I respect, even embrace their frustration with Big Government getting bigger. They demand that the United States federal government live within its means.
Because of conservative enthusiasts, I have a new appreciation for the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the principles which animate both documents.
The recognition of a Benevolent Creator, one who has granted us natural rights, which define who we are, is a novel concept to many young people today.
The fad of defining ourselves based on color, ethic background, legal status, gender wears thin for many young adults.
The Tea Party Movement reminds that this country is one nation under God, and that individual freedom must trump government expansion.
The more time that I spend working in politics, however, the more I realize that in order to effect change against the system, activists have to work in the system. The Occupy Movements failed to learn this lesson. The Tea Party Movement put their feet forward, supported candidates who would stand up to Congressional waste, force the government to cut spending, and start dealing with its long-term debt.
Four years later, and the movement has met its hits and misses. They have scored some amazing wins at the local level, and in Congressional seats. The US Senate races have had more hits and misses, including winnable Republican seats which have fallen into Democratic hands because of resentful infighting.
Overall, the tenure in Washington is frustration and gridlock, and unshakeable necessity with a President who believes that he can write, rewrite, or ignore laws as he pleases.
Yet, at the local level, I also find that aside from demonstrations on street corners, and frequent Facebook posts, that local chapters are not doing anything as engaging as other interest groups.
And therein is the deepest issue: Tea Party groups have been great at amassing individuals who are frustrated with the direction of the country, the squalid, illiberal leadership, the breakdown in respect for eternal values, and the infiltration of academic progressivism into our public schools.
But what do they want to do about it?
I have met individuals who are taking the steps to teach young people about the Founding Fathers and the values on which they framed the federal government. Enthusiastic and prosperous immigrants, now entrenched conservatives seeking resurgence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are stepping out of their comfort zones to educate young people about why America is a great country, one in which individuals and the several states maintain a healthy distrust of the federal government and its encroachment into daily decisions.
Yet to this day, aside from grumbling about the state of the country, or their state, or their city, aside from phone calls and Facebook pages, aside from the echo chamber of passionate, liked-minded individuals agreeing with each other, nothing substantive is taking place as far as policy is concerned.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we cannot look merely to the politicians we want, or whom we get elected into office. The responsibility rests on us to advocate, to campaign on key issues, to make city officials and their associates listen and respond to our concerns.
Where are the Tea Party members to attend city council meetings, to speak with leaders, to form strong relationships, to get answers? Where are the local residents to demand that their city councils curb spending, respect life, and maintain open lines of communication with their city? Not just watchdogs, but more positive and effective than attack dogs, conservatives need to be dogging their leaders.
Tea Party members need to form specific interest groups which will meet the following criteria:
1. Define focused benefits/goals
2. Maintain a relatively small number
3. Release, offer selective incentives. Members who participate will benefit directly, and only they will benefit.
It's about concentrating and focusing power, and the Tea Party Movement has the energy to do it. Now it's time to focus that energy into specific, conservative goals. It is not enough to shout "We need to go back to the Constitution!" We need to talk about how to get people to do that. We need to make victories little by little to accomplish these goals.
If men and women are worried about public education, they can form a coalition to deal with curriculum issues. Committees are already in place to allow individuals the time and opportunity to participate, and confront their local leaders.
Now, there is one issue which cannot be ignored. Different members have unique temperaments. Some people have no problem taking to a dais and making their views well-known. Other people are reticent about speaking up, and fear the shame or retaliation of making their views known.
The second part is a key component. People need more than knowledge; they need encouragement. If a concern is engaging enough, I imagine that parents, local leaders, will step up and do something to make their views well-known and intent on doing something about it. If enough people are concerned, and gather together to make their say and take a stance, then more people will likely join them, investing their time and energy. Once again, it all goes back to incentives. Do people sharing their concerns feel that they are getting something for what they are doing?
To the Tea Party Movement, I had wanted to shout "Put up or Shut Up!" Now, I am more inclined to work with concerned individuals, find common interests, and define the selective incentives which accompany them. The key is now encouragement, and getting people to know that they can hope for the better, and that they can have influence in their cities, with their friends and neighbors, and achieve lasting change (or restoration).
Today, I realize that many people who are concerned about their country, their state, their city, their schools, they feel overwhelmed, unsure what to do. The massive protests of "Taxed Enough Already"" were a welcome beginning, but now it's time to put this energy toward focused benefits, clearly defined goals, and political involvement beyond votes and protests.