Monday, February 2, 2015

The Tea Party: Then and Now

The largest and most impactful grassroots political movement, at least since the civil rights movement and perhaps in all of American history, originated in the minds and efforts of less than a dozen Americans.  

It was late February 2009, just weeks after the inauguration of Barack Obama, and there was every reason for conservatives to fear the worst: That we had elected a polarizing, far left and ultimately ineffectual president who would prove a threat to constitutional law, our economy and America’s global standing in the world.  Most concerning was that he would gradually or even quickly erode our nation's two centuries of respect for individual rights and liberties upon which America was founded, “fundamentally transforming” (as he promised) our nation in destructive ways.

On the morning of February 19, 2009, as was often the case, I had the financial media outlet CNBC playing on a distant television in my suburban Philadelphia home.  This particular cold February morning, Rick Santelli, a Chicago-based CNBC reporter, was doing his usual stand-up reporting from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade (COMEX).  Santelli began reporting on Washington’s federal subsidies of housing under Obama when mid way through his report his sense of outrage began to escalate passionately.

Santelli accused the Obama administration of "promoting bad behavior" in subsidizing mortgages then at default risk with a $75 billion housing program, known as the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. He then turned and, while still live on CNBC, stated assertively to COMEX floor traders: "We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party!" His suggestion of a Tea Party response to the federal government’s overreach was greeted with supportive applause and whistles of approval from COMEX traders. Santelli then said: "What we are doing in this country is making our founders roll over in their graves.”

I found Santelli's Chicago comments accurate, inspirational and even bold for a mainstream reporter in a media world that really never challenged Obama on much of anything during or since the 2008 campaign. What I did not realize was that his remarks were viewed similarly by several other conservative-leaning Americans, who would go on to inspire a national political movement that would shake the nation.

Just a few days following Santelli’s rant, 12 or so conservative activists, including me, were invited to participate in a strategic organizing Tea Party conference call moderated by Nashville-based, Stanford-educated conservative Michael Patrick Leahy.  It was Leahy who earlier launched the now famous #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter) hashtag, where it remains today one of Twitter’s most commonly used hashtags and a key methodology for conservative communication. 

Most on the call, unlike me, were new to political engagement.  They had largely never worked in government, public policy or politics. Aside from Leahy and me, the others had never managed an organization either.  They had largely never written or spoken on political or public policy themes, even though all of us would soon be called upon to articulate our Tea Party message nationally and even globally in the weeks to come.  Most had never even worked on a political campaign.  But the passion on that call was infectious.  The 12 or so of us left it with a feeling that a potentially influential national political movement was emerging—and quickly.

Several follow-up calls were scheduled, and they led us to devise a now well-known plan for Tea Party protests across the nation on Tax Day, April 15, 2009.  The aggressive six-week timeline, like much that the Tea Party movement has undertaken since its creation, was organized hastily, with a sense of urgency, and not without its errors. But April 15, 2009, is now a fairly notable day in American history in the sense that it was the physical manifestation of a national political movement, comprising tens of millions of Americans and quite possibly the largest in American history, that would go on to impact significantly the nation’s political debate and power structure.

The day of April 15, 2009, was a busy one. For my part, in the afternoon, on Boston Square in downtown Boston, just blocks from the original Samuel Adams-led Tea Party on December 16, 1773, I spoke to a large and passionate crowd furious with Obama and the country’s direction.  I then left Boston to speak that evening at one of the nation’s largest tea parties of the day, held in lower Manhattan, not far from the memorialized 9/11 attack location. Three days later, on the grounds of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, I spoke for a third time in just three days to a very large and vibrant Tea Party rally organized by the Independence Hall Tea Party Association, of which I was then an officer. 

The years 2009 and 2010 were full of flurry and a sense of urgency for the national Tea Party movement, an urgency that has continued to this day.  In 2010, in Quincy, Illinois, where Lincoln held his sixth debate with U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas on October 13, 1858, I joined Leahy and the late media personality Andrew Breitbart in addressing a large Tea Party crowd on the precise location where Lincoln pointedly articulated his anti-slavery message: “We (the Republican Party) also oppose it as an evil so far as it seeks to spread itself,” Lincoln said that day in Quincy. 

By this time, the message of our movement was being refined and polished, comprised mostly of three universal themes that were and continue to be both constructive and broadly popular with the American people: First, the federal government has grown too big and its taxes vastly too excessive.  Second, the sovereignty of the United States—in controlling its borders, in developing its national security and foreign policies, and in other matters-- must be defended at all costs.  And third, that the U.S. Constitution was a document containing absolute truths to which government needed to adhere if it was to avoid lawlessness, chaos and an erosion of its foundational liberties.

As I was in Boston and New York City, Leahy and others organized one of the day’s largest and most successful events in Nashville, drawing thousands.  In downtown Chicago, just a couple blocks from where the Santelli rant heard round the world took place, another Tea Party founder, Eric Odom, organized a large and hugely successful Tea Party rally.  

Quickly, the passion and activism of this small cadre spread to thousands, then tens of thousands, and ultimately to millions of Americans who identified themselves as being supportive of the Tea Party movement. On November 2, 2010, a highly motivated Tea Party movement rocked the nation, sending 65 new Republican House members to Washington and thus forcing then Speaker Nancy Pelosi to surrender her gavel to new Republican Speaker John Boehner. Four years later, on November 4, 2014, the Tea Party movement again proved a huge difference maker, further increasing Republican presence in the U.S. House and increasing its U.S. Senate seats by nine, including pulling out wins in hugely contentious races in many states, including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, and South Dakota. 
Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Tea Party Caucus, chaired by former Congresswoman Michele Bachman, had been developed with the movement’s input to coordinate the Tea Party agenda in Congress.  And the national strategy discussions continued. In Chicago, for instance, Odom and I spent three long days in detailed discussion on the movement’s strategy, messaging, decentralized structure and allocation of limited resources. 

