Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks seem to be genuine fans and enthusiasts of the tea-party movement.
In a Wall Street Journal column last month, the authors of “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto” write correctly: “The tea-party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party, but a hostile takeover of it.”
And that is, of course, exactly what is needed if the Republican Party is to offer a viable, constitutional governing alternative to the present Congress next year.
But, with all due respect, Armey and Kibbe are not offering the tea-party movement a beautiful, sweeping vision of an American renewal. In fact, knowingly or unknowingly, they are attempting to constrain the tea-party movement from being an effective, enduring movement to take America back.
They are part of an effort, in my view, to limit the tea-party movement to nearly exclusive focus on economic issues. That’s why I wrote and published a book that looks remarkably like their more recent book, with a similar title: “The Tea Party Manifesto: A Vision for an American Rebirth.”
My book came out on July 4 because I believe the vision for the tea-party movement is and should be the Declaration of Independence, not a list of economic grievances, as important as they might be.
The tea-party movement is comprised of tens of millions of Americans who have awakened to the imminent threat to their most cherished liberties, not just a sagging economy drifting toward socialism. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with hundreds of these activists at gatherings and rallies from coast to coast. The issues that motivate them go well beyond materialism.
They believe in God. They believe in the family. They believe in the sanctity of marriage. And they understand these are prerequisites to any self-governing society.
But some Washington insiders, like former House Majority Leader Armey and Freedomworks and the National Tea Party Federation, are promoting the idea that tea-party activism should be limited to economic issues. This is a huge tactical, strategic and tragic error and a misguided attempt to return to the old “Big Tent” notion that has crippled the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan left office.
The idea is that economic issues build a broader consensus and a bigger movement than one that is grounded on more “divisive” moral issues.
The “Big Tent” Republicans were always the first to abandon even the economic agenda once they gained power. And it will be no different in the future.
Alternatively, what I propose in “The Tea Party Manifesto” is not, as some have suggested, a bigger laundry list of issues. On the contrary, I suggest that a broad and sweeping mission statement should be adopted by tea-party activists. It’s found in a document every American should be able and willing to endorse – the Declaration of Independence.
That kind of vision permits and encourages all kinds of activism to promote limited government, the rule of law and the will of the people.
So, we have two similar-looking books with similar titles and two starkly contrasting messages.
I invite comparison. I invite debate. I invite discussion. I invite dialogue. I encourage serious consideration.
The tea-party movement represents a unique and, perhaps, last chance for Americans to use their inspired political system to preserve, maintain and expand liberty. We’ve got to get this right. There’s too much at stake. We cannot repeat the errors of the past. We can’t keep doing the same things over again expecting different results.
We need to learn the lessons our founders taught us and the lessons Ronald Reagan recalled for us.
It’s not just the economy, stupid.
It’s the liberty.