Yesterday I had the privilege of being a guest on the Jack Gravely show, the #2 radio talk show in the Richmond area. Mr. Gravely is a veteran broadcaster with over 15 years of experience and the former State Director of the NAACP. He was a great host who asked pointed and relevant questions about the Tea Party. It was a live call-in radio show where we took about 15 questions that were fair and were asked out of genuine concern and curiosity.

As I reflected throughout the day on the radio interview and spoke with others who listened to the broadcast, I found there were lessons to be learned on both sides of the call. Many of the questions asked I expected, but there were a few that I didn’t expect. A sample of the questions [paraphrased] were: 1) Isn’t the Tea Party a racist organization who has a personal vendetta against Obama? 2) Where was the Tea Party during the Bush years? 3) What does the Tea Party stand for? 4) Isn’t the Tea Party just a front for the Republican Party? 5) Is the Tea Party funded by the Republican Party? 6) Do you believe Obama is a citizen of the United States? 7) The Tea Party always says it is going to ‘take our country back,’ who are you taking the country back from? 8 Does the Tea Party support Rush Limbaugh? 9) Do you believe Obama is a socialist? 10) What are your thoughts on the disparity in education in the black community? 11) Did you support TARP? Don’t you think it was necessary in order to ensure our economy didn’t collapse? 12) How can you say this isn’t personal with Obama when we see the caricatures in the news and the Tea Party didn’t exist until Obama was elected president?

As you can see, the questions covered a variety of topics. One thing became evident to me by the end of the interview was that there is genuine concern in the black community about the motives of the Tea Party movement. The perception among many of the callers was that it is simply an Obama-hating movement, and that it is personal. We should continue to reiterate that the primary concern of the Tea Party movement is with the policies put forth by Congress and the President. Most Tea Party supporters I talk to are equally frustrated with the actions of Congress AND the President, the Republicans AND Democrats. There is a reason why the Tea Party is more popular than the Democrat AND Republican Party. Tea Party supporters feel that politicians are solely concerned about power and control and that both sides continue to grow the size of government, spend irresponsibly, accrue enormous debt, and legislate beyond their constitutional authority.

The Tea Party is based on the principles that shaped the founding of our nation and our Constitution. We believe that government derives its power from the people and is established solely to protect these rights. We believe the core principles of limited government, fiscal restraint, personal responsibility, and governing with virtue and accountability are all necessary to ensure the preservation of our freedom. Although we are a very young movement (less than 12 months old), we have come a long way in a short amount of time. We are an organic, grassroots movement that is fueled by the passion and commitment of hard-working, average Americans. We are not Astroturf of a political party, a union, or a corporate industry. We are your mom, dad, employee, colleague, neighbor, and church friend. We are 100% volunteer.

We need to continue to seek opportunities to take our message into communities where the Tea Party has no presence. Richmond Tea Party will be intentional about reaching out to the college community, black community, Spanish community, Republican community, Democratic community, etc. We believe our ideas and values transcend race, religion and partisan politics. What is important about these opportunities is that we go to their community and we share and listen. The last thing we want is for our message to get lost in delivery because of offensive caricatures. We will continue to share with people the mission and message of the Richmond Tea Party, hold Congress and the President accountable on the policies they are promoting that are in direct opposition to freedom, and mobilize individuals to be engaged in the political process at all levels. I’m very excited about what the Tea Party can accomplish in 2010.

Jamie Radtke
President, Richmond Tea Party