Thursday, April 08, 2010

Palin? Armey? Republican Or Dem? Leader Of Tea Party Is . . . No One! By Phillip Dennis



On Feb. 27 last year, small numbers of middle-class taxpayers gathered in 50 American cities to protest President Obama's $786 billion stimulus bill, signed into law without the bother of reading it. And the Tea Party movement was born.

Organized in less than a week by conservatives on Twitter, the Tea Party movement has grown from political novices into a driving force that is rapidly changing the American political landscape. The fact that no one person is guiding that force seems to encourage some people, and especially the media, to appoint one.

After her speech at the Tea Party Nation convention in Nashville, there was great speculation from the national media about whether Sarah Palin would be the leader of the Tea Party movement. After all, Palin is a known conservative with grass-roots energy and support who is largely in lockstep with the values of the movement.

No Merger With GOP

Others have alluded to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey as the leader of, or spokesperson for, the Tea Party groups around the country.

But neither Palin nor Armey, nor anyone else for that matter, will ever lead or control the Tea Party movement. That's because it's not one body, but many locally organized groups, led by local people — like me, along with two others on the Dallas Tea Party steering committee.

Each of us holds a full-time job and volunteers our time to the Tea Party movement. And while all the Tea Party groups share a number of common values and goals, no one group speaks for the others.

There has also been a great deal of speculation in the media that the Tea Party movement will become a wing of the Republican Party. That won't happen either. The various Tea Parties represent a truly grass-roots movement that operates independently of any political party. That is the beauty and the strength of the Tea Party.

It is true that many Republicans seek our endorsement because they claim to share our values. But it is also true that the media like to "anoint" a Tea Party candidate. That's what happened in the recent Texas Republican primary.

Several media sources identified GOP challenger Debra Medina as the Tea Party candidate. She wasn't; she was a Republican candidate whom some Tea Party members may have personally supported. Individuals are free to support whomever they choose, but, except for a few groups, mostly PACs, the great majority of Tea Parties are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates.

The lack of a central authority is one way in which the Tea Party movement differs from some liberal grass-roots groups such as We don't have a George Soros pulling the strings behind the curtain. Most Tea Party leaders are political neophytes brought to action by what they see as reckless fiscal behavior of both political parties.

Independence from national leaders or political parties allows the Tea Party movement freedom to act in accordance with our principles. We are not beholden to the ideology of any individual politician, group, political party or money person. It's a strategy that so far is working well.

Some may wonder why, at a time when the two political parties are becoming even more divided, the Tea Party movement is growing rapidly in numbers and becoming better organized, and has the ability to turn out record numbers of fiscally conservative voters in both the primary and general elections. The Dallas Tea Party alone has grown from 300 members in 12 months to more than 15,000 today.

It's The Economy

One reason we are becoming more effective is that we have largely eschewed social issues. We view fiscal irresponsibility as the greatest danger to America. And so nearly every local Tea Party embraces five basic principles: fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, limited government, the rule of law and national sovereignty. Of course, many Tea Party members are social conservatives, but economic issues remain the unifying principle.

The Democratic Party has largely ridiculed and insulted the Tea Party movement along with denying its growing power. Many in the Republican Party wish the movement would go away or would like nothing better than to co-opt it. But the Tea Party is wary of current Republicans whom they view as having abandoned core Republican conservative fiscal values.

We believe the worst mistake the movement could make is to replace big-spending Democrats with big-spending Republicans. Many in the movement see the Tea Party as the last chance to save America from financial disaster.

To be most effective, the Tea Party must maintain its independence and spirit against the big-spending politicians in local, state and federal government. Those big spenders, if they haven't yet, will soon learn to fear the Tea Party!

Dennis is the founder of the Dallas Tea Party and sits on the three-member steering committee.

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