In the opening of the not-nominated-for-an-Oscar movie Waiting For Superman, a school administrator who teaches disadvantaged inner-city children reveals his own disappointment as a child to find that Superman wasn't real. If he's not real, who would save us, he wondered.
Republican gatherings, especially this year, have been similarly maudlin. People are waiting for Reagan. And the truth is, Ronald Reagan is dead. There will never be another Reagan.
And yet, there are one group of people who don't seem depressed at all--they seem determined. Enter the Tea Party.
I spent about 30 hours in Phoenix this last weekend for the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit and gave my "stump speech" about social media as part of an introduction to online activism to around 400 eager listeners (this was only one break out) with Julie Germany of DCI and Randy Skoglund of Orange Hat.
The rest of the time, I spent talking to activists, listening to some sessions, and meeting people.
If you've never hung out with Teaparty people, I'll give you a description: Most are new to politics, disgusted with both parties (still), educated in the constitution, and understand the effects of government--probably because they own their own business or work for a small business. They are not, by a long shot, dummies.
What I most love about Tea Party people: their good attitude. It occurred to me this weekend that we're looking for that one great leader, that magical, once-in-a-century mythical living legend to bring America back to greatness. We're coming up empty. Partly, the expectations are too high. Partly, the Republican party fell down on the job of cultivating new leadership and so there's a gap. Partly, it's a generational thing.
So, Republicans are looking for their Happy Warrior, right? They've found them.
Like Reagan, the establishment Republicans view the Tea Party folks with fear and admiration. Like Reagan, the Teapartiers cling to naive notions like limited government and the powers vested in government enumerated by the constitution. Like Reagan, the Teapartiers are unabashedly patriotic. Like Reagan, the Teapartiers are pragmatic.
The Tea Party isn't being lead by a Happy Warrior, they're a whole slew of Happy Warriors trying to push back the government tide. An army, as Glenn Reynolds says, of Davids. An army trained in the art of what's politically important by Ronald Reagan.
Doubt the pragmatism? Both Ralph Reed and Ron Paul spoke at the Tea Party conference. As did a panel, held during the general session, of three different folks debating the Fair Tax verses the Flat Tax.
Ralph Reed spoke of sharing his list of activists with the Tea Party Patriots and vice versa. He spoke of the politics of addition and not subtraction. Reed also gave Tea Partiers advice about candidate selection and pushing against the GOP. He was thrilled with this group of activists.
Really, the job that needs to be done--a restoration of the American political home--needs to happen at every level. From the local precinct chair and poll watcher all the way to the bureaucracies and the President, the government needs to be trimmed and reformed and renewed.
This kind of job is too much for one person. It's too much for a few elected officials. This job will require the steadfast action of thousands of people getting involved and chipping away, Reagan-style, at the problems.
Aside: and just like Reagan, the left loathes the Tea Party. They call them racist, bigoted, mean. Sound familiar? It's the same old, same old.
Hopefully, Reagan's warriors are not too late. America needs the Tea Party.