In the months and years since, along with other Tea Party founders from the February 2009 conference call, we continued tireless efforts of what by then had become a vast, influential, though sometimes chaotically organized movement of political consequence. All the Tea Party movement founders from Leahy’s first conference call are impressive in their own ways, and have their own personal stories about what sparked their leadership in this now historical movement.
In the years that followed, along with other national Tea Party leaders, Leahy, Odom and I crisscrossed the nation articulating the Tea Party message and helped to organize the movement politically in order to prevail in elections.  

In Dallas, for instance, Leahy organized a national Tea Party leadership meeting that included many of the founders from the original February 2009 conference call.  “Let’s begin this meeting with a prayer to God for His guidance of this movement,” I suggested privately to Leahy, who agreed. We began the meeting exactly that way.  Later, also in Dallas, we organized a two-day training course for regional and other Tea Party leaders on political and public policy activism.

One of those leaders was Chicago-based Eric Odom, who has been an ongoing national Tea Party force--and a friend.  Odom had been a part of the first Tea Party organizing calls and influential in the development of the successful April 15, 2009 Tea Party rally in Chicago.  In fall 2010, from Las Vegas, Odom and I poured ourselves into the final days Nevada State Senator Sharron Angle's U.S. Senate campaign in hopes of replacing the Obama administration’s strongest Senate ally, Harry Reid.  As the movement’s prominence (and the associated strategic questions facing it) evolved, I found Odom one of the movement's most constructive leaders.  We visited together for strategic discussions in Chicago.  And on my home turf of Philadelphia, I invited Odom to join me in addressing a large and important pre-election Tea Party rally held on the iconic grounds of Independence Hall in front of the very building where 56 founders of our nation pledged with a “firm reliance of the protection of divine providence,” their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to remove imperial British forces and rule and establish a self-governed nation rooted in liberty and the rule of law. 

But together Odom and I also helped each other laugh off the obsessive, unjustified and inaccurate politically-motivated criticism we endured by organizations supported by billionaire liberal George Soros and others whose agenda has been to mortally wound our movement.  Some of it bordered on the outrageous.  In May 2011, for instance, Odom and I were leading a highly confidential national Tea Party strategic leadership call when Lizz Winstead, creator of Comedy Central's Daily Show, and liberal comedian Elon James White crashed our call after call details, secured codes and other information were leaked or surreptitiously obtained by a still unknown source.      

The Tea Party movement’s efforts, as even its detractors would concede, have since proven hugely consequential, ensuring that Obama, at least since 2011, was not given full reign of the legislative and executive branches of government.  A Tea Party-influenced Republican House and Senate, along with our extensive grassroots efforts, have held liberal Obama’s agenda at bay, despite the Tea Party’s ultimate inability to defeat Obamacare.  Along the way, tens of millions of Americans, comprising all races, religions, political party affiliations, and demographics, have embraced our work and embraced our patriot and Tea Party labels.   

Since that first February 2009 conference call, the founding and ongoing development of the historic Tea Party movement is comprised of many intriguing personal stories, and a singular collective story.  Along the way, we have done many things well (removing Pelosi and then Reid as Speaker and Majority Leader, respectively), strengthening the Republican Party as a party that stands more than before for conservative principles expressed (but too often ignored) in the GOP platform, and we also quickly obliterated the 2008 progressive political culture that maintained that Obama was a man who singularly held the answers for the nation.  Time has proven his ideas were not at all innovative and were actually just a rewording of those from the liberal playbook of more government and more taxes.  In all these ways, since those February 2009 planning calls, the national Tea Party movement has exceeded the accomplishments of the effective and well-constructed 2008 Obama for America campaign that ultimately propelled Obama to the presidency.

All this history is important because it reaffirms the veracity of Margaret Mead’s famous statement: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” It’s worth asking: If those first organizing calls had not been launched, would Republicans today control the U.S. Senate and House? If no, that means that Obama’s entire far-left political agenda would have been rubber stamped by an equally liberal Congressional leadership.  Has the Tea Party movement saved the nation?  I believe it likely has.

Yet, to be truthful about the inner workings of the Tea Party movement, we have done many things well, but failed in others.  In 2015, the Tea Party and patriot movement’s top priority must be communicating and impacting public opinion and explaining why and how Tea Party principles can make America great again: creating jobs and economic prosperity, restoring rigid adherence to the U.S. Constitution, and restoring a strong America that can defeat serious national security threats.  We must demonstrate to the American people, as they already seem to be recognizing, that liberalism is a false religion ultimately about the manipulation of society for political ends.  

With a reliance on divine providence again, let’s roll back this utterly destructive, unconstitutional government and welcome in a century or more of strong liberty leadership.  Next step: We must explain our Tea Party vision and solutions for America.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 18, 2014

Listen to the American People: Secure Border, No Amnesty

By Michael Johns       

“He was tortured, beaten to death, strangled and then set on fire,” Laura Wilkerson said earlier this month in McAllen, Texas. She was recalling her beloved 18-year-old son Josh, who was brutally murdered by illegal alien Hermilio Moralez in November 2010.

The details of Josh Wilkerson’s murder are gruesome. Moralez, in the United States illegally from Belize, violently kicked Wilkerson in the stomach, slicing both his liver and spine and rupturing his spleen. The illegal alien then proceeded to beat Wilkerson over the head with a closet rod with such force that the rod ultimately shattered in four pieces. With Wilkerson defenseless and motionless, Moralez then took two dollars from Wilkerson’s wallet, purchased gasoline, and set Wilkerson’s motionless body aflame. Moralez's mugshot reveals a young man smiling smugly. Later, at his trial, the illegal alien would speak from the stand about how he was a “trained killer” and that his “killing instincts” had taken over. There was no remorse.

