Dad would have enjoyed this tea party
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, June 17, 2010

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 Pennsylvania.

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 religion."

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" positions.

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.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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