By Harold Pease, Ph. D
Pundits do not agree on the specific origin of the Tea Party Movement but they do agree that it began in the last week of February 2009 and became a powerful sensation over-night with no specific identifiable founder. There were hundreds of founders including myself. It was as though everyone was frightened by the direction of government at the same time—certainly a grassroots movement. Encyclopedia coverage of its origin and early history is foreign to those of us who were there on the front lines. They tie the movement to extreme breakoffs of other movements going back to the sixties seemingly in some bizarre attempt to cast doubt on its legitimacy, but the Tea Party Movement was as American as apple pie. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the televised press, excepting FOX News, has never been friendly toward this movement.
Actually the movement began in opposition to George W. Bush’s $700 billion stimulus bailout package at the end of his term, which received bi-partisan support from President-Elect Barack Obama and the Democrats. Both parties were on the same page and taking us in the wrong direction—bigger government and debt insanity. Tea Party groups began to spring up everywhere in February 2009, each with their own leaders. Three city leaders in the east, learning of the simultaneous rise of sister cites, contacted each other to compare notes. They liked the name Tea Party because they wished, by that name, to emulate our founding philosophy. Even so, they were uncertain what their core values should be so they invited Internet submissions from the thousands who felt similarly. Still, there was no known single leader. My daily submissions encouraged getting back to the Constitution. The three most frequently submitted core values, and the one’s selected, were: limited constitutional government, free market and fiscal responsibility—precisely the collective views of our Founders and believed to be the values supported by most Americans today.
In time prominent names would emerge notably Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and the now strongest group, the Tea Party Patriots, led by Jenny Beth Martin would come to dominate the movement’s presence on the national level. Still, many groups chose to remain independent and influence only local governments.
In my community the leader of the movement was Julie Demos, a second grade teacher, who had no prior political experience making her the perfect leader. This was the gathering of the people who no longer wished to use political party, but the Founders core values, in promoting good government. Between three and five thousand folks gathered at the Liberty Bell in April 15, 2009, many spoke, including myself. Over 600 cities throughout the nation had similar gatherings. The movement was not party based. We wished to attract those who desired to get back to these neglected core values. Our own Congressman Kevin McCarthy and House Speaker John Boehner, were denied the podium for that reason. They attended and viewed the proceedings as spectators as did everyone else. This was not a Republican Party rally! Fifteen thousand heard myself and others speak on getting back to the Constitution at the Tulare Ag Center on July 4, 2010, in support of over a million who gathered in Washington DC. Two other times such numbers gathered in the capitol before years end making these gatherings the most assembled since the days of Martin Luther King Jr.
Although not intending to align with either political party, negative press coverage, primarily from the left hostile to its core values, emerged from the outset. The Tea Party, so undermined by a hostile press, never had a chance in the Democratic Party. Establishment Republicans accepted it in the 2010 election because it gave them the House of Representatives but treated it as a wayward child. Trust between them never really developed the following years. The Tea Party views establishment Republicans as but giving lip service to America’s core values. Today the Tea Party appears to be more popular than ever despite the demonizing from both political parties and the establishment press, excepting Fox News.
Happy fifth birthday Tea Party, some of us value movements that actually fight for liberty. We believe that we literally fight for the same principles as our Founding Fathers and invite everyone that loves the Constitution and liberty to stand with us. We believe that our time is just as critical as was theirs. See you at the next Tea Party event.