Young Josh Wilkerson is just another life lost and another cost paid in a long list of lives lost and costs paid because Washington, D.C. policymakers continue to fail to do what logic and all sensibility dictate should have been done decades ago: Securing the United States border with Mexico so that illegals are not afforded access to the United States.

The U.S. federal government’s multi-decade failure to secure its 1,989-mile border with Mexico now stands as the most glaring example of both major political parties’ ongoing refusal to be responsive to the American people’s overwhelming belief that this border needs to be secured.  Josh Wilkerson’s murder stands as just one of many examples why it is now perhaps the most critical issue facing the nation, presenting increasingly grave economic, security and other threats.

It’s worth asking the obvious question: With more than 35,000 illegals monthly now crossing the border into the U.S., why exactly has this border not been sealed? Laughingly, the Obama administration has said that the border with Mexico is more secure than it has ever been. It’s a sentiment shared by Congressional Democrats. “The border is secure,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid absurdly stated last month. Other policymakers acknowledge the obvious, but obfuscate the issue, speaking wrongly of supposedly insurmountable challenges associated with keeping illegals from entering the country.

The reality, of course, is the very opposite. The U.S. border with Mexico is consciously not secure because (for decades now) both parties have seen a political self-interest in ensuring it is left unsecured. Democrats, envisioning ultimately granting citizenship to these illegals, see the influx as politically advantageous: Millions of largely government and benefit-dependent illegals who, once afforded amnesty, will (Democrats believe) represent a groundswell of additional votes for their party and its candidates, possibly ushering in generations of Democrat victories in national and regional elections. Similarly, some Republicans, influenced by the desire of some private sector forces to attract cheap, illegal and sometimes sub-minimum wage labor resources, see the influx as a means to breaking organized labor and serving as a deflationary force in the largely blue collar and labor positions these illegals are likely to assume. Never stated openly is this reality: The U.S. does have a policy on the border, and it is--scandalously--to keep it open.

In many respects, it is exactly this sort of unresponsiveness of elected officials to the concerns of the American people that gave birth to America’s Tea Party movement in 2009. Five years later, the practical reality of Washington’s unresponsiveness is such that this crisis may now well be left to the Tea Party movement to solve. Should the Tea Party embrace this cause, as we must, the movement can count on more ridicule from Washington elites. But the Tea Party will find an ally in the American people, who see the seriousness of the border crisis, resoundingly support logical conclusions to it and importantly believe this administration has been at least complicit and likely even a force behind the latest influx of illegals that now threatens the nation.

Support for border security and opposition to amnesty is broadly popular. In a Rasmussen Poll taken last month, on July 17, a clear majority of likely voters (59 percent) were clear: They want those who have entered this country illegally to be returned to their home countries. And the American people largely recognize this is not a blameless crisis: Another Rasmussen poll, also taken last month, found that nearly half of likely voters (46 percent) believe the Obama administration, through its policies and statements, has contributed to it. Understandably, an overwhelming majority of Americans (58 percent, according to the same poll) believe the top priority in the crisis is for the U.S. to gain control of its border.

The arguments for urgently securing the border with Mexico and opposing Washington’s illogical amnesty initiatives are extensive and they strike at the very heart of the issues that most concern Americans:

1.) National security. The American people have patiently endured extensive and intrusive governmental security measures since the September 11, 2011 attacks, ostensibly designed to protect the country against an al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist attack. They can be forgiven for asking a reasonable question: What point exists in prohibiting American citizens from boarding U.S. airlines with, say, 3.5 ounces of non-flammable liquid, as opposed to the mandated 3.4 ounces, when literally any non-citizen--including the bloodiest of terrorists--can simply walk across our southern border?

As it is today, our government cannot answer basic questions about the flood of illegals across our border. How many illegals exactly have crossed the border and are in this country? There are only estimates (more than 12 million and as many as 20 million or more). Where in the U.S. are these illegals located? Answer: Just about everywhere, but no government agency can say exactly. And how many of these millions of foreigners have crossed the border illegally with malicious intentions for this country? We do know that they have included members of a broad range of global terrorist movements, violent gangs (including arguably the most violent, MS-13) and felony criminals, including murderers, violent criminals, rapists, and sexual offenders. And even when (by good fortune alone) they have been detained, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have released thousands of these illegal felons into the general U.S. population. As evidence of the utter lack of border security to criminals and potential terrorists, videographer James O’Keefe last week released video of him crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the U.S. dressed as Osama bin Laden. What barriers did O’Keefe encounter in entering the U.S. dressed as the infamous al-Qaeda terror leader? Answer: None.

2.) Jobs. America’s job crisis is vastly worse than what one might gather from the numbers released monthly by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which systematically exclude the many millions of Americans who comprise the long-term unemployed and those who have simply given up looking for work. Including these, there are roughly 102 million working-age Americans without jobs as of August 2014, an all-time high and growing. A stunning study released by the Center for Immigration Studies this past June found that all of the net gain in American jobs created since 2000 has gone to illegal and legal immigrants—that is, there has been no job growth for 14 years for native U.S. citizens.

It is absurd that the obvious must be stated: Basic supply and demand economics indicate that granting amnesty to the estimated 12 to 20 million illegals now in this country will only further exacerbate the U.S. employment crisis, both adding to the existing number of jobless Americans and also contributing to wage deflation (lower pay) as a greater number of Americans compete for a fewer number of existing jobs. As such, it should not prove surprising that sealing the border and opposing amnesty are items very high on the agendas of traditionally progressive constituencies, including labor unions and African-Americans, both of whom correctly see amnesty and a failure to secure the border as a recipe for higher unemployment and wage deflation, especially in traditional blue collar and lower wage occupations.

3.) Public resources. It is perhaps the greatest irony of all that progressives who clamor for vastly greater federal and state funding for health care, education, transportation and other public services are also those spearheading the opposition to border security initiatives and amnesty support. The influx of millions of illegals has only made all of these mounting problems worse as illegals consume these resources (and, of course, pay no offsetting federal or state taxes in exchange for them).

