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Converting Tea-Party Energy into Sustained Results
By Mark Shepard, Bennington Vermont

January 18, 2010

Recent polls show the Tea Partiers now outnumber registered Republicans and Democrats. That is great news because the people connected to tea parties are energized, motivated by ideas and values, and fed up with party-power politics. But it remains to be seen what will come of all this exceptional citizen energy.

With many Tea Partiers repulsed at the thought of working within an existing political party, some are itching to start a new party. Some advocate throwing out all the incumbents, while others are focusing on throwing out the statist, those who advocate more and more government (or state) control over our lives.

However, getting rid of the statists is only the start, because without a sound basis and an agenda to turn back the statist policies, which have been enacted, we will soon find the statists in power again with their agenda moving forward. We have seen this both in Vermont and nationally.

While the Vermont 2000 elections flipped the House control from Democrat to Republican, and Republicans made substantial gains in the Senate, the change yielded little if anything. Nationally, the 1994 Congress started turning back the statistsí policies, but they lost the PR battle because not enough of the American people understood the problems with big government or the benefits of limited government. Before long Republicans were advocating for more and more government.

Clearly, simply switching back to Republican control is not a solution. Nor is the solution just replacing the statists legislators for another group of legislators under any label. The label is neither the problem nor the solution.

The problem is the ideology. Unless we elect a majority of people who understand our problems from a foundational perspective and who can and will articulate ideas from a foundation that is as deep or deeper than that of the statists, any victory in 2010 will be short lived, whether Republican, Libertarian, or Tea Party. It will only sap up and waste this terrific energy.

Real victory requires that we unite under ideas that have a sound foundation, which can and does support liberty. A foundation for individual liberty requires that each person be valued higher than some idealistic or inventive idea of community or culture. I expressed thoughts on such a basis in my recent commentary, "Is Christmas Relevant?"

One of the main points I tried to weave into that commentary was that culture is derived from people and not people from culture. Ideas and concepts need to be willingly accepted as valid for them to have a positive affect on the culture. Thus, while I presented what I believe to be the most secure foundation for liberty, I do not consider those ideas as something that can be instituted by a top down approach. Top down breeds unrest and revolution. Bottom up fosters personal fulfillment and a harmonious culture.

What we have in Montpelier, Vermont and Washington is very much top down and that is what is fueling the tea party and other expressions of great dissatisfaction. Turning things around demands we put some of our energy into searching out a sound basis to support liberty and then to build our lives on that basis. Such personal investment of energy will multiply a hundred-fold and is necessary to bring about a lasting and beneficial revolution.

Surely we need to remove the statists, but for real and lasting gains we must also expose the fraud and holes in their ideology and that requires a better set of ideas, based upon a foundation that does not have holes so it can win in the public square. Not until this point are we likely to see people in large numbers shift away from their dependence on government, which I believe is the real goal of most tea party folks.

© Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard
Bennington, Vermont

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