What the Tea Party Movement Means for Conservatives
As I have travelled across the country on the Tea Party Express buses, I have been struck by the similarity to the early days of Ronald Reagan. The explosion of interest by every-day Americans in taking their country back, as well as the biased mainstream media trying to portray conservatives as crackpots, is all hauntingly familiar.
Will the tea party movement be the beginning of another Reagan Revolution, as I think it will, or will the left-wing media be right that we are nothing but a collection of fringe players who don’t represent America — like the Obama administration does?
I had the good fortune and good sense to temporarily abandon my college education to work for Ronald Reagan during the 1966 Primary Election for Governor of California. Stationed in Los Angeles, I was charged for bringing out crowds for Reagan’s events in Southern California. It wasn’t hard work. Crowds were huge and enthusiastic everywhere we went.
Conservatives today have forgotten how desperate we felt after the Goldwater defeat in 1964. While we were gratified in taking over the GOP from the Rockefeller, me-too wing in favor of “bold colors,” many activists felt we faced a hopeless task. You couldn’t go to a conservative gathering without someone handing out brochures about Australia or New Zealand becoming the next hope for freedom-loving people.
At one rally in Orange County a gentleman asked Reagan what would we do if he lost? Reagan without missing a beat said, “I’ll come back to Orange County and we will secede.” That brought thunderous applause — not unlike what you hear in Texas today. It was many years later before I realized that Reagan was only joking. He was convinced that we would take our country back.
The people that turned out for Reagan were by-and-large new to politics. They brought the vigor and determination to succeed without the negative attitudes of conservatives who had fought and lost in the past. Those newly empowered political activists saw America declining, but were determined to reclaim the American dream. And they saw Reagan as the leader who spoke the truth and could rally the people.
The media, of course, had a field day with Reagan. They painted a picture of this ignorant actor who could only read the lines his speech writers had given him. They said he would destroy every good government program and the poor and hungry would be abandoned in the street. This nonsense pretty much continued with Reagan until the time he left office, and the reality has struck even liberals that he was one of the greatest presidents in American history.
Over the last three months I have participated in 75 rallies in 30 states plus the massive DC rally on September 12th. Nearly 2 million Americans have turned out for these Tea Party Express rallies. The remarkable thing about the attendees is that they are just like you and me. They are Americans who believe in their country and see that it is terribly off course, much like those early supporters of Ronald Reagan.
Amy Kremer, who is as close to the founder of the tea party movement as there is, has been on the tours. She starts her comments off by saying, “I am just like you. I am nobody special, just a mom who was tired of yelling at my TV or radio over what they are doing to our country.” And that is exactly what the crowds are like — just full of solid Americans who believe deeply in our “shiny city on a hill” as Reagan use to say.
They are decent people. Our rallies are positive and patriotic with a moving tribute to our military heroes, past and present. There is no hateful mob, just patriotic Americans. When we returned from our first tour, singer-song writer Lloyd Marcus (author of the Tea Party Anthem) was talking to his 82 year old dad who said he saw on TV how our rallies were full of people who wanted Obama dead. Lloyd said, “Dad, I bet you saw that on CNN.” His dad said, “[Y]es.” How irresponsible for a major news network to portray millions of Americans who are trying to get our government to adhere to constitutional principles as vicious thugs.
But ideas matter more than biased media coverage. The tea party movement has captured America’s attention, and it isn’t going away. There are a few nuts that have attached themselves to the movement, as some did to Reagan also; there are some bad leaders, much as we have had mixed in with good ones in the past. But the heart of the tea party movement is to get America back to the principles that made her great. I think Ronald Reagan would have been a proud tea partier too.