MAINWARING: We are all Tea Partiers now

New ‘Great Awakening’ will reverberate well past November

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On Feb. 7, 2009, the cover of Newsweek magazine proclaimed, “We Are All Socialists Now.” Since then, much has transpired, including the sale of Newsweek (the business entity) to the highest bidder for $1. Now, 1 1/2 years later, a more poignant cover story might be “We Are All Tea Partiers Now.”

The Tea Party is the leading edge of a “Great Awakening” in America. In many ways, it appears to have the force and vitality of one of the religious awakenings that have occurred throughout our nation’s history. It is more than a populist movement. It is more than a reactionary group expressing voter dissatisfaction and anger. It can’t be boiled down to election results. It will not be co-opted neatly by the Republican Party. It is something much, much bigger.

The Tea Party movement represents a resounding declaration of the end of big, overreaching government.

Our nation is in the grip of an overwhelming, seemingly inescapable malaise, not because our government hasn’t done enough for us, but because it has tried to do too much. Over the decades, “government” has mutated into “big government,” and its weight is killing us. Recent massive efforts to stimulate the economy or save certain sectors of it through increased government intervention and spending, far from helping us, have only added to the fog of uncertainty and oppression.

Washington’s presumed role of always knowing what is best for every aspect of our lives is over. One by one, people are waking up and realizing that perhaps they know what is best for themselves, their families, their local communities and their states. The Tea Party movement is not just an expression of disfavor with how things get done in government. It is the promise of a tectonic shift of decentralization and reduction of government.

Illustration: Newsweek cover parody by Ed Driscoll

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Illustration: Newsweek cover parody by Ed Driscoll more >

Great Awakenings have been periods in our country when religion has become intensely personal for individuals. However, the beginnings of this great awakening we now behold is not religious in nature; it is purely secular. It deals not with church institutions, but with our government; not with the enlivening of ancient scriptures, but with bringing to life our founding documents; not with each individual’s incorporation into a congregation, but rather our relationships within our local communities; not with eternal salvation, but with liberty experienced in the here and now.

One important hallmark is exactly the same: This awakening deals with truth. Our founding principles, as displayed to us in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, no longer belong exclusively to the realms of history and scholarly study. These truths have come to life for millions of Main Street Americans in a very powerful way.

For more than 200 years, the United States has been a repository of the most incredible truth in the world about man’s desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and how to secure these as a nation. In some ways, this truth has been in a deep freeze just as a steak might safely be saved in your freezer at home. If you offer a frozen steak to a hungry guest, it’s of no practical use to him. But if you put that steak on the grill with a fire under it, suddenly the fat starts to sizzle, the juices begin to run, and you begin to smell the aroma of the roasting meat. That steak becomes enticing to the hungry person. The Tea Party movement is the vehicle, the tiny match, by which the fire is lit under old truths so that even those who have never given a thought to their unalienable personal rights and the role of government now have a voracious hunger to experience these truths in their own lives.

Men and women across this great land are on fire with zeal for our founding principles, and that zeal is spreading like a wildfire. They are willing to invest their lives to protect and uphold these truths for the sake of their children and for the sake of their country to preserve the one nation on earth fated to be a city on a hill for all the world to see.

Many people now see that our nation is at a crossroads: Our personal liberties, economic prosperity and the place of the United States within the world are at risk. Their eyes have been opened to the reckless stewardship of the political class in Washington, which, by creating an ever-growing government with massive, unsustainable entitlements, sweeping unintelligible legislative reforms and volume after volume of free-market-choking regulations, has charted this ill-fated course toward its progressive vision for America.

For the past year and a half, the media and other detractors have dedicated themselves to snuffing out the Tea Party movement through tactics of mockery, dismissiveness and false accusations. From Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi insinuating that grass-roots protesters at town-hall meetings last summer were Nazis to President Obama using mocking sexual innuendo, calling the Tea Partiers “tea baggers”; from the unsubstantiated claims of Tea Party violence and racism during health care reform protests on Capitol Hill in March to the NAACP’s unwarranted charge of Tea Party racism to the constant drone of politicos and pundits about Tea Party extremism during the primary elections, the assault on the Tea Party has been relentless. If Tea Partiers were a protected class rather than a targeted one, most of the media, academia and political intelligentsia would be on trial for hate crimes.

Far from dousing the small flame that was ignited in early 2009, the ruling class has succeeded in accomplishing the opposite. The more they have attacked and belittled, the more they have thrown fuel on the fire, causing the Tea Party movement to erupt into a glorious conflagration.

This is just the beginning. Tea Party members, people from up and down Main Street America, whether rural, urban or suburban, have spoken loudly enough to wake up their neighbors. Maybe all these other Main Street folks aren’t Tea Party types, but they certainly are being alerted now to the threat of the ruling class. In a recent Rasmussen survey, 68 percent of likely voters said they believe the political class doesn’t care what most Americans think, while 84 percent said they think the United States is heading in the wrong direction. The political class’s disdain for the entire spectrum of Main Street America is provoking an ever-increasing coalition, whose potential size is limitless.

This is why in November, citizen-politicians are going to be sent to Washington and establishment politicians are going to be sent home. The nation must be set back on the course charted for us by our Founding Fathers.

The Tea Party is more than an angry political movement, as it is frequently described. Something much deeper is going on here. It is a living expression of bedrock truth about humanity’s rights and our own human nature - that men and women have a yearning to be free and to self-govern while participating in and enjoying civil society.

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