4.) Fairness. Many millions of foreigners from all over the world are, right now, legally seeking U.S. citizenship. The legal process to obtain U.S. citizenship is cumbersome, bureaucratic and lengthy. Unlike the illegal aliens now here because of their brazen disregard for U.S. federal law and national sovereignty, these would-be U.S. citizens follow this process both legally and patiently. Under amnesty proposals, however, these foreigners, those we might call “legal immigrants,” continue waiting in their foreign lands as those who crossed our southern border in violation of U.S. federal law are rewarded with U.S. residency, access to many of our country’s public benefits and infrastructure, and ultimately citizenship. These illegals will enjoy the backing of an entire U.S. political lobby that (motivated by its own selfish political and economic agendas) seeks to reward their lawless entry with the same highly-coveted U.S. citizenship denied those now following the process legally.

5.) Will of the American people. There are few issues on which Americans are more united than the fact that the borders of the country should be secure and that those who enter this country illegally in violation of U.S. federal law should not, in turn, be rewarded. The American people remain understandably compassionate towards those fleeing tyranny, but they are united in their logical, on-target conclusion that open borders and amnesty are harming the U.S. in multiple ways. Indeed, perhaps never before in the modern history of the conservative movement, has there been such an enticing opportunity for conservatives (and now the Tea Party movement) to build political alliances with unions, minorities and low-wage workers than there is right now in supporting an urgent securing of the U.S. border and opposing amnesty, showing that the Tea Party and conservative movements stand with working Americans and the rule of law.

Of course, all of these are facts lost on most Washington policymakers who are increasingly disengaged from the sentiments and concerns of the American people they purport to represent. Americans in 2014 are hurting. Failing to secure the border and granting amnesty to millions of illegals stand to further inflame these problems, damaging the already anemic U.S. job market, increasing crime and the demand on public resources, and perhaps even opening the door for what Americans have feared most since September 11, 2001: a coordinated terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland. These are deadly serious problems. But a political movement that can, right now, understand and communicate these facts with the urgency they require is likely to find broad support among the American people.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa's Real Message? A Still Conflicted Tea Party Movement

By Michael Johns

At least for the next few days, the results of today's Iowa caucuses will dominate the political coverage of the tea party movement and the movement's influence on the 2012 Presidential election. But whatever those results end up being tonight, polls of individual tea party organizations continue to reflect a tea party movement deeply conflicted on which candidate is likely to best represent tea party principles and still defeat President Barack Obama in November.

The good news for the tea party movement's likely effectiveness in this year's general election is that the movement is united on supporting whichever Republican ultimately arises as the party's nominee. Scott Rasmussen, a pollster known for his accuracy, said December 30 that over 90 percent of tea party-aligned voters intend to vote for whichever Republican wins the nomination. That's bad news for Obama, whose top political advisers have hoped that the tea party movement would erupt in civil war over the primary process or, worse yet, support a third candidate, thus splitting the Republican vote.

Meanwhile, however, individual tea party organizations are reflecting deeply conflicting sentiments about their aspirations for the ultimate Republican nominee. In mid-December, reenforcing the promise of Newt Gingrich's candidacy, 23,000 members of the national tea party organization Tea Party Patriots granted Gingrich the most support among all candidates (with 31 percent saying they supported Gingrich), followed by Michele Bachmann (28 percent), Mitt Romney (20 percent), Rick Santorum (16 percent), Ron Paul (three percent) and Jon Huntsman (less than one percent).

Since then, however, two regional tea party organizations have announced candidate endorsements. In Illinois yesterday, the Rockford Tea Party announced results of its organizational poll, which was won by Paul (with 29 percent support) followed by Santorum (24 percent support).

Also yesterday, the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC, which has supported conservative candidates in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, became the first tea party organization in the nation to endorse Romney.
In announcing the endorsement, however, the organization appealed mostly to the perceived electability of Romney in November's general election. The tea party movement, the organization said, has "come to realize, or will eventually realize, that the only way to defeat President Obama, whose policies are an anathema to conservatism and the tea party movement, is to rally around his strongest opponent, Mitt Romney."

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leadership Bid Reflects Growing Tea Party Influence in World's Greatest Deliberative Body

By Michael Johns

The tea party movement began in an unassuming way: A series of March 2009 conference calls of a couple dozen conservative and libertarian activists from across the nation. How far it has come. Yesterday, after taking back the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2010 and growing its rank and file members into the millions in less than three years, the movement made a bold but ultimately unsuccessful bid for a leadership position in the United States Senate.

With tea party support, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) challenged U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) for vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. With all 47 Republican Senators casting votes, Blunt won the vote narrowly, 25 to 22. But the tea party-supported Johnson challenge proves important symbolically as a demonstration that, while tea party-affiliated members of the U.S. House of Representatives have proven hugely influential in guiding the direction of that legislative body, support for the tea party movement and its policy agenda is growing in the U.S. Senate too.

Since the vote was conducted by secret ballot, no official list of how Republican Senators voted is available. But in garnering 22 votes, Johnson proved that the Republican minority of the U.S. Senate is increasingly sympathetic to tea party sentiments. Even in his home state of Missouri, Blunt failed to garner the support of the three Republican candidates now vying to face Democrat U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in this November's general election, a sign that Republican candidates fear alienating the increasingly powerful tea party movement, whose support is deemed critical in national, state and municipal primaries across the nation.

Following his electoral victory, Blunt suggested that he hopes to be responsive to the tea party movement's policy agenda. "I hope that six months from now they're not disappointed," he said.

