The tea-party movement has failed.
I say this as a big supporter of the movement.
I say it as someone who, with great accuracy, predicted the rise of this movement in a book way back in 2003 and again in 2008.
I say it as someone who was hopeful the tea-party movement would be a big success in pressuring Washington to return to the foundations of constitutionally limited government upon which our nation was founded.
And I say it as the author of “The Tea Party Manifesto” – a book I lovingly wrote to and for the encouragement of tea-party activists across the country.
But it’s time to be brutally candid and honest about the state of the movement.
It failed us in 2011.
This concerns me as we inch closer to the presidential election cycle of 2012. As successful as the tea-party movement was in mid-term elections of 2010, it was that unsuccessful in 2011 because it failed to hold the new Congress accountable to its promises.
What am I talking about?
The biggest failure was the lack of pressure applied to the House Republicans to hold the line on debt. It’s a sad reality, seldom pointed out by anyone but me, that House Republicans empowered by the tea party last year had all the clout they needed to stop the borrowing madness. A simple no vote on raising the debt limit would have done it. Immediately, the U.S. government would have been forced to radically prioritize its spending habits. It would have been the biggest move back toward constitutionally limited government in the history of the republic – and House Republicans held all the cards.
But the tea-party movement was not out in the streets demanding it.
The tea-party activists did not mobilize phone chains to offer counter-pressure from the Washington establishment.
The tea party has still not in any significant way denounced House Speaker John Boehner for the sellout of all the tea-party movement delivered to him – including his very position.
I was stunned to see one of the largest tea-party organizations in America recently refer to Grover Norquist as “a tea party hero.” Grover Norquist was one of the architects of the Boehner sellout on the debt deal. Was that a heroic act? He’s also up to his neck in associations with the Muslim Brotherhood. Is that the kind of American the tea-party movement looks to for inspiration and leadership?
Meanwhile, a new movement has arisen across America. It doesn’t have the impressive numbers of the tea party. But it is the talk of the nation. The “Occupy” movement dominates the headlines. This is where grass-roots political activism is today.
And maybe, just maybe, tea-party activists need to take a cue from it.
The values of the tea-party movement are being drowned out by the cacophony of the “Occupy” movement. Of course it’s deliberate. Of course it’s orchestrated. Of course it is well-funded. Of course it is designed to do just that.
But it seems to me it’s past time for the tea-party movement to raise its voices again – the way it did following the 2008 election and right up until election day last year.
Where have you gone?
Has the movement been sold out through co-optation by politicians? Has it become a commodity rather than a grass-roots, spontaneous uprising? Is it possible to revive it? Can America afford for it not to be resuscitated?
That’s what I’m wondering today.
Will it be a factor in the election next year?
Will it be a factor in selecting a Republican nominee to challenge Barack Obama?
This is a call to action and prayer for all those who consider themselves tea-party activists or supporters of tea-party activism.
The stakes are high.
Time is running out.
Do we have the energy and intensity to save America from going off the cliff?
Are we willing to do what we did from 2009 through 2010?
Can we recreate the spirit and rebuild the momentum?
Or should we just throw in the towel and kiss America goodbye?