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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.
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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.

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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."

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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."

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tea Party Nothing Like OWS

By Michael Johns

In terms of its influence, clarity of its policy agenda, and number of supporters, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement fails to match that of America's tea party movement, whose membership ranks have swollen to the tens of millions these past two years and whose organization and passion in 2010 changed the leadership of Congress. Yet OWS's anti-establishment, anti-corporate, and anti-bailout themes have caught on surprisingly quickly, making it perhaps inevitable that media comparisons would be drawn between the two national protest movements.

But how much do the two movements really have in common? Not too much, say both political analysts and tea party leaders and activists. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Republican political pro and Fox News commentator Karl Rove contends that "Occupy Wall Street isn't a movement. It's a series of events populated by a weird cast of disaffected characters, ranging from anarchists and anti-Semites to socialists and LaRouchies."

While the OWS movement has garnered large national media attention, especially due to a sizable number of arrests and clashes with police at its events, its size is dwarfed by the tea party. Writing in The Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will observed correctly that fewer people have participated in all OWS events to date than participated in just one tea party event, the September 11, 2009 rally on the Washington, D.C. mall. "In comportment, OWS is to the Tea Party as Lady Gaga is to Lord Chesterfield," Will wrote.

Meanwhile two national Tea Party organizations have been quick to distance themselves from OWS. "The left is trying to create a counter force to the tea party, but it’s almost laughable that anyone is comparing the two, because they’re totally different," Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo told Politico. In a fundraising appeal, Tea Party Express contrasted the two movements through photos, including Tea Party members, dressed patriotically, saying the Pledge of Allegiance along with OWS members clashing with police. “Why can’t the media tell the difference between these two [sets of] photos?” Tea Party Express asked, urging Tea Party members to “stand up to these comparisons and stand up for our principles."

Another national Tea Party organization, Tea Party Patriots, sent their members an e-mail with the title, "Occupy Wall Street? They're no Tea Partiers."

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Tea Party Agenda: Restore American Greatness

By Michael Johns

History will likely record that the emergence of the 21st Century American tea party movement was sparked by a visceral national rejection of some of the most statist, unconstitutional, and threatening progressive policy proposals in the nation’s history. It also will likely record that, since the movement’s 2009 launch, it has succeeded on multiple levels: Engaging tens of millions of liberty-loving Americans in the American political process, defeating (or holding at bay) some of the worst policy proposals of this administration, and proving a demonstratively effective grassroots political force in elections throughout the nation.

So is the tea party succeeding? Held against even the most ambitious expectations that existed among those of us who participated in some of the first national tea party conference calls and events in early 2009, the answer is clearly yes. The movement now holds household brand recognition. It is justifiably feared and routinely (even if unjustifiably) disparaged by the Obama White House and the Washington establishment. And, as the nation inches ever closer to the 2012 national elections, it is proving the most intriguing political force in the nation. In short, the tea party movement is now the most influential and fastest-growing center-right political movement in American history, which of course is no small achievement.

Yet, despite these laudable successes, the tea party’s biggest challenges likely lie ahead of it, especially for this singular reason: History dictates that opposing an existing political ideology (as the tea party movement is doing successfully) is a vastly easier undertaking than providing a comprehensive, alternative governing policy agenda, which the movement is only now beginning to do in earnest. The development and advancement of that policy agenda, combined with continued improvements in the movement’s operational and organizational capabilities, are likely the most important next steps in the movement’s continued maturation and will be instrumental factors in the reach of the movement’s long-term success and longevity.

This coming challenge raises a simple question: Having followed the tea party movement now for two years, the nation understands what the tea party opposes. But what does the tea party movement support? The answer to this question is paramount, and likely includes the following:

First, a rigid adherence by government to the United States Constitution and our founders’ vision of a federal government limited in both size and scope. As has been proposed in the Enumerated Powers Act, first championed by Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) and since by others, the tea party movement believes Congress needs to begin detailing the empowering Constitutional authorities that permit the legislation that it proposes and adopts. Had the Enumerated Powers Act been in effect in 2010, it is highly likely that legislation requiring Americans to purchase health insurance (whether they want it or not) would have been immediately discarded as not meeting even a minimal threshold of Constitutional permissibility (regardless of what one thinks of the policy itself). Consistent with this agenda, the Tea Party movement also has been appropriately engaged in reigning in an imperial Supreme and federal court system that has routinely ruled in extra-Constitutional ways, undermining individual and property rights and threatening the very fabric of the nation’s rule of law.

