Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe have written an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about what defines the Tea Party movement. Everyone concerned about the vast expansion of government under President Obama and the Democrats should read Armey and Kibbe’s “Tea Party Manifesto”
They discuss the start of the movement and the famous rant by Rick Santelli calling for a “Chicago tea party”. Those of us who have been there from the beginning know that Santelli wasn’t the first to talk about a “tea party” (read, for example, Michelle Malkin’s “From the Boston Tea Party to your neighborhood pork protest” days before Santelli’s comments about a Chicago tea party), but Santelli played a crucial role in introducing American voters to the Tea Party movement.
The rebellion’s name derives from the glorious rant of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who in February 2009 called for a new “tea party” from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By doing so he reminded all of us that America was founded on the revolutionary principle of citizen participation, citizen activism and the primacy of the individual over the government. That’s the tea party ethos.
What’s the criteria for membership in the Tea Party?
The criteria for membership are straightforward: Stay true to principle even when it proves inconvenient, be assertive but respectful, add value and don’t take credit for other people’s work. Our community is built on the Trader Principle: We associate by mutual consent, to further shared goals of restoring fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government.
What frightens politicians in Washington is that the Tea Party is a movement without a centralized leader. It started at the grass roots and utilizes both traditional networking and the powerful new ways of networking made possible by social media on the internet.
The many branches of the tea party movement have created a virtual marketplace for new ideas, effective innovations and creative tactics. Best practices come from the ground up, around kitchen tables, from Facebook friends, at weekly book clubs, or on Twitter feeds. This is beautiful chaos—or, as the Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek put it, “spontaneous order.”
Decentralization, not top-down hierarchy, is the best way to maximize the contributions of people and their personal knowledge. Let the leaders be the activists who have the best knowledge of local personalities and issues. In the real world, this is common sense. In Washington, D.C., this is considered radical.
This decentralized mode of operation is the opposite of how Democrats want to run America:
The big-government crowd is drawn to the compulsory nature of centralized authority. They can’t imagine an undirected social order. Someone needs to be in charge—someone who knows better. Big government is audacious and conceited.
By definition, government is the means by which citizens are forced to do that which they would not do voluntarily. Like pay high taxes. Or redistribute tax dollars to bail out the broken, bloated pension systems of state government employees. Or purchase, by federal mandate, a government-defined health-insurance plan that is unaffordable, unnecessary or unwanted.
For the left, and for today’s Democratic Party, every solution to every perceived problem involves more government—top-down dictates from bureaucrats presumed to know better what you need. Tea partiers reject this nanny state philosophy of redistribution and control because it is bankrupting our country.
Armey and Kibbe also make a bold statement about the relationship between the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party:
But let us be clear about one thing: The tea party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party, but a hostile takeover of it.
The American values of individual freedom, fiscal responsibility and limited government bind the ranks of our movement. That makes the tea party better than a political party. It is a growing community that can sustain itself after November, ensuring a better means of holding a new generation of elected officials accountable.
Democrats love to talk about how the Tea Party could hurt Republicans. They fail to understand that the Tea Party movement energizes voters who will vote for Republican candidates. There is a struggle in Republican primaries between Tea Party candidates and traditional Republicans. In some primaries, the Tea Party candidate wins, in others the traditional Republican wins. This is a healthy conflict. It challenges the Republican Party to embrace the principles it has stood for since the time Ronald Reagan was president.
We won’t always agree on who is the better candidate. Some races create bitter rivalries. We will need to get beyond these conflicts and focus on getting the best candidate elected in November.
As the primaries wind down, Tea Party activists, Republicans and independent voters who oppose the policies of the Obama administration need to unite behind the Republican candidate for each office. If you support a third party candidate, you effectively increase the chance of the Democrats to continue the policies of the Obama administration. In November, voting for Republican candidates is the most effective way of advancing the Tea Party agenda.