This week I was going
to write a positive column filled with praise for the Massachusetts
Senate, which finally addressed the illegal immigration issue.
My father has been gone 22 years now. It's hard
to imagine him about to turn 93. But if he were my age this year,
I'm sure he'd be supporting a local tea party in western
He and my mother were Reagan Democrats. They ran
their mom-and-pop hardware store, and attended Mass after work on
Saturday so they could sleep in Sunday morning following the weekly
dance at a local club. Dad volunteered with the church and the local
youth center, chaperoning the dances I attended as a teenager. He
had his tomato patch, a few guns, his bowling and softball teams,
and his own horseshoe pit at his little camp in the woods.
The son of immigrants from Croatia, he honored
the country that they chose for him. On patriotic holidays, the
American flag flew from our front porch.
A few years before she died in 2001, my mother
was entered into the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame for "having
voted at every November election for at least 50 consecutive years,"
according to the commemorative plate given her by then-Gov. Tom
Ridge. She and I enjoyed talking politics in our weekly phone
visits; she'd be supporting the tea party this year, too.
So there are two profiles for those who are still
trying to define this modern "tea party." I'm a member, too, though
without the church-going and dancing. I'd guess that most taxpayer
activists across the country are comfortable with one use of the
acronym TEA: Taxed Enough Already. Yet I don't see taxes as the
defining issue, except in the sense that high taxes fund a
government that many Americans find has grown too big.
The Tea Party is a cultural revolt between the
Real People and the Beautiful People, as WRKO talkshow host Howie
Carr calls them, people like my parents against those like Barack
Obama who scorn them for "clinging to their guns and their
However, there are many of us who don't own guns
or belong to a particular organized religion. And the social issues
have been mostly set aside for the duration of the 2010 campaign.
While many tea partiers may be social conservatives, these newcomers
to political activism weren't so concerned about social issues that
they were inspired to become actively involved earlier in their
lives. Something besides these issues, besides taxes, brought them
out to their first tea party rally.
That something seems to be a sense that the
America they grew up in is changing, that the basic values they took
for granted are under assault. Many of us longtime political
activists thought we were a besieged minority; the "silent majority"
of the mid-20th century had been silent for so long that we'd
forgotten they were there. Now we learn that more people than we
realized "get" the United States Constitution, the vision of the
nation's founding fathers and the sense of "who we are," or at least
who we have been, as a nation. A surprising number of young people
have somehow absorbed this, as well.
It's interesting to listen to professional
analysis of the upcoming election. Many pundits are still "partying
like it's 2008," as the song goes. They are focused on political
parties, not political movements. They follow the traditional rules
of electioneering, recycle the usual slogans, expect the usual
response from a barely attentive electorate.
This is evident in the commentary on the Nevada
senatorial election, where tea party activist
Sharron Angle defeated
eight other candidates in the Republican primary for the right to
take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Washington insiders
chortle that she was Reid's preferred candidate, the easiest to beat
because she's "wacky" and "wild," with some well-known "radical"
But they are missing the "don't care" factor. I
was in a forum with Angle at the National Taxpayers Union conference
a year ago. Our subject was initiative petitions, and she was
warning that the new game is for adversaries to deplete advocates'
time and money on frivolous court challenges. Of course, we bonded
immediately in this arena, but aside from that, I agree with her on
maybe half the usual issues, and strongly disagree on some of them.
The point is, during Revolution 2010, I don't care.
I don't care if she thinks Scientology might help
rehabilitate Nevada prisoners. I do care that she wants to save her
constituents, which include my grandchildren, from crippling
national debt and the decline of America. Last year at this time, I
gave my son, a Harry Reid supporter, a contribution to her campaign
for his July birthday, and he'll be getting the same gift this year.
Rand Paul, a Libertarian with whom I do probably
agree on most things, won in Kentucky even though I'm sure very few
of his voters are actually Libertarians. They did seem to like his
pro-America, pro-Constitution, anti-deficit message, though.
Here in the Massachusetts' 6th District, it's an
even easier choice to support
Bill Hudak, whose political philosophy
is much like that of our pre-Tierney congressman, Peter Torkildsen.
This week, I'm sending candidate Hudak a contribution to honor my
father the tea partier. Happy Father's Day, Dad.