On July 4, 1776, patriots from the 13 British colonies in North America declared their independence from England and formed the United States of America. Decrying “taxation without representation,” colonists demonstrated their displeasure with British rule via acts of civil disobedience, the most famous of which was the Boston Tea Party. 233 years later, a new group of self-proclaimed patriots is again expressing its displeasure with the direction of government. Alarmed by high rates of taxation and plans to further expand the scope of government at all levels, a loose affiliation of groups from around the country have dubbed themselves “Tea Party Patriots.” This weekend, in concert with Fourth of July festivities, they will conduct 1300 events across the country and anticipate more than 1 million participants.
On July 3rd at the “Green” in Summit, New Jersey, several hundred citizens from the general area rallied in support of this nascent movement. They came to listen to speeches, sign petitions, and voice their general disapproval of the direction of government at all levels. Many carried flags and signs critical of universal healthcare, pending cap and trade legislation, and current political figures including President Obama and Governor Corzine. One man wore a shirt bearing phrases from the Declaration of Independence. Many people bore hats or accessories indicating affiliation with military and other organizations.
Political candidates consonant with the viewpoint of attendees circulated among those gathered. Tents and tables were setup to facilitate collection of signatures. On one end of the “Green” was placed a wall of posterboard and a table with post-it notepads. Participants wrote and posted messages. Among the messages were “Legalize Liberty,” “Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians,” “Just Say No to Socialism,” and “Send Illegals Home Now and Save Trillions on Healthcare and Education.”
From a podium, a number of speakers shared points of view, among them a self-avowed Presidential candidate, Warren Mosler, who explained monetary policy in some detail and the Libertarian Party Gubernatorial candidate in the upcoming election, Ken Kaplan, who beseeched the audience to consider the possibility that a third-party candidate might actually win this year’s election.
The real stars of the show, however, were those ordinary citizens who, without expectation of personal gain, expressed their opinions clearly and persuasively. One such individual who inspired those in attendance was Barbara Summers of Plainfield, New Jersey. One of only two minority members in attendance, Barbara, an African-American mother of three, grandmother of four, and a lifelong Democrat, electrified the audience with her personal experiences with public healthcare and her recounting of the failures of government in general. When asked what motivated her to appear and speak, she stated that she was witnessing “her country fall apart before her eyes” and that “half the country doesn’t know what’s going on.” In response, she vowed to “keep knocking on doors” and to “stand up for America.” When asked to what she attributed the lack of African-Americans and other minorities in attendance, Barbara indicated that many people were uninformed. She further indicated that she was the only member of her family who did not vote for Barack Obama, indicating that she stands with the philosophy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and judges candidates “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Another such ordinary citizen was Joe Schilp, a video producer and State employee. Joe gave an impassioned speech detailing the large tax burden endured by the citizens of New Jersey, quoting “53%” as the combined tax rate (federal, state, municipal) paid by the average New Jersey family. A father of three and lifelong resident, he indicated that the birth of his children motivated him to become more active politically. He is concerned about the direction of government and doesn’t want to leave his children with a “socialist state where the government controls everything.” Stressing that he is not a professional politician, he expressed his concern about the growth of government and established goals of “getting liberty back, getting tax money back, and…stopping government from growing so fast.”
Regaining liberty and control over government were themes common to both speakers and those in attendance. Among those in attendance were a young couple John and Nora Brower and their adorable young daughter Angelina. With a sign saying “You Bankrupted My Future,” the Brower’s message was clearly in tune with that of the speakers and others in the audience. Tim Adriance, an organizer for NewJerseyTeaPartyCoalition.org from Bergen County, historical restorationist, and historian with no less than fifteen ancestors in the American Revolution, believes it essential that the message “preserve your liberty” be impressed upon every citizen. He further indicated the Federal government has overstepped its Constitutional bounds, infringing upon the rights of the individual states. On the Fourth, he and his group will march as a contingent in the Ridgewood, New Jersey Fourth of July Parade to increase public awareness of the current threats to liberty. Brian Arnesman of Morris County attended because he “felt it was time to stop just speaking with [his] vote and…to do something more” Travelling by motorcycle with a group of other bikers, Brian relished the opportunity to meet and speak with other like-minded individuals.
A common theme among speakers and attendees alike was dissatisfaction with both Democrat and Republican parties. While no surprise that the more liberal Democrat party would receive low marks from the Tea Party Patriots, the loudest boos were reserved for Republicans considered turncoats by virtue of their abandonment of conservative principles. New Jersey Congressmen Leonard Lance, Chris Smith, and Frank LoBiondo were pilloried for their alignment with the Democrats in recent House passage of cap and trade legislation. Even a local Republican candidate criticized Congressman Smith as an example of Republicans who had “compromised their ideology” to gain reelection. Richard Piatkowski, Republican State Assembly candidate for the 19th Legislative District, shared this and other views while circulating among the event’s attendees. Pointing to a public works project in Perth Amboy, he tied cost overruns to campaign contributions to the Mayor and his 19th District opponent, flagrant examples of “pay to play” in New Jersey..
Perhaps the most unique political perspective was that of Neil McGettigan, President of the Objectivist Party of New Jersey. Convinced that the upcoming Corzine-Christie race does not provide New Jerseyans with a real choice, McGettigan and his group are promoting a write-in candidate, John Galt, as a protest vote. Now, if you are wondering who John Galt is, he is not a person at all, but a character from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” In the dystopian novel, Rand depicts a United States that has fallen into socialism. Tired of the dictates of the government, society’s innovators and producers, led by the mysterious John Galt, progressively disappear from society and start their own, one of absolute freedom. The Objectivist Party, according to McGettigan, wants to “go back to the Jeffersonian ideal.” And, by writing in John Galt for governor, you can send that message.
Will the Tea Party movement, with well-known supporters including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, succeed in reversing the course of big government and returning power to “we the people?” Only time will tell. But, if the enthusiasm of those attending the Summit Tea Party is any indication, one of their own will be sipping tea in the Oval Office in January 2013.