The Tea Party Grows Up | Commentary
The gleeful speculation of the “demise” of the tea party amidst disappointing 2014 primary results is giving way to a very different reality.
Seasoned political observers have come to realize that the opposite is in fact true; the tea party is maturing as a political movement. Even The New York Times admitted as much when it proclaimed that “on Capitol Hill, the Tea Party wing continues to drive the party’s agenda.”
In other words, we lost some primaries. We won some too. But most importantly, all of the Republican primaries were run on our terms and on our issues. It is clear from TheTeaParty.net’s meetings with members of Congress that there is a growing realization that the Republican Party needs us if it is going to thrive, not only in 2014 but beyond. These members are also aware that if they break their campaign promises or fail to uphold the Constitution, there may be no hope to hold their seats.
As Congress returns to Washington, we plan on continuing to influence Congress and hold lawmakers accountable in Washington. For TheTeaParty.net, that means a relentless focus on four main items:
National Debt/Debt Ceiling: While the United States remains the dominant military, social and economic power on the planet; the ultimate source of that power — economic vitality — is in peril. We have a $17 trillion debt that promises to be north of $20 trillion by the time President Barack Obama leaves office. Our organization is determined to fight against spending programs we can’t afford, and a bloated national debt that mortgages the future of the next generation.
Export-Import Bank: The Ex-Im Bank is a program that hands out freebies to large companies already dominating overseas markets and undermines free-market principles — it’s crony capitalism. Even then-Sen. Obama cited the Ex-Im Bank as a government program that doesn’t work and called it “little more than a fund for corporate welfare,” during the 2008 campaign. Now we hear from the president that we must renew the program — the hypocrisy is outrageous. The tea party will be actively engaged in this debate, reminding lawmakers that they need to reflect the desires of Main Street, in addition to those of Wall Street.
Immigration Reform: Through initiatives such as Secure America Now, we have been very successful in influencing the immigration debate, but we must stay vigilant and unified in our call to secure the border before broader reforms take place. We enthusiastically encourage legal immigration and assimilation, but we must not grow the social welfare state. If we gave amnesty to the 11 million people here illegally, what will ensure that we won’t be dealing with this same problem in 10 years? There is progress to be made on this issue, but it cannot be found in the amnesty bills circulating on Capitol Hill.
Foreign policy: The most dynamic debate and dialogue about national security, including surveillance and the use of military force, is occurring within the tea party. This new foreign policy is not the Neoconservatism of the Bush years, nor the reactionary, “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy of the Obama years. Instead, we are fighting to restore a constitutional balance of power before committing our men and women to danger overseas. Our founders envisioned Congress, as the branch of government most responsive to the people, to play a role in these decisions. Yet as the president allows a Vietnam-like mission creep in Iraq without seeking the authorization of Congress, he is violating the Constitution. He should — and will — be held accountable.
In these issues, and others that may come to the fore, members of Congress should be warned. We do not intend to be a group that remains on the sidelines until the next election season.
TheTeaParty.Net routinely engages 30 million or more Americans a week through social media. We coordinate with congressmen and senators and host quarterly caucus meetings on the Hill in order to serve as a bridge between the millions of grass-roots tea partyers and lawmakers. Incumbents who hold onto to their seats this fall will have done so by pledging fealty to the tea party agenda. And we will hold them to their promises.
Our agenda is packed and our grass-roots activists are as motivated as ever. The tea party gives a voice to and defends everyday Americans — Republicans, Democrats and independents — who are fed up with the way Washington is run and our leaders’ failure to uphold the Constitution. This is only the beginning.
Niger Innis is the executive director of TheTeaParty.net. TheTeaParty.net is a national non-profit 501(c)(4) organization created in 2009 for the education and advancement of the constitutional conservative values of the tea party movement.