“These concerns are American and we do ourselves a disservice if we segment ourselves into anything less than heirs of our American Revolution.”
We stand at the one year anniversary of tea parties in America. Just over a year ago, in February, Rick Santelli, fired up on CNBC, predicted a national movement of protest against what was happening in Washington — something akin to the Boston Tea Party. Those protests blossomed fully on April 15, 2009, and have been going ever since.Calling themselves tea party activists, patriots, and the like, people rallied to protest bailouts for banks, car companies, and American citizens who made dumb decisions gladly with their homes.Since that time, the tea party movement has become both organized and fractured, caricatured and praised, supported and hated, effective and ineffective — all of the above — a force to contend with except when it isn’t.But along the way a lot of silliness happened too. Some ambitious and some well meaning sorts got involved and decided there needed to be greater organization to have a greater impact. And groups sprouted like weeds. Groups sprouted from other groups. Like Baptist churches doing church plants, groups had arguments, fractured, and some went off and started their own Second Baptist Church of the Tea Party Movement, then the Third, then the National, then the Tax Day, then the Patriots, then the Express, but not necessarily in that order.High dollar Republican consultants got involved. Republican politicians got involved. The birthers decided to show and gave the media a chance to claim the birthers were involved in a grand conspiracy with the Klu Klux Klan to pay no attention to the black man holding the anti-government sign so they could pretend only white people were involved, or something like that.You get my point.Then last week, in what everyone would have thought was a joke had it happened on April Fools Day, a bunch of tea parties, or at least one saying it was doing it for more, put out a press release announcing the birth of the National Tea Party Federation, which is not an organization, not a structure, not a new set of leaders, but an evolution of alliances of 19 tea party organizations and a handful of other groups, except for the Tea Party Patriots, which has worked overtime to be simply a volunteer group of concerned activists who neither get paid nor make money. Yeah, I have a soft spot for Tea Party Patriots living up to their ideal.Most of us can sit back and ask one simple question: What the heck happened?The tea party movement, one year later, is descending into a self-parody of infighting, money making, claims of national leadership, protests, unions, federations, amalgamations, etc. The groups have been so busy organizing themselves to distinguish themselves from each other that the core message is gone and media and left have been able to seize on the discord and paint a picture of the tea party movement as something other than it is and what we all know it to be — concerned Americans.This has nothing at all to do with actual tea party activists. Let me be clear. I do not want to nor intend to slight the activists who care and show up with their hand painted signs, sometimes risking violence against themselves by the left and ridicule by the media. But I have a simple message for them all — it is time to stop calling yourselves tea party activists and start calling yourselves concerned Americans.The issues that incite, enrage, and organize the men and women of this nation to leave their jobs to go protest the size, scope, and direction of government are American concerns. The state of the nation, the growth of government, moving from creeping socialism to a full sprint to socialism — these are concerns shared across the board.But now that these tea party groups are out there, there is infighting, there is evolution without organization but some organizing, etc. the activists and the message are getting drowned out by the leadership. And this remains a leaderless movement of concerned Americans who have united with one voice and common concerns.Having leaders in a leaderless movement creates problems. That is one reason I’ve liked the Tea Party Patriots. They’ve been more facilitators than leaders. But picking one group above the others or setting them apart from each other then lets the horde of the leaderless leaders claim some sort of favoritism or preference, so I choose to paint with a broad brush.We have reached a point where the tea party movement will either go forward in greater organization or it will not. As one of those people who turned out for the initial protests, the later protests, flew around the country speaking at rallies, etc. I would like to say goodbye.I hope the activists on the street will leave with me. It is not that we are leaving the tea party movement, but rather we choose to assert ourselves in the movements of America and focus not as tea party activists, but as concerned Americans troubled by the direction of the country. As the organizations of the tea party movement evolve into a federation, we activists choose to evolve into activists in the political process in our municipalities, counties, states, and nation.So I will not be turning out to protest this tax day. Instead, I am going to put down my protest sign and pick up my campaign sign for Marco Rubio, Marlin Stutzman, Ken Buck, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, Chuck DeVore, Pam Gorman, Tom Graves, Sean Duffy, Angela Hicks, Nikki Haley, Karen Handel, and others. I’m going to focus not on protesting, but on actually changing the country through finding, fielding, supporting, funding, volunteering for, and praying for good men and women who share my very American concerns. I am going to focus on my local government, making sure my local leaders live up to my expectations; likewise at the same at the state and federal level too.I am going to write letters to the editor, call radio shows, talk to my friends and family, and promote the good people. If you aren’t sure what you can or should do — after Thursday, check out http://summit.americanmajority.org. Find a post-party summit close to you and go to it.The Bible tells Christians to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Concerns Americans must also put on armor, though not of God, but of liberty. And they must learn both the weapons of the fight and skills and tactics of waging war for freedom.We have moved beyond the time to protest. After you have been to your tax day tea party protest on Thursday, and please don’t view me as discouraging you from one last big hurrah, I hope you’ll leave the tea party protests behind and engage in the process. There is a difference between the two words me must understand and use to direct our focus.These concerns the tea party protestors raise are American and we do ourselves a disservice if we segment ourselves into anything less than heirs of our American Revolution.