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The Tea Party Goes to Washington
By Rand Paul
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In THE TEA PARTY GOES TO WASHINGTON, the newly elected senator and self-described “constitutional conservative” explains why his party has to stand by its limited government rhetoric and why the federal government must be stuffed back into its constitutional box. Given the problems our nation faces, these are not mere suggestions, but moral imperatives.
Rand Paul and those who voted for him want to stop borrowing, end the bailouts, and entitlements and the spending. In THE TEA PARTY GOES TO WASHINGTON you’ll learn:
- The history of the Tea Party and why it isn’t “extreme”
- How both parties operate outside the Constitution
- Rand’s plan for a balanced budget
- Why the Tea Party will endure
It’s a new day in Washington– as the Tea Party graduates from populist outrage to political influence, Rand Paul stands poised to become one of its greatest champions.
Table of Contents
"I have a message from the Tea Party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We've come to take our government back."
Speaking these words after winning Kentucky's Republican primary in spring 2010, I understood that my victory was part of a much larger movement. Voters outraged by massive debt, spending and an out-of-control federal government had elected a candidate the media and political establishment had deemed too unconventional—precisely because they desired a more unconventional politics. The status quo had failed. Big government had failed. On that warm May evening, Kentucky voters sent a message loud and clear: We've had enough.
So have most Americans. Facing a $13 trillion national debt, bankrupt entitlement programs and in the midst of two long and expensive wars, our federal government is busy bailing out private industry to the tune of billions of dollars, trying to "stimulate" the economy with billions more and implementing an estimated $1 trillion national healthcare program. At precisely the moment we should be cutting spending, our government just keeps cutting checks, using money that wouldn't even exist if not printed out of thin air, borrowed from China or born of endless and astronomical debt. Said President Obama during his victory speech in 2008: "Let us ask ourselves—if our children should live to see the next century… what change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call." And answer it Obama has—with the most rapid government growth in American history, outpacing that of every president before him combined. Obama and his party continue to ask what our government should be doing "for" our children but never seem to comprehend what it's doing "to" them, saddling future generations with unfathomable debt that truly is nothing less than generational theft. Liberals keep desiring newer New Deals and greater Great Societies, while so many Americans-at-large are increasingly clamoring for something much simpler and sane—a return to the United States Constitution.
And that clamor has become deafening. Many Republicans have grown tired of establishment GOP politicians whose actions don't match their conservative rhetoric. Many Democrats who once embraced Obama are now shocked at the size and scope of his liberal agenda. Weary of both parties, independents now represent a sizeable and growing part of the electorate, and a significant percentage of Tea Party membership. In fact, some polls even have the Tea Party ranking equal or above both major parties. As many establishment GOP politicians have had to learn the hard way, the Tea Party sees no distinction between big government Republicans and big government Democrats, drawing a new dividing line between those who want to limit government and those who want it to be unlimited. As government explodes at a rate unprecedented in our history, the Tea Party's critics continue to portray the movement as too "radical." If the Constitution and common sense still have any bearing, the Tea Party isn't the least bit radical—the federal government is.
From the Founding Fathers to Barry Goldwater to my father, Ron Paul, conservatives today have always pointed out that the primary purpose of government is to protect our liberties. Government is not supposed to coddle us or take care of our every need, one generation to the next, cradle to grave. To the extent that we have allowed this to happen—through welfare, entitlements, the nanny state—we must give Americans what's been promised to them, but also be honest about what many, particularly younger Americans, now consider empty promises. Unquestionably, we must be practical and humane in returning to a more limited, constitutional government, but make no mistake—return we must. We can't afford not to.
These seemingly old-fashioned and constitutionally conservative notions are what first compelled me to enter the political arena as I now watch my sons grow up in an America in which each successive generation continues to make larger demands on them. What both parties have saddled this country with over the decades is unfathomable. That Obama and his party have now been able to outdo and outspend even their predecessors in such a short period of time is unforgivable. Luckily, the Tea Party has been unforgiving and justifiably so, and what I told that Kentucky audience after my primary victory last spring is even truer today: "I think we stand on a precipice. We are encountering a day of reckoning."
That day of reckoning is here. The only question is: will the Tea Party be able to take down the big government politicians before those politicians take down this country? Time is of the essence, as our federal government continues to get away with things that would've made King George blush. More Americans now realize this than perhaps at any time in our history since this nation's founding. We know what our Founders thought of tyranny and today their Tea Party descendants stand liberty minded and battle ready. It's time to send Washington a message. It's time to take our government back. It's time for a second American revolution.
Time for Tea
They say that the US Senate is the world's most deliberative body. Well, I'm going to ask them to deliberate upon this—do we wish to live free or be enslaved by debt? Do we believe in the individual or do we believe in the state?
