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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The American Tea Party 2009: Goals, Objectives, and Principles

Image by André Karwath (CC)

I do not presume to be the mouthpiece or leader of the 21st century American Tea Party movement, so the following is a summary of my personal vision for the modern American Tea Party, a list of objectives I believe it should seek to accomplish, and a set of principles I believe it should strive to embody. I am writing this because the Tea Party movement will fail to create real change unless it finds direction in sound principles and takes specific, practical steps to ensure the implementation of those principles in public policy.

I. Principles

Any political movement is doomed to failure so long as it is merely fighting for a particular, isolated policy preference or even a set of such preferences, absent of any context and underived from or related to a unified framework for viewing reality, humankind's role in reality, and government's role in humanity. The following (originally published in the Dec. 2008 article "Six Reasons Not To Bailout The 'Big Three' Auto Companies") is a perfect summary of government's proper role, the political principle for which we should be fighting and the banner under which we should be uniting, we who abhor its recent abuses of our liberty:

The proper role of a government is to maintain a civil society, meaning a society free from aggression, a society in which no human being can threaten any other by aggressing against them to destroy, diminish, or expropriate their lives, or their liberty or property- which are necessary preconditions of and corollaries to a human being's right to his or her own life. When government forcibly takes from some in the form of exorbitant taxes (or inflation) to give to others, it does the very thing it exists to safeguard against happening. When it takes such an action, it becomes an aggressor. It ceases to be an impartial arbiter between free and equal citizens to ensure their liberty, and it becomes a biased, partisan advocate for some people, using the legal power and force of its laws to favor them at the expense of the lives, liberty, and property of others without their consent and voluntary cooperation, which is morally outrageous.

If we as champions of liberty can fully comprehend, logically extrapolate from, and effectively articulate this one principle, and if we carry this message to the people of the world in a spirit of humility, love, and benevolence, we will move in leaps and bounds towards creating a truly civil and free society.

II. Purposes

Our protests and other activities cannot be limited by our outrage at the US Federal government's recent passage of the Stimulus Bill. The 2009 American Tea Party movement must do more than simply complain that we don't like what's happening- we have to offer viable alternatives and defend these alternatives as superior to the direction that the current establishment is taking us. We have to set specific goals and actively work to see their attainment in government policy.

The following are suggested goals that I envision the 2009 Tea Party rallying to attain:
  • Voting out each and every single incumbent up for re-election in 2010 who voted for the Stimulus Package and/or the 2008 Wall Street Bailout.

  • Electing to office only candidates who promise to support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution (without any exceptions -e.g. in the case of war, emergency, or a 3/5ths vote in Congress) in an act that also requires spending reductions only (no raising taxes) for the first four years to balance the budget, as well as:

  • The transition of Social Security from a mandatory pay-as-you go system to an optional system of private pensions.

  • A permanent repeal of the payroll tax.

III. Tactics

To enshrine in law the principle explicated earlier by accomplishing the goals listed above, we must take action. It's easy to be the one who says, "This is too hard, I'm too busy, I'll let someone else do the work." It takes spirit to say, "Whatever the cost, whatever the discomfort, whatever the outcome- I am duty and conscience bound to do what is right." Good thing we Americans have a lot of spirit.

The following are specific actions to take to help make the goals listed above a reality:
  • Subscribe to this blog. I will keep you updated on action you can take to advance liberty as well as provide news and commentary from a libertarian perspective to deepen your understanding of politics and improve your talent as an articulator and defender of freedom.

  • Subscribe to, the website of a grassroots, independently-funded political action committee dedicated to coordinating action against government excess and waste as well as campaigning for candidates that will advance a political program of limited government.

  • Learn who your Congressman and Senators are, how they voted on the Bailout and Stimulus bills, and whether they are up for reelection in 2010.

  • If they are up for reelection and have a clean record ("No" to the Stimulus AND Bailout bills), then support their campaign and contact them to ask for their pledge to pass a balanced budget amendment, Federal spending reductions, privatization of Social Security, and a permanent repeal of the payroll tax. Encourage your friends, family, colleagues, and people you meet in coffee shops to do the same.

  • If a Congressman in your district or Senator from your state is up for reelection and voted for the Stimulus OR the Bailout bill, find an alternative candidate to support who believes in limited government and is willing to pledge to some or all of the policies listed above.

  • BE ACTIVE in these campaigns! Work hard to enlist others, get donations, and spread the word about your candidate.

And so long as these aren't the only things you're doing, you can still have fun participating in the following:

IV. Guidelines

When our Founding Fathers fought for their Independence, they rebelled against their government to create a new one. Our purpose is different: we want to call America back to its duly-constituted government, not to subvert it or incite rebellion.

