re a Both/And Organization
I’ll explain it thusly: We have always fought, and will always fight, for spending cuts and debt reduction, for fiscal responsibility—note, here I am going to embrace the healing power of “and”—and, we have also ratcheted up the fight to protect and defend our Constitution, the foundation of our republic.
There are more fires burning than we realized when we jumped into the ring 10 years ago, but far from giving up or dying out, we’ve actually taken up additional issues that will make it easier to achieve other goals like fiscal responsibility. (For instance, there’s no way to cut spending if we have open borders and “free” health care for illegal immigrants—or for everyone, for that matter).
Think of America as a house that has some serious issues. There is some drywall that must be replaced, some beams are rotting, and it needs a new roof. We have to address these serious problems as soon as we can, but at the same time, we must fix the foundation to keep the house from collapsing.
Our Constitution is our foundation, our bedrock, and right now in 2019, it is being severely neglected. Unless we change that, the America set forth by the Framers will be gone, and overspending will be the least of our worries.
Never, Never, Never Give Up
Over the years, we’ve heard stories from volunteer activists about pouring money and unimaginable amounts of time into their groups. People lost relationships with friends and even family. It’s not something that any of us take lightly.
But, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve never once heard an activist suggest we give up, or that we must be “dead” because we lost a fight.
I honestly can’t comprehend this line of thought because when Paul or others claim that the tea party is dead because we’ve lost some legislative battles, the logical conclusion to that thought is defeat and surrender.
I’ve never once heard an activist suggest we give up, or that we must be “dead” because we lost a fight.
But, what about our Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War? What about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War? What about our brave boys in the two world wars? What if Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt had thought, “Well, we’ve been beat up a bit by some losses. I guess that means our effort is dead and we should give up as a result”?
That would have been ridiculous, right?
Furthermore, I would like someone to show me a list of political movements that get 100% of what they want at all times, forever. I find it interesting that literally since the beginning of the tea party movement, we have been proclaimed “dead” by various allies and opponents alike.
What other movement or organization in American politics is pronounced dead after a few losses, even as it also wins victories?
Did anyone declare it was the end of MoveOn.org when Trump was elected in November 2016? Did anyone say the AFL-CIO was done for when Trump upset Hillary Clinton? And what about Planned Parenthood, or AFSCME, or NextGenAmerica, or the Human Rights Campaign Fund, or a hundred other liberal organizations I could name, each and every one of which was stunned and disappointed when Clinton lost to Trump? Was it “the end” for them?
What is the national obsession with playing the role of the emergency room doctor calling the time of death in some hospital melodrama on TV as it pertains only to the tea party movement?
The left has wanted socialized medicine in this country for decades, and every time it lost a big fight (think Hillarycare in the 90s), it didn’t lament its own demise and give up. It regrouped and came back again, and again, and again—and it’s still chipping away at our freedoms.
Losing some battles doesn’t mean it’s over unless you believe it’s over, and we don’t think it’s even close to over. Not to mention that so many left-wing organizations receive millions in taxpayer dollars, which they can then use to elect members of Congress to ensure their continued receipt of millions in taxpayer dollars.
Are we to be held to some standard that no other political movements are held?
We might be a little scrappy compared to, say, Planned Parenthood ($500 million per year from taxpayers), but David was a little scrappy, too, and look how that turned out for Goliath.
The long march of progressivism through our institutions started 100 years before the tea party movement was born, and we understand that it’s not going to turn around overnight. Are we to be held to some standard that no other political movements are held?
Here’s the thing: We are willing to put in the years that it will take to fix the foundation and fix the walls and the roof, so why not let us? Why not support us in that effort, instead of recklessly deeming one of your greatest allies to be flatlined?
The patriotic Americans who make up the tea party movement love this country. We also love the Constitution, and we are law-abiding people. We choose to work within the system that our Founders left us to effect change, even though it takes longer than a revolution.
We are very much the anti-Antifa. We don’t take over the streets of cities, impose lawlessness and mob rule, or crack the heads of people who disagree with us. We do it the right way, which takes longer. We accept this reality because these are the rules of life and politics.
And we have seen some big wins.
We’re Here to Stay
Reasonable people can debate whether the tea party should only have worked on fiscal responsibility for the last 10 years, even though it wasn’t the only principle to which we had committed ourselves.
We still have debates in our weekly calls, where activists discuss the direction they want us to go for the upcoming weeks or months—and we make tough decisions together, as a movement.
However, I ask that others reconsider their terminology and pronouncements of our demise. There are still millions of Americans who squeeze out whatever time they can from their packed schedules of full-time work, full-time families, businesses they run, grandkids they babysit, and more, in order to volunteer for the tea party movement.
And whether you continue to falsely claim the tea party movement is dead or not, we are not going away. Like Winston Churchill, we will “never, never, never give up.”
It can be demoralizing to see allies proclaiming your work is dead and meaningless, instead of acknowledging losses and moving on, living to fight another day.
Over the coming weeks, months, and years, we will continue to stand for personal freedom, economic freedom, and a debt-free future.
We will work to ensure our elections are fair and the results are respected. We will work to register people to vote, to volunteer as poll workers, and to work as Election Day poll workers. Once we have the results, we will respect them, just as we expect the same of our opponents.
Should the left continue down the path toward impeachment when there has been no recommended indictment against the president, we will stand for our nation’s president against impeachment.
We will work to stop the rise of the socialist tide in America, and we will urge our fellow Americans to choose freedom and free markets. We will continue to stand for free speech, the right to bear arms, property rights, and the other rights listed in the Constitution.
We will continue to work toward a debt-free future, including building an electoral mandate to rein in “mandatory” spending and stop government overspending.
We will continue to fight to restore health care freedom and produce quality health care at competitive prices.
We will work to have more constitutional originalists confirmed to the federal bench, which means electing presidents and senators who will nominate and confirm originalists. We will also work to pass legislation to reform the judiciary and restore the balance of power between the three branches.
We will work to ensure members of Congress live under the same rules they pass for everyone else, to amend the Constitution for term limits and a balanced budget, and to secure the border.
As long as there is liberty in America, there will be a tea party movement—the liberty movement, if you will—in America. Sam Adams started it in Boston in December 1773. Our Founding Fathers passed it on to the next generation. The torch of liberty continued passing from one generation to the next.
This generation’s tea party movement intends to pass the torch of liberty to our children and grandchildren so they, too, can be free to pursue their American dream.
With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.
However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.
If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.
This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.
We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.
(TLB) published this article from The Daily Signal
Video content added by (TLB)
Jenny Beth Martin
Jenny Beth Martin is honorary chairman of Tea Party Patriots Action.
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