Rand Paul's election night
2010 victory speech
November 2, 2010, was an historic night. I had been elected to the US Senate campaigning on a traditional, constitutional platform, rooted in the founding of our nation and reflecting the values of individual freedom that have always made America great. With the Obama administration barreling in the opposite direction at breakneck speed, enacting legislation that would have astounded George Washington and incurring debt that would have outraged Thomas Jefferson, my message found an eager audience not only in Kentucky but across the country. On that night, I restated my promise to voters:
They say that the US Senate is the world's most deliberative body. Well, I'm going to ask them to deliberate upon this. The American people are unhappy with what's going on in Washington. Eleven percent of the people approve of what's going on in Congress. But tonight there's a Tea Party tidal wave and we're sending a message to them. It's a message that I'll carry with me on Day One. It's a message of fiscal sanity. It's a message of limited constitutional government and balanced budgets. When I arrive in Washington I will ask them, respectfully, to deliberate upon this—we are in the midst of a debt crisis and the American people want to know why we have to balance our budget and they don't? I will ask them, respectfully, to deliberate upon this: Government does not create jobs. Individual entrepreneurs, businessmen and -women create jobs but not the government. I will ask the Senate, respectfully, to deliberate upon this—do we wish to live free or be enslaved by debt? Do we believe in the individual or do we believe in the state?
I had defeated my Democratic opponent by a 12-point margin, who had been soundly rejected precisely for representing and symbolizing Obama and his vision. Americans were not happy with the direction of the country, and voters wanted their voices heard. This was a chorus I had heard throughout the campaign, growing louder each day and more defiant with each new debt. Washington wasn't listening, but on election night, they heard loud and clear.
In any other election cycle, my becoming a US Senator would likely not have been possible. I had never run for any elected office, had entered the race against not only a statewide elected official, but the hand-picked candidate of the most powerful Republican in America. My campaign started at 15 percent in the polls. The national Republican Party, the Kentucky establishment, K Street and virtually every power broker in Washington, DC, had all lined up to oppose me like no other candidate running in 2010. The entire political establishment had my primary opponent's back.
Luckily, the Tea Party had mine.
The Tea Party Brews
The original Tea Party took place in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773, over a mere three-cent tax. Today we don't consider those who took part in the protests "extremists" but patriots, who in resisting the British Crown helped kick-start a necessary and just revolution.
Today's Tea Partiers are typically not accorded the same respect by our mainstream political and media establishment, even as they protest a government arguably more arrogant than that of eighteenth-century England. A tax on tea was an outrage to our ancestors. A $2 trillion deficit and $13 trillion debt has now become an outrage to their descendants. It wasn't unusual for British officials and the press to view colonists who resisted the ruling regime in less-than-flattering terms. (Similarly, as representatives of the current ruling establishment today's political and media elite have little good to say about the Tea Party.) But even in their denial and dismissive attitudes, at some point King George III and his loyalists had to sense that a change of some sort was in the air. Today, whether they like it or not, our government and its loyalists know there's something big happening at the grassroots of American politics.
I first began to sense this when I attended what many consider to be the first modern Tea Party event held on the anniversary of the original, where on December 16, 2007, over a thousand people crammed into the historic Faneuil Hall in Boston for an event in support of my father's 2008 presidential campaign. It took place during one of the worst blizzards the city had experienced in quite some time. The event featured an array of constitutional scholars and limited government advocates, and we shocked the establishment on that date by helping Ron Paul set an all-time record for online fundraising by collecting over $6 million in one day.
Something was definitely brewing.
At that time, the same political establishment that now keeps the Tea Party at arm's length had about the same tolerance for my dad and his growing movement. Ron Paul's political platform of balancing budgets, eliminating debt and championing constitutional government simply didn't fit into a presidential campaign in which the eventual nominees of both parties—both US Senators—had spent their careers exploding budgets, expanding debt and governing outside the Constitution. Fed up with a big government Republican Party and president, Americans were understandably hungry for "change" and in 2008 ended up voting for a Democratic president who promised just that. Today, many Americans have come to regret that vote, as President Obama not only continues to offer the same big government his predecessor did, but a lot more of it.
