From The VCTPP Blog
The Consent of the Governed and the Roots of the TEA Party Movement
by Keli Carender
Last President’s Day, about two hundred of us gathered at Westlake Park in the middle of deep blue Seattle to protest the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a.k.a. Porkulus, because Washington D.C. wasn’t listening.
We had tried to tell President Bush back in 2008 that we didn’t want the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP), and he and Congress did not listen. Then, one of the earliest initiatives by our new President, Barack Obama, who as a Senator supported TARP and the bailouts of the banks, was to declare the worse economic crises since the Great Depression and hurry Congress into passing a giant stimulus package.
Remember the nearly 1,100 page version of Porkulus that was passed by both the House and the Senate on Friday, February 13, 2009? The final legislative language was not made publicly available by Congressional leadership until late Thursday night, giving Congressmen, Senators and the public less than 16 hours to read the more than 1,000 pages. Seventy-two pages of amendments had been added the night before the vote. Many Congressmen and Senators publicly admitted they did not have time to read it before voting on it. It was this last, final act of contempt and disrespect for the American people that was the tipping point.
After my representative and my two senators, all left-wing ideologues, ignored me, refused to empty their voicemail boxes, sent back form letters, and stopped taking phone calls, I understood what taxation without representation felt like.
Representation requires that members of Congress, at minimum, read the bills. Once they stopped doing this, none of us were represented any longer, and the Tea Party Movement was born.
Representative John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee famously implied that reading the bills on which members will vote is not necessary. Regarding the healthcare bill Conyers said “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill.’ What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”
The Tea Party story and imagery comes from our common bond with our forefathers, taking direct action against a government that refused to represent the people, but still taxed them. What you may not know is that we share some other parts of the story with the original Tea Partiers. The story goes like this:
Parliament had passed a variety of taxation laws and then repealed most of them because of the activism of our forefathers, the first community organizers. The King left the Tea Tax in place as a petty warning to the colonists that he still reigned over them and had the power to tax them at
his will. But that’s not the full story. The East India Company was failing and needed a bailout. Seriously. They persuaded Parliament that it was in England’s best interest to save the collapsing tea company. So Parliament refunded the normally imposed duties to the East India Company, dramatically decreasing the price of their tea, and gave them a monopoly in the colonies. Parliament kept the Tea Tax in place, but even with the tax, the new lower price of the East India Company’s tea was less than the smuggled tea from Holland. It was the King’s hope that the cheap price would entice the colonists to buy the tea, regardless of the Tea Tax.
However, our forefathers refused to accept this bribe of cheaper tea because it would have been an acknowledgment of Parliament’s right to impose taxes without giving the Colonies a voice.
The governed revoked their consent and later determined, in a written constitution, the type of government they would embrace.
That is what our Tea Party movement is about. The American people are rising up against
being governed in such a cynical, self-serving, and dishonest manner as we have witnessed. Everyday Americans have said, “Enough!” to this Congress and to this Administration.or any future politicians who hope to fill those seats of power.
Everyday, hard-working Americans have found a common bond in a hunger for government truly based on the limits set out by our social contract, the U.S. Constitution. Too many of our elected officials have come to regard the public purse as their treasure trove from which to reward special interest groups and voting blocs in order to keep getting elected. Under those circumstances, who needs to read the bills?
Americans who are part of the Tea Party Movement do not agree on all issues and this is OK. The Movement is not about immigration, national security, KSM’s trial in New York City, and so on. Though these and other issues are vitally important and have extremely significant places in the realm of public debate, they are a subset of the original contract that we have with our government.
The goal of the Tea Party Movement is to free the American people, their livelihood, their property – physical and intellectual, their time, their wallets, and their families from a federal
government that has, under both parties, grown to be a political phagocyte that sees individual liberty and freedom as so much debris in the body politic.
When we are free to earn a living, take care of our families, and be charitable in the manner of our choosing; when we are not regulated to the point of inaction and stagnation; when we are trusted to make our own decisions about the paths of our lives and about where to spend our money; when all of these things come to pass, it means that we will have elected representatives that finally realize that they work for us and so must listen and act responsively.
When multi-millionaires like Nancy Pelosi can no longer tax us into oblivion to pay for private use of military transports for their grandchildren, and cannot use our money to pay for Johnny Walker whiskey and Courvoisier cognac, we will have succeeded. Once we have achieved the goal of electing officials that represent all of the people and not one particular group over another group, i.e. public sector union members over non-unionized citizens, or specific race or ethnic groups over others, further issues will be easier to address.
Once we have representatives that stop bribing each other with our money, stop giving kickbacks to friends, stop wasting our money on useless trips and redundancies, and stop taking our hard-earned dollars out for a night on the town, we won’t mind paying the taxes that the Founders knew would be necessary to fund a limited federal government.
This is why this movement is neither Republican or Democrat. These rules apply to all of them. This election cycle will bring out many politicians eager to use the momentum and enthusiasm of the Tea Party Movement to propel them into office. In some places in the country the candidates that Tea Party groups support may be Democrats, in other places they may Republican. I can say that here in Seattle the Democrats are so radically left that Tea Partiers will probably have to choose from those who run under the Republican banner. My state level representatives and senator are all avowed socialists, with one of them actually admitting to being a communist – and they are all Democrats. But there will be parts of the country where the more principled candidate will be a Democrat, and the Tea Partiers are not afraid to go there. If a party or a candidate would like the support of the Tea Party Movement, they had better believe in our principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.
