The Last Tea Party?

I can only imagine the excitement some might express at the thought…fortunately, it is nowhere near the truth.

The 9/12 Tea Parties held simultaneously in Sacramento, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. (in addition to the many smaller events held around the country) represent the last major nationally coordinated events prior to the 2010 Midterms.  The disparate Tea Party groups across the country will continue to exist in some form or another post-election, but the mission will change ever so subtly, whether conservatives win big or not.

Some truth does remain in the idea that this will be the last, though.  Up until the Midterms, the Tea Party movement focused more on rebuilding communities, returning to first principles, and generating public awareness.  While politics certainly drove much of this, there has always been a sense of political innocence with the Tea Party.  However, the primary process awakened the political undertones inherent in such a movement.  And the Midterms will completely wash away that innocence.

I have heard many try to define the movement, but I think it would be more appropriate to examine Tea Parties from a historical perspective.  Comparisons to the various Great Awakenings of our country’s past come to mind, but this has been about much more than just a religious revival.  The outpouring of people to Glenn Beck’s 8/28 event, and the views expressed by those that attended, definitely bears some resemblance to another Great Awakening.  Those from the Left that employ Alinsky’s tactics would love for that to be the case.  The Tea Party could be frozen in time as a religious movement and Beck would be an ideal target for the Left to ridicule, but neither Beck nor any religious group speak for us all and I do not think that was ever their intention.

One era that I often think about involves the time in which Alexis de Tocqueville journeyed across our young country.  Somewhere along the line we decided that there were certain topics one does not talk about in polite company.  De Tocqueville witnessed an American society in which people actively engaged in political and religious discourse.  Separation and categorization of individuals into various groups seemed less a part of our cultural fabric.  American society, while far from perfect, represented an energetic cohesion of democratic ideals never before seen in this world.

Another era I think of pertains to our country’s founding.  Due to a poor grounding in American history, many do not realize that the American Revolution was no easy task.  Independence was originally only supported by about 10% of Americans.  The British Empire had resources across the entire world.  The Founders are often maligned as a cabal of wealthy, white landowners, but people do not realize they risked their lives and fortunes to create a country that would eventually become the leader of the free world.  Would we be where we are today without their sacrifice?  Not perfect, but perhaps as close as we will ever come.

Couching the Tea Party movement in these lofty ideals does not do justice to the millions of individuals involved.  We can look to the past, but we must address the present.  We can pontificate on the future, but we cannot lose sight of our current state of affairs.  Perhaps I was too quick to write off the idea of new Great Awakening because Americans across the country have opened their eyes. The status quo cannot be sustained, and many have pledged their blood, sweat and tears to this cause.  We are not absolutely sure what we got ourselves into, but we know it is right.

This feeling will change.  As objectives become clear, and we can measure the success of our efforts, the Tea Party will become a watchdog on government.  Momentum will carry the movement into all levels of government.  I am heartened by the many individuals I meet that have decided to get involved with their municipal governments flying under the radar in the current atmosphere.  These same individuals will become our leaders on the state and national level in the future, and they will have earned it.

If one wants a sense of what the Tea Party is and was, time is running short.  Rallies like the ones on 9/12 have been the lifeblood of the Tea Party movement.  Not only did they give a voice to people’s concerns, they provided an opportunity for community.

Community brought me to the Tea Party movement.  I came relatively late.  I was frustrated with the path our government had taken, and I felt helpless.  The first Tea Party I went to was in Quincy, Illinois.  No one really knew who I was, but these strangers immediately opened up their hearts and minds.  As I became more involved, I met new individuals and groups that were always welcoming.

Your last chance to experience this community in unison with millions across the country occurs on 9/12.  Old hands and new energy will merge into a celebration of what our country was and what our country can be.  Opportunities to become involved in groups outside of established organizations will be plentiful.  Friendships will form that will last a lifetime.

This may not be the last Tea Party, but this is your last opportunity to say you were there when we decided to put our country back on track.  You were there when we decided as a community that our first principles matter.  You were there when the renaissance of civil society took place.  You were there when Americans began to open their eyes to the possibilities our country’s opportunities provide.

I will be in St. Louis under the Arch on 9/12…where will you be?

24thstate contributor, Ben Evans – St. Louis

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