Amid some of the most flagrant abuses of the federal government in our country’s history, the Tea Party movement has emerged to give voice to Americans’ frustration with Washington. It has energized thousands of voters to respond to out of control government spending and encroachment on American liberty.
In recent years, such disillusionment in government has yielded nothing more than apathy; voters were unhappy with their government but didn’t think they had the power to change it. Poll numbers steadily dwindled, as did hopes for America’s future. Finally, the Tea Party gave voters an outlet in which to voice their frustration, but more importantly it gave them the ability to effect change.
The Tea Party’s influence can be seen in the results of the recent Midterm elections, where Republicans gained more than 60 seats to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives. At least 13 state lawmakers have joined Republican ranks since the Nov. 2 elections, including six in Georgia where conservative candidates swept every statewide office. In a recent Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of those surveyed said they believe the Tea Party has made political parties more responsive to the views of ordinary U.S. citizens.
However, time will be the true measure of the Tea Party’s effectiveness. While it motivated people to go to the polls, it will require a narrow list of guiding principles and tenants, combined with an effective leadership and strategy, to have positive long-term effects and become the catalyst for change it purports itself to be. This includes assuming the role of a watchdog, holding our elected leaders accountable. After getting conservative candidates elected to office, it must ensure that those leaders stick to the conservative principles for which they were elected.
While keeping its sights set on taking back Congress and the presidency, the movement must also stay active at the local level to really achieve long-term change. Grassroots activism is what this country needs; an open dialogue between elected officials and their constituents is critical to a successful democracy. Finally, as with any organization or government, it must do so without creating an overreaching and meddlesome management structure and burdensome bureaucracy of its own.
In an excellent article published before the November elections, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan effectively argues that the Tea Party “saved the Republican Party” in two ways. First, by giving the GOP a way to get off the couch and be what you say you are, and do what you say you will do. This is the transformational gift the Tea Party gave to the GOP, aka the Lion King effect: “Remember who you are. You are more than what you have become.”
The second point Noonan made was that the Tea Party saved the GOP by not supporting a mass third party effort. This is the Tea Party’s transactional gift. Anyone who remembers the Ross Perot factor knows the third party’s numbers typically favor a spoiler for the GOP, and thus a default win for the other side. Multiple third party candidates in certain races could have kept the GOP from winning back the House of Representatives.
Our country has never before faced so many large issues at once, with so few easy options. Hard choices are necessary, but it’s good to know that so many ordinary Americans are ready to support those hard choices. Thanks to the Tea Party and those it represents, we have the first real opportunity in a generation or two to bring our country back to what made it the greatest nation on earth.
So get off the couch, get involved and help get our country back on track. This effort needs you, the country needs you, and a better future needs you. That tingly sensation in your spine is not a cold chill. It’s called American Pride; always present, but recently rekindled by our friends and neighbors and served with a spot of tea.
Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.