Second, a tax system that is vastly simplified and less burdensome. While the Tea Party movement draws its name from the famous 1773 tax rebellion of American colonists against the British colonial government and the monopolistic East India Company, the acronym T.E.A, standing for Taxed Enough Already, also has appropriately been used as a motto for the movement. As the Tea Party movement has correctly observed, one of the primary roles of government is to create an economic climate that best permits the creation of jobs and prosperity for its citizens.

Achieving this requires job-creating entities, such as corporations and small businesses, to maintain a sufficient cash flow and capital reserve to afford the hiring of new workers at competitive wages. Yet, in the midst of one of the nation’s deepest recessionary economic climates with unemployment hovering near double digits, the United States continues to tax American corporations at a 40 percent rate, which is now the second highest in the world. Once the economic engine of the world, the United States has — as a direct result of its own public policies — become a less and less appealing nation for job-creating entities and millions of American jobs have been lost, transferred to other nations with less prohibitive tax and regulatory policies. Individual taxes have been equally punitive. Today, the average American family sends in excess of $20,000 in federal taxes annually to Washington, reducing their ability to meet fundamental needs and decreasing their ability to be charitable within their communities. They also continue to be burdened by a death tax, also opposed by the tea party movement, that destroys wealth and discourages investment.

The tea party movement also is vocal in its position that the U.S. tax code has become incomprehensibly complex and increasingly so with each passing year. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations and codes now contain 5.6 million words, seven times as many as the Bible. In the past decade alone, the regulations and codes have tripled in length, and it is now an uncontested fact that even the typical IRS customer service representative cannot routinely explain the code’s many complexities, which is a direct product of a government that has become too large and unruly, influenced by special interests run amok.

Third, a commitment to limiting government’s reach in the provision of goods and services. The federal government’s intrusion in assuming ownership of banks, mortgage and insurance companies, automobile companies, and other traditionally private sector industry segments threatens the very fabric of a free market economy and has been a core focus of tea party condemnation. In some respects, this reach has been facilitated by the failure of government (and federal courts) to recognize the Constitutional limitations of government, but it has also been fueled by a conscious and somewhat successful effort by this administration to undermine the core foundations of free market capitalism and expand government’s reach in becoming a provider of goods and services.

The tea party movement believes the proven inclination of the federal government to intervene in bailing out, and even assuming ownership of, private sector companies has created a dangerous economic climate that has undermined market-based and fiscally responsible decision making.

Fourth, substantial cuts in overall federal government spending. Not since World War II has federal spending and deficits, calculated as a percentage of GDP, run as high as they have under the Obama administration. As a percentage of GDP, federal spending now stands at 25 percent of total GDP. Deficits stand at 10 percent of GDP. And the federal government now routinely runs annual deficits exceeding $1 trillion (with no sign of substantial reductions in that anytime soon). This excessive federal spending hurts the American economy in numerous ways. It continues to build a culture of dependency in the nation that ultimately could ensure a vastly expanded, intrusive federal government for generations to come. It misallocates efficient resources, often through programs that do not generate wealth or prosperity and detract ever-growing numbers of Americans from the private sector at great opportunity cost. And not infrequently, these programs are wasteful, or politicized, or counterproductive, or all of these combined.

Since its formation, perhaps no issue has resonated more with the tea party movement than the fact that our federal government is simply too large, growing too fast, and threatening — by its very size alone — the vision our founding fathers articulated of a federal government limited in both size and span of functional responsibilities.

Each of these four issues is considered domestic or fiscal in nature, and the question is routinely asked whether the tea party movement has, or intends to, develop better articulated national security, foreign, and social policy proposals.

My response to this question typically has been two-fold: First, I do not believe the tea party movement is as divided on these additional issues as liberal media have sought to portray. Most tea party leaders and activists I have encountered believe that there are disturbing social trends in the nation, including the multiple problems arising from the federal government’s failure to secure its borders, the ever-alarming number of abortions (now exceeding 4,000 a day) that continue to be performed in the U.S. and the urgent need for further choice and accountability in primary education. In foreign policy and defense matters, while some tea party leaders believe the U.S. is overextended abroad, most also share Ronald Reagan’s vision that American strength, not weakness, represents the best chance for peace and freedom.

Yet, second, there also appears to be an understandable reluctance to complicate the Tea Party message by broadening the issues of its focus and potentially limiting the movement’s size and influence. For these reasons, the driving principles of adherence to the U.S. Constitution, the need for tax relief and tax code simplification, and the reigning in of a vastly bloated federal government appear to be the unifying principles that will continue to unite the influential and ever-growing tea party movement.

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