Early on, most of my father's supporters in 2007–2008 already didn't trust the establishment in either party, and it's no coincidence that the Tea Party today is ingrained with the same bipartisan distrust. So many politicians and pundits now think the Tea Partiers are being unreasonable in this distrust and mock them at every turn. Yet the Tea Party really can't find any tangible reasons to trust most politicians or pundits and continue to mock them accordingly at many events and rallies. Thankfully, the Tea Party continues to be resilient and courageous enough not to allow the establishment to laugh or lampoon them out of existence. As the keynote speaker at the grassroots event held in support of my father's campaign three years ago—dubbed the "second Boston Tea Party"—I told the audience something that remains just as true now for today's larger movement:
I'd like to welcome you, the sons and daughters of liberty, to the revolution. They say the British scoffed at the American rabble and laughed at the Americans, their imperfect uniforms, their imperfect tactics. They laughed at retreat after retreat of the American army. They laughed right up until Yorktown. Today, you are that American rabble and that struggle—the disillusioned, the cynical, the bereaved, bereaved at the loss of liberty. The establishment in their high rise penthouse laughs at you, they laugh at us… But you know what? They're not laughing today.
The establishment probably began to quit laughing in about 2007 when grassroots conservatives became so upset over Comprehensive Immigration Reform—more accurately described as "amnesty" for some 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens—that they shut down the congressional switchboard with an avalanche of phone calls. When Obama and John McCain joined President George W. Bush in 2008 to bail out troubled banks, automakers, and even the housing market with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), grassroots conservatives vowed that the politicians who voted for these financial schemes—Republicans included—would pay a political price. Let's just say there were a number of politicians in the GOP state primaries in the spring and summer before the 2010 midterm elections that today aren't laughing one bit and will forever regret voting for TARP.
From the protest rumblings of my father's presidential campaign to the grassroots backlash against amnesty and bailouts, the different coalitions within the Tea Party came together to put their best foot forward on Tax Day, April 15, 2009, holding massive rallies nationwide that the establishment still predictably scorned but could no longer ignore. Many more events followed in the weeks and months afterward, and now, two years later, the Tea Party is not only still in full force but has proved itself an enduring movement with the potential to change American politics forever and for the better. Despite accusations to the contrary, the Tea Party is organized from the bottom up, decentralized and independent. No matter how much the establishment would love to control and manipulate this movement, its political narrative is dictated by the grass roots, not the other way around. The "rabble" has spoken and the establishment must now listen—whether they like it or not.
Taxed Enough Already
I was scheduled to coach my youngest son's little league game on April 15, 2009, when I received a call to speak at a local Tea Party event. I told the assistant coach that I wouldn't be away long, anticipating that I would arrive to a handful of folks, give a brief speech and leave twenty minutes later. But when I arrived, there were seven hundred sign-waving Tea Partiers filling Fountain Square Park in downtown Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was the largest political gathering I had ever witnessed in my town and, at that moment, it was hard to deny that something big was indeed happening. Soaking in the enthusiastic crowd and the electricity in the air, I said to the people that day:
Two hundred years ago Sam Adams and his rabble-rousers threw tea in Boston's harbor. Sam Adams famously said, "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people's minds." That's right—an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires. Looks like we've got one hell of a brushfire to me.
And from that day forward the Tea Party has been keen on fanning the flames, not simply as a tireless minority but as a potential majority, with some polls showing that more Americans identify with the Tea Party than either the Republican or Democratic parties. But what could Tea Partiers, to borrow from Adams, be so "irate" about? On that great, historic Tea Party day, I stated it in plain English:
We now pay more in taxes than we spend on food, clothes and housing combined. Taxes are high because spending is out of control. We are spending ourselves into oblivion. The Republicans doubled the deficit from $5 trillion to $10 trillion. The Republicans and Democrats together spent a trillion dollars bailing out the banks and then the Democrats alone spent another trillion dollars on pork barrel spending. This year we will add $1.75 trillion to the deficit. Our deficit, as a percentage of gross national product, is greater than at any time in our history. We are bankrupting this country, and the bottom line is that the politicians don't get it. The only message they will understand is a one-way ticket home. Instead of bringing home the bacon, let's bring home the politicians. Bring them home to live with the mess they've created.
I ended my speech that day with one simple line: "I'm Rand Paul and I approve this message."
The movement had certainly grown beyond just Ron Paul adherents. The Tea Party began to gather forces from every direction, from Sarah Palin fans to supporters of former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. They all came with one grievance foremost on their mind—the national debt. This problem had become so pressing and overwhelming that it had set off brushfires in the minds of millions of Americans across the country. The "tea" in Tea Party is often said to stand for "taxed enough already" and, while the Tea Partiers in each city tended to be social conservatives for a strong national defense, unquestionably their primary motivation was driven by a sincere concern over the size and scope of the national debt.
In the beginning, the Left tried to argue that the Tea Party was little more than top-down organized publicity stunts fomented by FOX News. The reality was actually quite different and much more amazing. In Kentucky, each Tea Party started spontaneously and independent of others. To this day, statewide communication between the different Tea Parties in each city is spotty at best, and yet in city after city thousands of folks gather at local events. This has been the dynamic of the movement nationwide. When a so-called "national" Tea Party convention was held last year, state and local organizers throughout the country issued statements to make it known that there was no national organization that spoke for them.