  • There should be no calls for open revolution against the government. It is the corrupt politicians in Washington that have revolted against our Constitution, not us. We advocate a return to the Constitution. We are not the subversives and we want no other government than that happy one which begins with "We the People..."

  • There should be no calls for or acts of violence under any circumstances. Remember that "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

  • Be cheerful, happy, and beaming with love, benevolence, and good-will for all of humanity.


  1. Thank you for stepping up on this. It is so important to strike while the iron is hot. It's also important to remember that words without action are empty.

    Count me in. I'd like to see a party on everybody's local courthouse steps... and I want to help get one started in Anderson County.

  2. Absolutely.

    Do you feel like you're close enough to Knoxville to consolidate and turn your people out for whatever's going on in Knoxville? If not, Oak Ridge Tea Party on!

    If so, you should get in touch with whoever's running something in Knoxville on July 4th and start helping right away, and if nothing's going on yet, I'd start a Knoxville Tea Party myself.

    Glenn Reynolds of fame might plug for you and even show up to speak as he's a UT professor.

  3. Very good principles. I would add that it should stay outisde the political parties. The GOP had control of Congress for 12 years and there was little evidence of fiscal responsibility for much of that time. And there are Democrats (Jim Cooper and Heath Shuler for example) who are showing themselves more responsible than many republicans.

    Be happy and with good cheer. The angery ones (like the commenter on my blog who I keep having to delete because of calls for violence) do not win. As you say, the government I want is the one set forth in the document that begins "We the People". And while the Declaration of Independence talks about a right to rebellion, it also says the following:

    "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

  4. I agree that this should be non-partisan, and that we need to recognize that the GOP has failed to keep its promises over the last decade.

    I don't know about Jim Cooper- I'm almost in his district, and his voting record doesn't impress me: he voted for the bailout in '08 and then after voting against the stimulus bill the first time around, he ended up voting for the final version.

    As for your closing words from the Declaration- spot on.

  5. Glad you clarified our current position: we patriotic citizens want a return now to our Constitutionally-based government.

    The current political parties--most especially the Democrat Congress and administration, but also the waffling Republicrats--are the reactionary insurgents who have been tearing away at the foundational fabric for 100 years, beginning in 1913 with the income tax. (I honestly think that many are like the frog or lobster who adapted to their slowly heated multi-culti pot now boiling them for dinner.)Trouble is, misery loves company. And tryanny demands it.

  6. Re: your thoughts on bringing the US back to Constitutional government- not sure this can be done.

    Today is the 115th anniversary of the 1894 Massillon Ohio march on Washington by the unemployed, demanding that "Washington" do something.

    Populism, and those with a particular something to gain from federal action, have overwhelmed the Constitutional urge in our leaders.

    While we can try to prick their consciences, it is unlikely that we will be successful at electing people who actually mean their oath of office, swearing to protect and preserve the Constitution. It was difficult enough to get the people to make a change when a King ruled America.

    I am not an optimist on this. Since TJ was president we have trod on the founding documents.

    The solution, I believe, lies in breaking up the United States into numerous smaller countries. Power, especially power from afar, is the problem. There is little defense against the innate nature of man.

  7. Hey Drew, I understand your skepticism in reforming the U.S. government to return it to Constitutional and classical liberal principles- it is a monumental undertaking with many barriers to its success.

    Would you agree that splintering the U.S. into smaller, independent nation states would also be extremely difficult? And that it poses problems of its own?

    I would be very unhappy if this were the last available alternative to tyranny, and I don't believe that it is. Our Founding Fathers exhausted every option before declaring independence, and that from an oppressive government.

    I would hate to sever my tie to the Constitution of the United States under any circumstances, and I would hate it particularly to sever such a tie prematurely.

  8. Tea Party Coordinator in FloridaMarch 29, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    Tea bags sent to Washington are being thrown away in Virginia because of possible toxic substances being sent. It is recommended that we send the tags attached to a tea bag or a picture of a teabag instead.

  9. Thanks for letting me know. I'll be sure to look into that. It would help me out a ton if you could link me to some sources. I'm planning on doing an update soon to remind people to send their tea bags, and I'd like to be as up-to-date and helpful as possible.

  10. Breaking up into independent nation states? We are one. Pres. Lincoln lost his life preserving the Union. No sir, state's rights yes, session NO. Ending the unconstitutional income tax must be a priority also. I wonder if we could organize like minded folks who own large earth moving equipment to take the tea into Washington in a convoy. I would love to see that on the Liberal Media. Fox would be the only "news" organization to cover it.


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