"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taxes, the Tea Party, and the Future of America


Do you feel that?
If you finally got your taxes done, you know that feeling of relief today unlike any other. Whether you got a nice refund or had to fork over a chunk of your cash to Uncle Sam, it feels nice that it’s all over… at least until next year. Tax day can be a poignant reminder of the influence that government has in our lives, for better or worse.

For a lot of Americans, perhaps you included, the influence has gone too far.

Back in February 2009, we saw the beginning of what is commonly known as the “Tea Party” – a political movement unlike any other America has seen in generations. Like most organic political movements, it is hard to pin-point exactly when and where it began. Here in St. Louis, it started with a rally on February 27th, 2009 when an estimated 1,500 people gathered under the Arch. A few months later on April 15th, 2009, a much larger crowd (some estimated 10,000) gathered in downtown St. Louis.

What was all the fuss about?

The people were complaining about high taxes, overregulation, a sour economy, bailouts for mega corporations, and voiced general discontent with the way things were. Fast-forward five years later and things don’t seem to have changed much. In fact, you can add to that list of negatives such contentious issues like the Obamacare rollout, NSA phone tapping and spying, and foreign policy mishaps.
Now, with five years of history to review, a seemingly more polarized political environment, and your taxes done, it’s a great time to reflect on the question: has the movement succeeded or failed?

I’m not out to indict the ideals of Tea Party movement. Nor am I blissfully unaware of its shortcomings. I consider myself a keen political observer who doesn’t agree 100% with the Tea Party or want to throw the baby out with the bath water. So, here are four lessons I think we can all take to heart:

1) Leadership matters – From the beginning, the Tea Party movement lacked definitive leaders. Its decentralization is part of what made it unique, but can also be its most glaring failing. Local leaders have emerged, but have not been sustained. Is Senator Rand Paul the new face of the Tea Party? We will see. Personality is almost as important as ideals, which means definitive leadership is very important for any type of political movement to sustain itself.

2) Freedom is great – Freedom can be really awesome in its ability to bring about tremendous prosperity and success. To its credit, the Tea Party lit or re-lit the desire for freedom in the heart of many Americans. But freedom can be a nebulous campaign platform because it can lead to stark conflicts. What if one person’s freedom comes into conflict with another person’s? Where does one freedom end and another begin? The Tea Party has reminded us that freedom is great, but has not been as clear as it could be as to where limits must necessarily exist.

3) The Third Party – The Tea Party has not succeeded in becoming a true “third-party” that many thought it could be. This is partly due to a lack of leadership and partly to a lack of definitive party ideals. Simply being for freedom and against bigger government is not the best platform for a movement. For now, the Tea Party more-or-less lives within the ranks of the GOP, effectively keeping it grounded to basic principles of freedom and small government. Is that enough? Can it grow? Again, time will tell.

4) “The people” can make a difference – If the Tea Party experiment to this point is one thing, it is a shining example of how even a loosely organized, organic, and semi-unified group of Americans can make a big impact. The sweeping Republican gains in the U.S. Congress in 2010 were due almost entirely to this movement. However, the failure to win big in 2012 may have been due to the exact same movement. Yet, the mere fact that this discussion is even taking place today proves that average Americans can and do make a big difference in the political landscape, which is why America is so amazing in the first place.

What do you think?


This post was originally written for The 9s. Please visit their website and consider buying a subscription.

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