The Tea Party sprang in each state de novo. It wasn't created by a network. It wasn't created by a billionaire. It came from the people. It has no single leader, is often adamantly against leadership and threatens the power structure of both political parties. It threatens the perquisites and privileges of the establishment and, therefore, many on both sides of the aisle think it must be destroyed. That the Tea Party has so many enemies in the establishment media and government should tell its members they're doing something right.
Open Mic Night
On the campaign trail, I always described the Tea Party as an "open mic night," or a forum to redress our grievances. It came into being to fill a niche that neither party allows—dissent. Americans who normally put in their day's work, arrive home to their spouses and kids, and go to school events and soccer games are largely ignored by Washington, but they are now worried enough to march in the streets. As much as the Left wants to depict the Tea Party as an angry mob, it is better described as a multitude of concerned and worried average citizens who have spontaneously banded together because they fear the consequences of massive overspending and debt. I've traveled thousands of miles across Kentucky over the past year, and I've met the Tea Party, one person at a time, one city at a time. They often come from different social, cultural and economic backgrounds but unite to address head-on the daunting problems facing our nation. And although they come together, they never really come together too much. There really is no Kentucky Tea Party—simply independent groups, organized by city, inspired by patriotism and informed by common sense.
Has there been a movement in the last hundred years where in many cities across the country people just spontaneously show up for a protest? This happened on April 15, 2009 in about ten cities in Kentucky but probably over a thousand cities nationwide. This is quite amazing when you consider that not only do the Tea Parties not communicate with one another, but they don't really communicate with anyone nationally. Each group values its own autonomy. In my experience, the Tea Party doesn't have aspirations to coalesce as a national organization in large part because they so dislike rules and authority. Tea Partiers often don't like to have politicians speak at their events because they don't want to be too attached to the political machine, unlike Republican or Democratic gatherings where the politicians do all the talking and citizens are rarely given a forum to express their opinion. Such party meetings are typically made up of a small clique of partisan insiders who jealously guard their own political turf. The Tea Party is the opposite: a large group of unabashed, nonpartisan outsiders who want everyone to have their say yet doggedly reject letting a single individual or a handful of individuals speak for them or the movement.
I said time and again throughout my campaign that the Tea Party movement equally chastises both Republicans and Democrats. Of course, this has always fit me to a tee, since my constant criticism of my own party's job performance is one of the reasons that I was not endorsed by establishment Republicans during the 2010 primary. Many conservatives were outraged over Bush's deficits and spending. They felt betrayed, and rightfully so. The dominant message of the Tea Party is fear that our national debt and budget deficit—the fault of both parties—will destroy our nation. Though the movement is heavily decentralized—and what some might call disorganized—advocating for a much smaller, leaner federal government continues to be its one unifying principle.
The extent to which the movement's critics not only dismiss grassroots voters' grievances but the Tea Party's very legitimacy is amusing. Commenting on the April 15, 2009 rallies, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "This [Tea Party] initiative is funded by the high end—we call it 'AstroTurf,' it's not really a grassroots movement. It's AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class."
There's no question that some in the political establishment have tried to latch on to the Tea Party or manipulate the movement for their own benefit. Any Tea Partier could tell you this, and they all are aware of it precisely because maintaining their independence is so important. The movement is keenly aware of possible establishment-type interlopers and, if anything, is probably overly suspicious—in fact Tea Partiers are quite the opposite of being dupes, as critics such as Pelosi love to portray them.
Pelosi's view of the Tea Party is typical of elitists. Or as pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Douglas E. Schoen, authors of the book Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System, explained at Politico.com:
(T)he political class's assault on the tea parties has been continuing and systematic. Indeed, Rasmussen Reports has shown that 87 percent of the political class views "tea party member" as a negative description, while almost half—or 48 percent—of ordinary mainstream voters see it as a positive.
The reason for this broad-based support is simple: Voters in our survey said that they believe that the current leadership in both parties has failed to achieve policies that address their most pressing concerns—creating jobs and fixing the economy. Furthermore, respondents were clear that they want a pro-growth agenda, fiscal discipline, limited government, deficit reduction, a free market and a change from politics as usual. They view the tea party movement as having a unique contribution in achieving these goals.
Given today's anti-Washington, anti-incumbent sentiment, it is hardly surprising that voters have largely rejected the efforts of political, academic and media elites—on both right and left—to ignore or marginalize the tea party. Many among these elitists have now branded the tea party movement as AstroTurf, an inauthentic political movement funded by wealthy and influential businessmen.
- On Sale
- Feb 22, 2011
- Page Count
- 272 pages
- Center Street