Several national tea party organizations and leaders had been vocal in support of Johnson's bid for the leadership position.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Staten Island, the Promise of Newt Gingrich's Tea Party Support

By Michael Johns

No Republican Presidential candidate has yet solidified the support of the nation's tea party movement. But Newt Gingrich's hugely positive reception this past weekend at a Staten Island Tea Party event certainly suggests that the politically burgeoning Gingrich has good reason for optimism. Reception to his remarks this past Friday was perhaps best captured in a New York Post headline: "Staten Island Tea Partiers: Newt's a beaut."

In his remarks to the Staten Island Tea Party, Gingrich challenged President Barack Obama to seven three-hour debates should Gingrich become the Republican nominee. "Let's be fair. I'll allow him to use a teleprompter," Gingrich joked to the 700 attendees.

Gingrich also addressed head on the several Republican Congressional opponents who have announced opposition to his candidacy. "I am a very aggressive reformer," Gingrich said. "I have stepped on a lot of toes. It means some congressmen who have petty interests find themselves unhappy," he said.

Gingrich openly mocked Obama's indecisiveness on a proposed Canada-to-Texas petroleum pipeline. "It's one thing to say somebody can't play chess. It's a second thing to say somebody can't play checkers. But you can't play tick-tack-toe, too?" he said. He called Obama "delusional" for labeling himself a "friend of Israel" during a recent New York City fundraising visit.

Gingrich's successful Staten Island Tea Party appearance was accompanied by news that former Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella has endorsed his candidacy.

In polling, Gingrich has seen a substantial increase in his national support since Herman Cain's announcement this past weekend that he was suspending his campaign. In an average of recent national polls conducted Monday by the political website Real Clear Politics, Gingrich has now surpassed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the leader among all Republican Presidential candidates. Romney, the Real Clear Politics poll summary showed, has fallen to third, behind Gingrich and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX).

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Silencing the Problem Solvers

By Michael Johns

We should know at least this by now: One of the first signs of failed and lost political leadership is often the creation of a government commission.

On the surface, the development of such commissions might project the image of non-partisanship, seriousness, deliberation and urgency. In reality, though, it more typically reflects political cowardice, rooted in obfuscation, deflection and even dereliction of duty by elected leaders unwilling to take responsibility for the decisions they promised the public they would make on their behalf.

So it has been with the Obama administration. When it comes to politics, this administration is all hands on deck, ruthlessly disparaging its political opponents, dividing the public by class and demographics, and even attempting to invent new bogeymen to distract the public from its own colossal failures.

What is the specific Obama plan for reducing our federal deficit and prioritizing our federal government expenditures? Who knows? With support from his liberal Congressional allies, Obama delegated that responsibility to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Supercommittee, which three and a half months later has reported that it has nothing to report and was unable to develop any consensus on the committee's charged mission of presenting a deficit reduction plan.

Did the commission fail? That's the wrong question. The more proper question is where is this President's own solutions? What is his own plan for addressing the fiduciary crisis that he contends inflicts our nation's federal entitlement programs? You won't be seeing that plan because this administration knows it is not a vote winner. Instead, they will blame Republicans, blame the commission, and try to deflect the nation's rage. That is one thing this administration has done with some success, and it is what we can expect of it between now and November 6, 2012.

There is good news, however. Some institutions are doing the hard work. Such is the case with The Heritage Foundation, which has offered its detailed "Saving the Dream" plan to simplify the tax code and address the coming crises in federal entitlement programs.

It also is the case with FreedomWorks, which last week released, on behalf of America's tea party movement, "The Tea Party Budget." In so doing, FreedomWorks has done more for America than this President has yet to do: Present a concrete and comprehensive plan for reigning in federal expenditures, reducing the federal debt and bringing the American government into the 21st century while still preserving the tenets of our founding principles.

The details of The Tea Party Budget are thoughtful and an indication that America's tea party movement, unlike the President, is not shrinking from the detailed and sometimes difficult burdens of governance. Among the plan's highlights, it would:

**Cut, cap and balance the federal budget;

**Balance the federal budget without any increase in taxes;

**Reduce federal spending by $9.7 trillion over the coming decade;

**Reduce federal government spending from its current level of 24 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest since World War II, to a more realistic 16 percent; and

**Expand the choices afforded citizens as it relates to their Social Security contributions and, for the elderly, medical plans available under Medicare.

One would think that such a constructive and detailed plan would be welcome in Washington, even among those who may disagree wholly with the plan's details, because it at least begins the hard work of moving from meaningless political rhetoric to concrete solutions.

Yet, this administration and their Democrat allies in Congress are not policy creatures; they are political ones, and this means a strict aversion to constructive solutions, especially those offered by perceived political enemies. As U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) began to convene the FreedomWorks meeting this past Thursday in the Russell Senate Office Building, stern-faced aides of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) encircled it, informing Lee that it violated an obscure component of the Senate Rules Committee that prohibits unofficial meetings as being advertised as "hearings."

Of course, there was no advance notice given Lee or FreedomWorks. Of course, none of Schumer's aides gave much consideration to the fact that there was nothing particularly unique about this particular gathering that had not occurred countless other times in the very same building under the name of "panel discussion," "briefing," "roundtable," or other apparently innocuous nouns. And of course, there was no consideration to the fact that, in dozens of American cities right now, the Occupy movement, without permits, has spent weeks held up on government and city grounds--offering no real concrete solutions to anything.

