Many media analysts struggling to contextualize and marginalize the Tea Party movement misunderstand its genesis. By repeatedly describing the rally attendees as almost exclusively white and racist, which is demonstrably false, they are trying to cast the movement as an extreme reaction to a president of color. However, this tea was brewing far longer than Barack Obama has been destroying the economy.
Office holders and other establishmentarians who feel threatened by the movement comprehend at least that the Tea Party rebellion is about power – their power. But they seem to ignore that grassroots anger is a long simmering repudiation of unearned and unelected power. Tea Partiers are not content to merely replace those currently in power. They seek to transform the halls of power until they are accountable to the American people and faithful to the founding principles of our once great nation.
For decades, activist judges have interpreted the law based on their own political and personal preferences – in short, they legislate from the bench, which is not their mandate. Congressmen have enacted laws that defy the will of their constituents and betray the campaign positions on which they were elected. On the great issues of our time – most notably, the economy, health care and illegal immigration – the elites in power are out of touch with the American people who have to live with the consequences of their actions and they are flagrantly disdainful of us.
President Obama, House Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid are not the only politicians to deceive voters, misrepresent their mandate and impose their unelected agenda on an unwilling electorate. However, they chose to do so at one of the most conspicuously perilous moments in American history. Obama ran as a post-racial, post-political moderate, but he is ruling as an old-fashioned big government liberal – and an incompetent, indifferent leader.
Liberalism thrives in the media, academia, judiciary, and government bureaucracy – all unelected institutions of power where practitioners of liberalism rarely if ever have to defend their ideology. Jimmy Carter was the last openly liberal presidential candidate to win and his policies were so discredited after one disastrous term that an entire generation began to call themselves progressives to distance themselves from liberalism. Reagan is attributed with giving liberalism a bad name, but truly the label was self-inflicted by the unpopular programs of Carter and now Obama in action.
Republican voters of a certain age, me included, took the measure of Barack Obama in 2008 and predicted that he would be Jimmy Carter redux. With our prophecy tragically fulfilled, it is tempting to compare the Tea Party coalition of Democrats, Republicans, libertarians and independents to the Reagan Revolution and count the similarities. But there is one fundamental distinction – vive la difference!
Ronald Reagan was dubbed the Great Communicator for his ability to explain his policies and persuade the electorate. He transcended his mentor, William F. Buckley, to become the leader of late 20th century conservatism. Reagan’s presidential accomplishments were impressive and far reaching. In 1980, Reagan ran against the unelected institutions of power and began his first term confronting the air traffic controllers. Despite all of his executive authority and political gifts, he failed to change the entrenched bureaucracy that dominates Washington, D.C. or the Republican Party establishment, which is arrogant and entitled in its own right. By selecting George H.W. Bush as his running mate, Reagan insured that his own conservative agenda would be term-limited. Such are the limits of top-to-bottom leadership.
Yet fans and critics of the citizen revolt still wonder, “How can the Tea Party succeed without a leader?” That question ignores political history and the first Tea Party movement that wrested control of thirteen colonies from the most powerful nation of the 18th century despite the absence of one unifying leader. The question is also a product of the organization chart mentality with mandates emanating from the top down to the bottom.
The political ruling class abused their power to impose their insulated Beltway values on the American people, thus changing our culture incrementally against our will for decades. The players, parties and policies may vary from election year to election year, but the sense of entitlement remains the same.
The Tea Party is a bottom-to-top, side-to-side movement with every citizen as a leader. The agenda is formed at the grassroots level and spreading in every direction throughout fifty states. The Tea Party is redefining the culture and the halls of power by citizen consensus and its policies flow from the will of the people. This is the promise of the movement – and its biggest threat to the status quo.