Jamie Radtke of RTP had a guest column in the Richmond Times Dispatch in the Sunday Edition, April 25, 2010. We have received a significant amount of positive response. Here is the article:
Questions and confusion abound in the media — and among the political establishment in both parties — about how the Tea Party movement fits into the two-party political sys tem and into the conventional “left-to-right” political spectrum.
Some have suggested that the Tea Party is a “right-wing” organization. This is an interesting assertion since the Tea Party movement is fundamentally about four things: Constitutional adherence, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. Is the Tea Party “right wing”? Well, were the Founding Fathers “right wing”? Is the Constitution “right wing”?
The Constitution is the cornerstone of our nation and has protected our liberties for 223 years. It should not be offensive to politicians that Tea Party activists are demanding a return to legislating according to the supreme law of the land, as the oath of office requires. Surely we can agree that the Constitution is not “right wing” — it is mainstream.
Our country also was built on the idea of limited government, as influenced by Locke and Montesquieu, to prevent government from becoming the oppressor. The Founders created our government with horizontal and vertical checks and balances because they knew through hard experience that our liberties could be protected only if government were restrained. Our Founders’ ideal of limited govern ment is not “right wing” — it is mainstream.
Our country certainly was founded on fiscal responsibility. Patrick Henry argued the Virginia Resolves, reiterating disdain for burdensome taxes, and even Andrew Jackson, co-founder of the modern-day Democratic Party, made it his mission to pay off the national debt. Fiscal responsibility is not “right wing” — it is mainstream.
Free markets always have been central to the growth and success of America. The exceptionalism of our country — and the reason it has always been a destination for people who longed for a better life for themselves and their families — is based on the dream and the truth that the entrepreneurial spirit is rewarded in America. The free market is not “right wing” — it is mainstream.
Constitutional adherence, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets are not right-wing ideas, but rather the cornerstone of our Constitutional Republic, and central to the sensibilities of most Americans.
Naturally, with so many voters identifying with the Tea Party movement, many in the political and media establishment want to pin us down for their own purposes. Is the Tea Party movement a breakaway group or a subset of the Republican Party? Is it a third party that will run its own candidates?
The truth is that the Tea Party offers a unique opportunity to exert outside influence on both political parties. While the Tea Party includes Republicans and Democrats who are unhappy with the direction of their parties, it equally represents many Libertarians, independents, and newly engaged voters unaffiliated with any party. Together we are accomplishing what we have been unable to do separately: make our voices heard.
A great example of these concerned citizens’ growing influence is Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act, which blocks the federal government from forcing Virginians to purchase health insurance. Grassroot activists secured co-sponsors and saw the bill through to final passage.
There is nothing a politician fears more than a truly independent constituent who is loyal to principles before political party. We must maintain this independence — keeping pressure on incumbent politicians and never again trusting them to vote correctly simply because an “R” or “D” follows their name. This sort of complacency got us in our current predicament.
We also must exert influence at the polls. To this end, we encourage Tea Party supporters to get actively involved in their preferred political parties and their nomination processes. Working inside and outside the political parties, we want to promote candidates who reflect Tea Party principles.
To the degree that the Republican and Democratic parties “get it,” independent candidates will be unnecessary. But activists in the Tea Party will put forward candidates who uphold the Constitution, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets when the party establishment fails to do so, as was necessary with the New York congressional race in the 23rd District last year and with the current U.S. Senate race in Florida.
The media and political world don’t understand the Tea Party movement because we don’t fit into the neat, status quo paradigm they are familiar with. That’s OK, because tens of millions of Americans do understand — just as they understand that Constitutional adherence, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets are mainstream principles.
We are in the mainstream, even if the national media and the political establishment have moved out of the mainstream. Come November and beyond, however, they may understand a little better.
Jamie Radtke is president of the Richmond Tea Party and current chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation. Read the article and leave a comment at Richmond Times Dispatch We want to show our support to the RTD for printing our commentary. Thanks!