As a world-famous blogger and media figure, I was asked to speak at the Effingham, Illinois 9/12 Tea Party. OK, so nobody knew who I was but the organizers, who graciously allowed me to speak as long as I handed out fliers for the event. There were several hundred people gathered at the courthouse in this town of about 15,000 in Central Illinois. Click for the Picasa album:
No pictures of me, sorry.
The following is something like what I delivered for my little speech:
Any Baseball fans here today? All Atlanta Braves fans, right? No? I hope I can change your minds as we talk here today. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about leverage.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 were about leverage. So is the Internet. Political parties, and this Tea Party movement, are each a form of leverage, in a way.
The original Boston Tea Partiers didn’t have a lot of leverage. If you remember, several thousand of them (and Boston was a town the size of Effingham back then) gathered to voice frustration with the Tea tax. It wasn’t the money, because the tax wasn’t very much. It was the principle: if they paid the tax, they were accepting the authority of the English Parliament, a foreign government, over them. They decided what to do, and a hundred or so of the men dressed up as Native Americans and threw a shipment of tea into Boston Harbor. They dressed that way to disguise themselves, so they wouldn’t be hung for treason. They didn’t have much power, much leverage, but they used what they had.
In the modern world, we have tremendous power, which can either be used for good or for evil. You can drive your car into one of those storefronts over there, doing great damage, or you can use it to benefit yourself and your family. We can use guns for hunting or to defend ourselves, or we can use them to commit acts of great harm.
What keeps us from using our power for wickedness? Our faith, the knowledge that we are better off behaving in a moral fashion, and most of all, the positive influence of others we respect. I believe there are many more good people than bad, if only because the world has not yet fallen into complete anarchy.
The 9/11 hijackers used simple boxcutters and a little bit of knowledge to change the course of modern history. That’s leverage. As I said, leverage can be used for good or for evil.
On the Internet, millions of people communicate, and their opinions of one another are guided almost solely by the content and presentation of their ideas.
Which brings me to Sarah Palin. Leave aside for now what you think of her or whether you thought she should have been John McCain’s choice for Vice President. Do you know her story? She was a mom who wanted to influence how her town spent its money, so she ran for city council. She won with 500 votes, got reelected, the ran for Mayor. She won, serving a couple of terms there, and went on to fight corruption in Alaska, getting elected Governor. That’s Governor of a State. And she was still just a mom, really. She’s one of us, that is.
John McCain noticed her, and selected her as his running mate. From that day on, she was targeted by liberal activists, who filed phony ethics charges against her — things like holding a TV interview in her office and wearing a jacket with a company’s logo on it. Yet each charge had to be defended, with both her own and State money. Over the summer, she resigned as Governor.
Now she’s back to being a mom. But this time, she has a Facebook page, and thousands of people read what she writes. They read her because she’s good, and she documents whatever she writes.
During the health care debate that’s been going on, it was Sarah Palin who coined the term “death panels” for the teams of bureaucrats who will decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t. And it doesn’t matter that no such team is exactly specified by such a name in any of the current bills, because the President created one as part of his pork-filled stimulus bill last winter. Not only that, but if you’re going to save money you have to do it where the money is, and that’s the last year of life. Someone has to decide which cases and classes of illness are going to be treated and which ones aren’t. That means a commission or panel of some kind. With government health care, there’s no way around a death panel.
But I’m getting off the subject. The point is that Sarah Palin is just a mom with a Facebook page, and Barack Obama, President of the United States, is forced to debate with her. And she’s winning.
That’s the power of leverage. And it’s a power you have.
The political parties — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green — are all ways to leverage your energy, also. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, I really don’t care. I just want you to be involved. You may be able to become a Precinct Committeeman in your precinct. You go to a few meetings, put out a few signs, and pass around some petitions. It may seem like drudgery, but it must be done, and those willing to do it can insert themselves into the machine.
The Tea Party movement is non-partisan. That’s not just a slogan. We want to influence all of the parties, to pull them back to basic American values. We want to reign in the expansion of government by forcing it to live withing the box of the Constitution again.
But once inside the machine, you will learn that the candidates are hungry for your opinion and your labor. They will curry your favor. Please, when you become involved in your party, don’t become one of them. Make them become one of you. Remember that the goal is to reestablish the Constitution as the authority for our government.
Whether or not you are already involved in a party, you can also leverage the Internet to spread your ideas. I have been online for 20 years, so if you need help in doing that, let me know. Does everyone here do email? If you do, and you need help becoming more active, send me mail and I will help you.
So I told you at the start you’d all be Atlanta Braves fans, right? Well, let me tell you why. Before the Atlanta Braves were in Atlanta, they were what? Yes, the Milwaukee Braves. And before that, they were the … Boston Braves, that’s right. Why on Earth were they called the Boston “Braves”? There are no Indians in Boston. Well, in December of 1773, there were Braves dumping tea into the harbor.
So now do you feel differently about the Braves from Atlanta?
(cross-posted at The Minority Report)