Fortunately (thanks to Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies), the FreedomWorks meeting was simply moved down the street, where the voice of the people was more welcome. But the image of Washington's liberal elite attempting to silence the tea party is one worth keeping in mind as a political contrast, particularly as next year's electoral season nears: On one hand is a movement offering concrete solutions to America's most pressing challenges; on the other is an arrogant governing elite that continues to rely only on the power of the state and its legal minutia to silence constructive solutions at a moment when America needs them desperately.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Than One Deficit Reduction Committee Report

By Michael Johns

Conventional wisdom holds that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, often referred to simply as the Supercommittee, is the sole entity working on a plan to reduce America's deficit. That committee, created by the Budget Control Act of 2011, has until November 23--a week from today--to identify a means to cut the nation's deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. The Supercommittee is comprised of 12 bipartisan members of Congress: U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), John Kerry (D-MA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Rob Portman (R-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) and U.S. Representatives Xavier Becarra (D-CA), Dave Camp (R-MI), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Fred Upton (R-MI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Some speculation holds that the committee may go big, identifying up to $3.7 trillion worth of deficit reductions. But should the committee fail to reach a consensus on at least $1.5 trillion of cuts, an automated plan will kick into place to cut the deficit, including deep cuts to the nation's defense budget that many believe could prove threatening to the nation's security.

Less known is the fact that this committee is not the only one at work on a deficit reduction plan. The Tea Party Debt Reduction Commission will present its findings this Thursday, and it will include a plan to balance the federal budget in less than a decade, reduce federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), reduce the national debt to at least 66 percent of GDP, and reduce federal spending by at least $9 trillion over the next decade--all without raising taxes. Like the Supercommittee, the Tea Party Debt Reduction Commission consists of 12 members, including tea party leaders from Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia.

In presenting its recommendations, the Tea Party Debt Reduction Commission drew on the input of multiple public hearings around the nation and online voting by tea party activists on federal spending cut priorities. In a press release issued Monday, the Tea Party Debt Reduction Commission said its findings "will serve as the tea party's response to the super-committee's likely disappointing findings, and negate the establishment narrative that tea partiers can't identify specific cuts to the budget. Tea party leaders around the country know that Washington can do better, and plan to release materials documenting exactly what cuts can--and should--be made to preserve America's economic future."

The tea party recommendations have been facilitated by the grassroots conservative organization FreedomWorks. Its president Matt Kibbe said that the tea party recommendations will "show Washington that there is a strong, grassroots constituency to support bold budgetary reform." The tea party committee's recommendations will be presented Thursday at 2pm in Room 325 of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. The public can follow the tea party recommendations on Twitter by following hashtag #TPDC.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Mitt Romney Question

By Michael Johns

In an apparent effort to appeal to the tea party movement, which is expected to prove hugely influential in determining the 2012 Republican nominee for President, candidate Mitt Romney spoke to Americans for Prosperity's "Defending the Dream" summit this past Friday, offering his most detailed proposals to date for reigning in government spending.

Romney's proposed cuts would cap federal spending at 20 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (current federal spending comprises approximately 39 percent of it). Among his significant proposed reforms, he would privatize Amtrak (saving $1.6 billion) and curtail public funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which runs PBS) and the Legal Services Corporation (which provides legal assistance that is largely duplicated by state, municipal and philanthropic sources). His proposed cuts also include eliminating Title X family planning funding (a primary source of funding for Planned Parenthood) and reducing foreign assistance by $100 million.

Americans for Prosperity, which maintains 34 state chapters and claims 1.8 million members, is one of several influential national organizations that have expressed support for the nation's tea party movement.

Romney's proposals, however, are proving unpersuasive to some tea party leaders and activists. Earlier today, a coalition of conservatives announced the formation of the "Not Mitt Romney" coalition, which is seeking to unite conservative and tea party voters against the former Massachusetts governor. Its first advertisement features numerous public comments by Romney that deviate substantially from established conservative policy positions, including Romney expressing support for the 2008 TARP bank bailout and distancing himself from the administration of former President Ronald Reagan.

The coalition's three founders are Ali Akbar, a Republican communications consultant, John Hawkins, a conservative blogger, and Matt Mackowiak, a conservative political consultant. In a November 4 Des Moines Register op-ed, the three wrote that Romney "is not a conservative" and criticized his historical policy positions, including pro-choice stands, refusing (until recently) to sign Americans for Tax Reform's "no tax" pledge, raising taxes during his Massachusetts governorship and supporting the Brady gun control legislation.

The three have also challenged the often-made "electability" argument for Romney, which holds that the former Massachusetts governor is the best-positioned Republican candidate to defeat President Barack Obama in the November 2012 general election. Romney lost a 1994 campaign for the U.S. Senate to Ted Kennedy and, most recently, the 2008 Republican Presidential primary to John McCain.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OWS is no Tea Party

By Michael Johns

As the Occupy movement enters its second month, the inclination to compare and contrast it with the nation's mammoth tea party movement is proving irresistible. The Occupy protests are “not that different from some of the protests we saw coming from the tea party,” President Barack Obama suggested to ABC News last month.

But aside from both movement's populist foundations and a shared opposition to the 2008 TARP bank bailouts, few other specific common denominators are emerging. "No matter how similar the tea partiers and the Occupiers appear, they will never agree about most of the political questions that matter," Huffington Post columnist and author Kent Greenfield wrote earlier this month in a column generally supportive of the Occupy movement.

From the tea party perspective, the comparisons are being similarly rejected with a growing sentiment that the differences between the two movements are striking not just from a policy standpoint; they go right to the heart of the ethos of each, perhaps best reflected in the tea party movement's general civility compared to the theft, violence and property damage associated with many Occupy protests (arrests at Occupy protests nationwide now exceed 3,000 with countless incidents of property damage, violence, and even rape).

FreedomWorks president and tea party supporter Matt Kibbe, author of Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, wrote in a November 3 Wall Street Journal op-ed that "when tea partiers petition their government for a redress of such grievances, as more than one million did on Sept. 12, 2009, they don't get into fights, they don't get arrested, they say 'excuse me' and 'thank you,' they wait in hopelessly long lines for porta-johns, they pick up their trash and leave public spaces and private property exactly as they found them." "No one told myself or other tea partiers to do these things; we just believe that you shouldn't hurt other people and you shouldn't take their stuff," he wrote.

