When Virginia “Ginni” Thomas left the Heritage Foundation in 2008 to work for Hillsdale College, she said that the transition was her way of “pulling away from politics.” As newly elected President Obama began to push through far-left policies, Thomas started overseeing the instruction of students in the very principles that the country was moving farther and farther away from. Despite enjoying her work at Hillsdale, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas could not ignore the growing anti-government sentiment in the country.
Inspired by the rise in citizen activism in response to Obama’s policies, Thomas launched a new advocacy organization, Liberty Central. Thomas founded the group last fall and recently launched a website, LibertyCentral.org to promote education, civil discourse and citizen activism.
“Liberty Central is America’s public square,” said Thomas in an interview with HUMAN EVENTS. “It’s a virtual public square through our website where we hope to listen, inspire and activate ordinary citizens to preserve liberty.”
Thomas, who previously worked for former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, said it was the 9/12 Tea Party in Washington last year, organized in part by Armey’s FreedomWorks, that inspired her to create Liberty Central.
“When I saw those people I just kept feeling tugged inside to get to the front lines,” said Thomas. “We as a country don’t have the time to have a long-term mission right now so my focus was on trying to stop the big-government agenda.”
Indeed, Liberty Central seeks to encourage activism in response to the nation’s most pressing policy issues, including cap and trade and financial regulation reform. The organization’s website has a section dedicated to the 2010 election which features a discussion forum and will soon include an election “heat” map, showing the races of greatest interest to conservatives.
A major part of Thomas’ operation is making activism both simple and enjoyable for Americans with busy lives. “Three to five minutes a day of easy activism is about all people have, based on everything else in their lives,” Thomas said.
Daily activism is encouraged on the website through a variety of ways including a tool borrowed from FreedomWorks, through which citizens can enter a zip code and phone number and automatically be connected via telephone to their congressman or senator.
“If we can’t stop this runaway train headed for the cliff in this election in about 140 days, and then in 2012, we won’t have much of a country left,” said Thomas.
If there is one person who can help stop the big government train, it’s Thomas. Before working as an aide for Dick Armey, Thomas worked for the Chamber of Commerce and later fought against comparable-worth legislation while at the Department of Labor. Having spent nearly three decades in Washington, Thomas has gotten to know the leaders of the city’s top conservative organizations.
“I’m getting to know the Tea Party groups and the new citizen activists,” Thomas said. “What I think I can bring to the table is a connective issue between the new people and the old people.”
Liberty Central also connects activists with each other and with conservative groups. The ‘Friends of Liberty Central’ section of the website serves as a resource center for likeminded organizations. “We’re interested in playing in a collaborative way within the center-right movement and I have sensed that that’s new,” said Thomas.
Although no longer working for a formal education institution, Thomas will have the opportunity to educate a wider audience through Liberty Central’s ‘Civics 101’ section, where users have the opportunity to ask experts questions about Congress and the legislative process.
Thomas’s organization hopes to educate activists not only on policy issues but also on the nation’s founding principles. The Liberty Central website features a series of videos on the organization’s core principles starring Princeton University Professor Robert P. George.
Given her husband’s position on the Supreme Court, Thomas’ decision to create Liberty Central has not been without liberal media criticism. An article in the Los Angeles Times about the group claimed that Liberty Central would likely “test notions of political impartiality for the court.”
“I’m not in the courtroom and I’m not doing litigation,” said Thomas. “I know how to watch the lines and make sure there are no conflicts for the best friend in my life,” said Thomas, who has been married for 23 years to the justice appointed by President George H. W. Bush.
Despite having taken off her “partisan lenses” for Liberty Central, Thomas’ 501(c)(4) organization does endorse candidates. Liberty Central recently made its first endorsement, Mike Lee, who is facing Tim Bridgewater in the Utah U.S. Senate primary election. Don’t expect Liberty Central to make endorsements of just anyone, however. Thomas says they will concentrate on making endorsements in strategic races.
“We will be trying to use our influence to pick races in a way that helps create more opportunities like Scott Brown in Massachusetts,” Thomas said. “Just as we saw happen what looked to be impossible in Massachusetts, we think more of that can occur with strategic focus.”
While she acknowledges that the Tea Party is still new, Thomas says that the nation’s newest activist movement has made a difference. “Even if it feels like they are not being listened to in Washington, they have slowed down the big government agenda up until now,” said Thomas.
“I think God is pulling the best people of America to the front lines. I call them political first responders,” said Thomas. “So the good news is that the first responders came to the scene and there’s a lot more behind them.”