January 2, 2011

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3 Moves After the Tea Party*

It’s 2011. The Tea Party movement is almost two years old.

Two years after the Boston Tea party, the Revolutionary War was well underway. In April, 1775, British Lieutenant General Gage sent troops to Concord, Massachusetts, to seize a garrison held by revolutionaries. It didn’t go so well for the Brits.


By 1776, the Continental Congress declared our independence from Great Britain citing human rights. With words that echo through the centuries, we declared that human beings have certain rights, and:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Where does this new American Revolution go now?

Last night, I celebrated the New Year as do most New Years: by myself, watching subdued, almost depressed events in Las Vegas and New York. The moment gave me a chance to ruminate as midnight approached: what next?

Here’s a short list that came to mind:

  1. Let’s Have a Tea Party: After reading the numerous news accounts about 2010 being the Year of the Tea Party, I realized that I may have underestimated the impact of the movement. That’s easy to do, I think, where you’re in the middle of something. It’s clear now, though, that the world sees this rebellion as something to advance, to to admire, or to fear. That deserves a party.

  2. Let’s Paint the Future: I say and write this a lot. I will continue to say it and write until it gains some ascendency. The Tea Party movement – or whatever we call its evolutionary posterity – needs to move from defense to offense. Offense includes proposing substitutions for the present system. For example, how do we wind down Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to minimize or prevent disruptions to people’s lives? How do we restructure the tax system to both pay off our national debt and to encourage economic growth? What will education look like after we eliminate the Department of Education?

  3. Let’s Broaden Our Interests: At some point in the recent past, philosophers stopped applying philosophy to the world and began looking at philosophy as an end in itself. That’s when the world stopped taking philosophy seriously. The philosophers had isolated themselves from real life.

If we narrowly study only the Constitution, US History, the Founders, etc., we will become very dull, except to the few others who study nothing but this narrow subject. The world will compartmentalize us away, as it has philosophy.

Conservatives need to use our understanding of the founding principles, not as ends in itself, but as a guideline to apply right reason to problems of the day.

I mention this repeatedly, too, because I sense many of us becoming insular in our studies. Erudition requires breadth of knowledge, especially in adjacent matters. Depth in some area is central, of course, but it’s not the end. Once you’ve hit water, digging deeper won’t make the water cooler or clearer.

  • I used the term After the Tea Party. I don’t think the name “tea party” should or will go away. But I think we need to broaden our thinking. The tea party era must give way to the leadership era. If we stop moving, we die.