A new public opinion poll released yesterday by The Daily Caller and conducted by The Resurgent Republic shows that both movements enjoy the support of slightly more than a third of the American electorate, with 37 percent viewing the tea party movement favorably compared to 34 percent for the Occupy movement. Among politically critical independent voters, however, the tea party enjoys substantially greater support than the Occupy movement, with 41 percent viewing it favorably versus only 32 percent for Occupy.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Tea Party and Florida

By Michael Johns

Among states critical to winning both the Republican nomination for President and the 2012 general election, few are likely more important than Florida.

At least three factors make the Sunshine State a critical one for Republican presidential candidates. First, the staggered schedule of state elections continues to make early caucus and primary electoral success essential to securing the nomination. With its primary scheduled for January 31, 2012, Florida is proceeded only by Iowa (January 3), New Hampshire (January 10) and South Carolina (January 21) in the electoral schedule. Second, as a product of population growth reflected in the 2010 U.S. Census, Florida has gained two additional electoral votes. Now holding 29 electoral votes, the Florida electoral prize lies only behind California and Texas (and tied with New York). And third, in modern electoral history, only one Republican presidential candidate has lost the general election while winning Florida (George H. W. Bush in 1992), and none has won without it. Republican victors (Richard Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, George H. W. Bush in 1988, and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 all carried Florida). Republican losers (Gerald Ford in 1976, Bob Dole in 1996 and John McCain in 2008) failed to carry it.

This influence made this past weekend's first ever Florida tea party convention in Daytona Beach an important one as the state's tea party-aligned activists begin affiliating with presidential campaigns and making decisions about how they will cast their January 31 votes. Presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich called in to offer remarks to the convention, and Rick Santorum addressed it in person. Perhaps most important, as The Miami Herald reported, many attendees continued to express grave reservations about the candidacy of Mitt Romney, who, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released today, is tied with Herman Cain among likely Republican voters.

"Some of these Republicans think they have our votes in the bag no matter what, but they don't," Florida tea party activist Don Koll told The Herald. "They're turning their back on us, and they will pay a price," he said. Another convention attendee, Kelly Staples of Jupiter, Florida, said: "I have yet to meet a committed Romney supporter. I don’t know why people are trying to make him the inevitable nominee, when he’s not."

Among Presidential candidates addressing the convention, Santorum focused on his electability, calling himself "the most electable conservative in this race." Gingrich, in his remarks, called President Barack Obama "the best food-stamp president in American history." Bachmann echoed her campaign message that the U.S. needs to be "a pro-growth, self-reliant nation." The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that the best reception at the convention was given to Cain, who declared that "the attack on my character has backfired."

The convention, however, was also notable for several no-shows, including tea party-supported Florida Governor Rick Scott and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, both of whom had been invited. The convention was organized by Pam Dahl, who leads a tea party organization in The Villages in Central Florida. "We were very pleased for it being our first convention," she said. A 2012 Florida tea party convention, she said, is likely.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Virginia Tea Party Alliance: Democrats "Need to Be Held Accountable"

By Michael Johns

Less than a week before Virginia's November 8 general election, northern Virginia State Senate Democrats are on the defense as the tea party movement late last month began airing a widely-broadcast advertisement calling for their ouster. Purchased by the Virginia Tea Party Alliance, the advertisement targets seven northern Virginia Democrats, associating them with "Obamacare," in-state tuition assistance for illegals, high taxes, and big government.

The tea party ad praises Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who sued the federal government in March 2010 over alleged unconstitutional provisions of the Obama-supported health care legislation. The seven tea party-targeted Democrats include five Virginia Senate incumbents: George Barker (Fairfax County), Charles Colgan (Prince William County), Mark Herring (Loudoun County), Chap Petersen (Fairfax County), and Toddy Puller (Fairfax County) - and two candidates - Barbara Favola (Arlington County) and Shawn Mitchell (Prince William and Loudoun counties).

Virginia Tea Party Alliance executive director Karen Miner Hurd says each of the targeted Virginia Democrats "need to be held accountable for their support of the president’s destructive policies like Obamacare and extreme environmental regulation by the EPA.”

As with other swing states, Virginia's state elections are considered something of a barometer of national political sentiment. President Barack Obama won the state by a six point margin in the 2008 Presidential election. Currently, the House of Delegates is controlled by Republicans. Democrats maintain a slim 22-18 majority in the State Senate.

The Virginia Tea Party Alliance describes itself as "a third force in politics, not a third party."

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How Rick Perry Can Win the Tea Party

By Michael Johns

No Republican Presidential candidate has yet solidified universal support of the tea party movement, but the battle for that support is intensifying. How big is the tea party prize? Still less than three years old, one in four American voters--in excess of 50 million Americans--now support the tea party movement, according to the most recent Gallup poll.

One candidate whose candidacy would be substantially elevated by a more universal embrace of the tea party movement is that of Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose conservative credentials were largely unchallenged prior to his entry to the race. But tea party and Republican support for Perry has fallen substantially since September.

The fall has been steep. A September 20 Gallup poll of Republican voters showed Perry leading all Republican candidates, with 31 percent support (seven points higher than that of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney). However, three weeks later, on October 15, Gallup found that Perry's support among Republican voters had slipped to 15 percent, placing him behind both Romney (20 percent) and Georgia businessman Herman Cain (18 percent).

What accounts for Perry's slip? Many signs point to a growing recognition among tea party and Republican voters of Perry's unpopular decision to provide illegal aliens with in-state tuition rates to Texas colleges and universities. "You put in place a magnet to draw illegals into the state, which was giving $100,000 of tuition credit to illegals that come into this country," Romney told Perry during a Republican Presidential debate last month.

Possibly intensifying concerns about Perry's candidacy among tea party voters, the Texas governor has been unapologetic in defense of the policy. "Are we gonna create tax wasters or are we gonna create tax payers?" Perry asked last month in New Hampshire.

