Will the "Tea Party" uprising be a passing fad
or a citizen rebellion with enduring impact?
When I was asked as a communications consultant to speak
at a "Tea Party" Town Hall meeting in Illinois, I chose the title
"Principles Versus Personalities" because I think that title focuses on
what the "Tea Party" rebellion must be if it is to have an
enduring impact. Principles are permanent. Personalities are passing.
Today's headline-maker is tomorrow's footnote. In outline form, here
are ten major points I presented to the meeting:
1. The "Tea Party" is a spontaneous citizen uprising, it is
not about Republicans
or Democrats or Libertarians. The "Tea Party" rebellion is about
the most incredible political document in the history of humanity, the
Constitution of the United States of America, the document that
protects citizens from tyranny by
an individual or group of individuals.
2. Our nation's founders
carefully crafted that beautiful document, bearing in mind that the
prior history of humanity was a story of oppression by government. That
tendency of government to be an oppressor and a destroyer of human
liberty has never been eradicated, as we can see in other countries
around the world. Nor has it been eradicated here, but it has been
constrained by the checks and balances provided in our Constitution.
3. Today that Constitution
is being tested and strained by a veritable army of career politicians
and bureaucrats, some of whom simply seek personal power and profit at
the expense of the American public and some of whom simply are
motivated by sincere but misguided efforts to use government in a
futile effort to provide social solutions for what are essentially
spiritual problems. The result is a bloated bureaucracy that threatens
to destroy our nation from within in a way that no invading army ever
could have done.
4. History teaches us
that all bureaucracies tend to devolve or degenerate to the point at
which they serve the interests of the people running the bureaucracy
instead of the interests of the people the bureaucracy was intended to
serve. It happens in all large bureaucracies: in business, in
education, in medicine, in religion, in unions, in government, and in the media.
Governments at all levels have reached that stage today — aided and
abetted by citizen apathy. The "Tea Party" rebellion can be an enduring antidote
for citizen apathy if it does not allow itself to be commandeered by
any party or personality and if it remains focused on fidelity to the
principles set forth in our Constitution.
5. American political parties
have degenerated to the point at which elected Democrats and elected
Republicans have more in common with each other than they do with the
people who elect them. Their goal is simply to gain and hold office to
further their personal and party interests and the interests of those
whose money puts and keeps them in office. Our nation's founders never
envisioned career politicians. Public office was a public service, done
at a sacrifice -- like serving in the military. Today it's the public and
public interest that are sacrificed.
6. In the human condition, there
is a common tendency to drift away from principles, to compromise
principles for personal desires. Our nation's founders were aware of
that natural human tendency and created checks and balances to protect
us from abuse. They knew that it is unrealistic to expect any
particular candidate or party to govern perfectly and selflessly.
Candidates we elect and the members of any party we put in power are
subject to the limitations of the human condition described by
classical theology and understood by our nation's founders: limitations
manifest in temptations to lust, greed, pride, anger, gluttony, envy,
and sloth. The greatest good and highest public service "Tea Party"
activists can perform is not simply to influence a single election, but
to constantly focus public servants on the core principles of our
Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and to remove them
from office when they prove unworthy of the public trust.
7. Two basic philosophies compete
for our allegiance today, as they have throughout human history. Our
national philosophy holds that our human rights come from the hand of
God, not from the state, and that those rights are inalienable. The
competing totalitarian philosophy holds that the state is supreme and
there are no inalienable human rights. Our national philosophy holds
that the fruit of your labor belongs to you and is yours to use as you
please, with you and your neighbors deciding through elections and referendums how much you will share
with the government. The totalitarian philosophy holds that the fruit
of your labor belongs to the state and the state decides how much, if
any, you are allowed to keep. It is our nation's principles,
articulated in the Constitution — combined with constant
vigilance by the citizenry— which safeguard citizens from that ever-present totalitarian
mindset. Being an American is not a spectator sport.
8. So the crises and challenges
that have given birth to the "Tea Party" rebellion are not one time
affairs to be settled in the next election or the next two elections.
They are permanent. They go on now and into subsequent generations.
They are not the exclusive interest of any segment of our diverse
national family. They are the interest of all.
9. If the "Tea Party" uprising is
to be more than a footnote in tomorrow's history books, activists must
work for greater control over government at all levels with measures
that keep citizens involved and dispel the notion that we must tolerate
corrupt and inept politicians. "Tea Party" activists can accomplish that by working for
universal recall, for citizen initiative, for elimination or
curtailment of politicians' insurance and pension perks, for restraint
of eminent domain, for elimination of gerrymandering, for ending
unfunded mandates, and for demanding transparency in government.
10. Government has the power
to take away your money, your property, your liberty, and your life. No
one can afford to ignore or be indifferent to government. Bad
government happens when good people quit caring. What happens now will
determine if the "Tea Party" uprising is just another populist rebellion that's
here today and gone tomorrow or whether it marks a turning point for
our national experiment in government of the people, by the people, and
for the people. (From http://citydesk.us/nvfal.html and used with permission. © 2014 by John Gile.)
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