With 4,000 tea party patriots rallying against big government and higher taxation in St. Louis yesterday, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this phenomenon is here to stay.
This is not some flash in the pan movement. Americans have been protesting the Administration’s spendthrift policies at least since February. And the roots of this movement may even go back to the fall of 2007 when people started flocking to the libertarian Ron Paul’s quixotic campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.
Tea party protests certainly belong on any list of the top 10, if not top 5, phenomena of 2009. If Time magazine took conservative ideas seriously, they would consider these protestors as candidates for People of the Year.
As a gay conservative, it’s reassuring to see the rise of these protests. It shows that the energy on the right is not among the social conservatives seeking to stymie the growing acceptance of gay people in America today. Instead, the energy is among those of us who seek to reduce the size of government, thus increasing individual freedom.
Watching the increasing number of Americans rallying to the cause of freedom reminds me of the relief I felt back in 1994 when I first read the Contract with America. After it appeared to some that Republicans were moving in the direction of social conservatism in 1992, the Contract showed the GOP returning to its small government principles. We’re seeing the same thing today.
And as Republican officials and candidates recognize the resilience of the Reaganite ideas embodied in these protests, seeing them as a legitimate expression of the sentiment of a growing number of Americans (confirmed by a recent Gallup poll), they’re beginning to realize to win back to congressional majorities, they need focus on cutting government spending and reducing federal regulation. And oppose the Obama Democrats’ big government solutions to our nation’s problems.
So, don’t be deceived about the direction of American conservatism in the post-George W. Bush era. You can see it on the streets of cities across the nation. And read it in the polls. The tea parties may not yet have succeeded in returning America to its small government ideas, but they have galvanized a large segment of the American people. And showed that the principles Ronald Reagan so eloquently articulated still resonate far and wide across the fruited plain.