Tea party concerns about Romney's continued support for the 2008 TARP bank bailouts and a mandated health insurance plan (not so dissimilar from Obamacare) for Massachusetts during his governorship have long troubled tea party activists and, to a large extent, opened the door for possible broad tea party support for Perry and other Republican candidates. But Perry's handling of issues related to border security and illegals continue to hamper that broad embrace.

Those who may know Perry's record best--Texas tea party leaders--continue to raise red flags concerning his candidacy. Last month, as it appeared unlikely that Perry was going to support Republican-sponsored legislation that would empower Texas law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of those they detain, Texas tea party leader JoAnn Fleming derided Perry. "Governor Perry's decided, apparently, that he just needs to keep pointing the finger at Washington D.C., which absolves him of any responsibility," she said.

Still, Perry's otherwise exceptional conservative record as Texas governor, combined with his $17 million campaign war chest, offer him an opportunity of recovering tea party support if he can win back his credibility on issues related to border security and illegals. Such a step might begin with him rescinding his support for in-state tuition assistance for illegals and a reversal of his position on empowering Texas law enforcement to assist in enforcing the nation's immigration laws.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tea Party Influence: The Case of

By Michael Johns

Chances are good that you have never heard of the Canadian rock band, The Tea Party. Formed in 1993, the band broke up briefly in 2005, recording seven albums in their largely unremarkable 15-year career. The band's most popular album, The Edges of Twilight (released in 1995), sold 270,000 copies. None of their songs have ever received wide airplay in the United States, but two of their most successful ones, "Lullaby" and "Soulbreaking," did rise to third on the Canadian Singles Chart. The band's 42-year-old lead vocalist Jeff Martin, from Windsor, Ontario, looks the part, slightly resembling a crossbreed between The Doors' Jim Morrison and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

And should you find yourself in Saskatoon, a city in central Saskatchewan, on November 20, you can catch the band live at a 20,000-square-foot venue called the Odeon Events Centre. But chances are you won't be in Saskatoon that day, if ever.

What does make the band hugely relevant, however, is that it owns the Internet domain name,, and that ownership may now be its key to seven-figure riches as the Tea Party movement continues its ascent as the largest and most influential grassroots movement in U.S. political history. Not oblivious to the growing influence of the Tea Party movement, the band retained Boston-based Sedo, a domain brokerage firm, to sell its domain name. “It’s very rare when a domain name of this value and significance becomes available – especially one that is so timely and relevant,” Kathy Nielsen, Sedo's director of sales, said in an October 15 press release.

Earlier this week, Nielsen told Politico's Patrick Gavin that Sedo beat out 30 other firms in bidding for the exclusive right to sell the domain. So far, she says, they have received eight offers for it, and she predicts that the domain will sell within the next 30 days.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Tea Party and Mitt Romney

By Michael Johns

Among the tea party movement's many political and policy accomplishments, it is now well established that the movement has positioned itself as the most influential force in determining the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. But while the movement's political influence is indisputable, its precise political preference in the 2012 Presidential election remains less clear. Each Republican candidate can point to some degree of support within the tea party movement, and several candidates--such as Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Ron Paul--can even boast that the tea party movement constitutes a substantial foundation of their respective national political support.

And then there is Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor may well represent the most significant paradox and challenge to the tea party since the movement's 2009 founding. While the Tea Party is unified in the objective of removing President Barack Obama in 2012, it is less clear whether the movement is prepared to select a candidate such as Romney, whose conservatism remains in question over his continued support for the 2008 bank bailouts and a mandatory state health insurance policy that he instituted during his governorship. "Romney is not a conservative," conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh stated unequivocally earlier this month.

Yet, according to a Gallup Poll released earlier this month, Romney remains competitive among self-identified tea party voters, garnering the support of 17 percent of them. That places him substantially behind frontrunner Herman Cain, who is preferred among 27 percent of tea party voters, and one point behind Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is preferred among 18 percent of these voters. But it places him ahead of the six remaining Republican Presidential candidates, several of whom are self-declared tea party candidates: Bachmann, Paul, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Jr., Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum.

Despite his third place showing in the recent Gallup Poll, however, several tea party groups and leaders remain adamantly opposed to his candidacy. "I don’t know of a single tea party person who likes or supports Romney,” Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, told The New York Times this past August. The Washington, D.C.-based group FreedomWorks, which has been supportive of the tea party movement, similarly has derided Romney, with FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe stating that "if every political opportunist claiming to be a tea partier is accepted unconditionally, then the tea party brand loses all meaning."

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 21, 2011

An Emerging Tea Party Anthem?

By Michael Johns

Music has long had a foothold in many national protest movements. For the tea party movement, which is now arguably the largest such movement in American history, a growing number of music groups and songs have proven appealing, receiving play at the thousands of tea party events held nationally since the movement's 2009 launch. To date, however, no singular song or group has received the broad embrace that, say, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young did by the liberal protest movement of the 1970s, which embraced songs like "Woodstock" and "Ohio" as reflective of their movement's ethos.

For the tea party movement, however, all this may be beginning to change, The New York Times reports. Krista Branch's "I Am America" is now receiving growing play at various tea party rallies and has been adopted as a campaign theme song for tea party-supported Herman Cain's Presidential campaign. "The first time I heard that song, the message was so right-on I felt goose bumps just listening to it," Cain told The New York Times.

The song's lyrics, authored by Branch and her husband, were inspired by the tea party movement and depict the arrogance of a governing elite who ignore and demean the sentiments of the American people. "Pay no attention to the people in the street, crying out for accountability. Make a joke of what we believe, say we don't matter cause you disagree," Branch sings in the song.

Branch says the tea party movement's most unifying theme is that America is the greatest nation on Earth. The tea party movement, she says, is "not so much a rebellion as a love for this nation and a love for freedom."

Bookmark and Share