Valentine: Media don't understand Tea Party

Friday, January 29, 2010

I was reading a piece from the LA Times about how the tea party movement is still disorganized and still doesn't have a leader. They opined as to how the movement "struggles to find national unity." Now, think about something for a moment. Did the American Revolution have a leader? I'm not talking about the war. I'm talking about the movement itself. Well, of course, it didn't. There were patriot organizations all over the thirteen colonies. They sent various delegates to Philadelphia to discuss the growing discontent with England but there was no leader.

If one were to attribute the founding of our country to one person, who would that be? George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? John Adams? They all brought their particular talents to the movement but there was no singular leader of the movement.

The LA Times falls into a familiar trap by trying to place leaders at the head of a movement. The best movements are leaderless. That doesn't make them rudderless. Were a leader to emerge in the tea party movement he or she might very well destroy it. Led movements tend to live and die by the fortunes or misfortunes of the leader. Ronald Reagan certainly led a conservative revolution back in the late '70s and all through the '80s. Once he exited the national stage, look how quickly Republicans lost their way.

That's part of the reason the tea party movement exists today. It's not a loose confederation of wild-eyed nuts. It's primarily disenchanted Republicans who yearn for the basics of conservatism within the party. Sure, there are those who seek a third party but that's only because the Republican Party has let them down.

Were the movement looking for a leader, Sarah Palin is an obvious choice but to embrace her is to distance others and that's not the intent. Palin, like any other leader, would define the movement instead of the movement defining itself. The tea party movement isn't about any one person. It's about a collective discontent that manifests itself in rallies and town hall protests. The establishment media don't get this concept because they have to have leaders to tell them how to think. The tea party folks think for themselves. And that's what's so terrifying for the liberals.

It's a movement born of fear and anger and distrust. It's a movement filled with frustrated citizens who are genuinely concerned about where it is their country is headed. What it is not is a movement in search of one person to ease their pain and fix their problems.

The LA Times castigated Palin for charging $100,000 to speak at a tea party convention. The Times feels no obligation to criticize Bill Clinton for his $300,000-plus speaking fees. They attempt to make Palin the focus of the tea party movement because they know if they can destroy her they can destroy it. What they cannot destroy is the passion of so many concerned citizens who are determined to take their country back from those who are determined to remake the United States in the image of European socialism.

This is a classic battle between the so-called "progressives" who see government as the solution to every problem in America and conservatives whose faith remains with the people and the private sector. As Reagan so famously proclaimed, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." The tea party movement attempts to take us back to those basic conservative principles. And the first major shot in this ideological struggle for our country was fired in the U.S. senate race in Massachusetts.