Once in office they must live up to these principles with their votes, and if they don’t, they will lose their job at the next election.
It’s really quite simple.
Am I worried about the movement being “co-opted” by other causes and established political parties? No. The facts are that many citizens registered as Republicans and Democrats ARE Tea Partiers. Many others are true Independents. Others are Libertarians. Those of us in the Movement are observant, smart, and pretty darned discerning. We are learning better every day how to distinguish the candidates who, given the opportunity, will roll the Taxpayer like a thief in a dark alley from those who, like a few fine elected officials currently serving, embody and live the Tea Party principles.
The Silent Dismantling of Our Republic by interfering with regular, periodic elections
who come into power either by force or by election, nearly always seek more and more power until
they approach kingly status. Over a period of several decades, and with historical experience as well as
their own good thinking, the Founders eventually employed several techniques to minimize the
possibility of that happening in their new government. Separation of powers, checks and balances,
frequent elections–all these devices were implemented to curb the human tendency to concentrate
power in the few.
Return to the Original Source of Power
James Madison expressed that, since the people are the original source of authority to govern, they
ought to be consulted on a periodic basis as to whom they should delegate some of this authority. Said
“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional
charter under which the [power of the] several branches of government … is derived, it seems strictly
consonant to the republican theory to recur to the same original authority … whenever any one of the
departments may commit encroachments on the chartered authorities of the others.”
But how often should the people be consulted?
“Where annual elections end, tyranny begins”
In order to check runaway politicians, early Americans, particularly in New England, wanted them to
come back and report to the people very often and at the same time give the people a chance to decide
whether they wanted their representative to continue to represent them or not. Many felt that if they left
them unchecked for more than a year, strange notions might enter into their thinking and they would
cease to be public servants.
Originally, several of the states, especially Massachusetts, had a penchant for annual elections. Their
slogan was, “Where annual elections end, tyranny begins.” However, experience soon demonstrated
that delegates to a national Congress need training and experience to function effectively.
Nevertheless, the Founders did not want to follow the pattern of the early parliaments in England,
where the members of the House of Commons remained in office until a political crisis occurred and
the majority party could not get a vote of confidence, thereby requiring a new election. The Americans
wanted their representatives to return home and face the voters at regular intervals.
In the Constitutional Convention, the Founders decided that two years would be adequate for
representatives to learn their job and perform it long enough before returning to the people to see if the
people would want to keep them or send someone else. This two year period also provided the people
with a regular interval in which to go about their business and a long enough period of time before they
had to think about another election. The Founders know that in a democracy, where the people make
all the decisions, they grow tired of constantly being involved and cease to have an active interest in
the affairs of government. Two-year intervals seemed to be about right. Madison knew that going to the
people too often in elections of any kind, whether changing constitutions, making new laws, or
changing leaders would bring reactions of the people based more on emotion rather than methodic
reasoning. Said he:
“The danger of disturbing the public tranquility by interesting too strongly the public passions is a still
more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the
whole society. Notwithstanding the success which has attended the revisions of our established forms
of government [the ratification conventions] and which does so much honor to the virtue and
intelligence of the people of America, it must be confessed that the experiments are of too ticklish a
nature to be unnecessarily multiplied.”
The Founders rejected a provision to recall Senators
can recall their senators from the nation’s capital. Even though a senator’s term is much greater–six
years–they decided that the recall provision would throw too much contention into the system and
would provide an avenue for unscrupulous factions to take control. Robert Livingston explains:
“… It would open so wide a door for faction and intrigue, and afford such scope for the arts of an evil
ambition. A man might go to the Senate with an incorruptible integrity, and the strongest attachment to
the interest of his state. But if he deviated, in the least degree, from the line which a prevailing party in
a popular assembly had marked for him, he would be immediately recalled. Under these circumstances,
how easy would it be for an ambitious, factious demagogue to misrepresent him, to distort the features
of his character, and give a false color to his conduct! How easy for such a man to impose upon the
public, and influence them to recall and disgrace their faithful delegate!
Then how do you get rid of a public official you don’t like?
Once again the Founders provided for the protection of the people against an errant public official. If
the man commits a crime while in office and is convicted, most governmental jurisdictions require him
to step down from his office. If he has not been convicted of a crime but still becomes objectionable to
the people he is supposed to be representing, then the people need to insist that the checks and balances
are working properly to prevent his doing too much damage while still in office. Then in just a short
while, at the next regular election, he can be replaced.
The best answer is to restore Constitutional limitations!
Usually, when someone is thought to be unfit for office, that person is most likely doing the bidding of
some special interest group and giving them special favors from his high post in the government. The
amazing thing is that if public officials were kept within the bounds of the Constitution, there would
not be any one public office holder with enough power to make it worth a special interest group trying
to buy his vote! The answer to corruption, then, is what our answer is always: Restore the Constitution!
It solves all issues!
The increasing use of the corrupting influence of recall elections
The increasing use of recall elections to try to correct problems in government, flies directly in the face
of the Founders methodical program of peaceful, self-repair in good constitutional government. It
introduces factions and gives them a voice. It disturbs the tranquility of the people by thrusting them
into another election other than at the regular, established intervals. It introduces the weaknesses and
dangers of a pure democracy the Founders warned us about 200 years ago.
The “Progressive Era” provides cover for the Recall tactic
The years between 1890 and 1920 were years of great change in America’s political structure:
* Ironically, these were the years when the Founders’ formula for freedom ceased to be taught in
many American schools.
* It was a time when American history books were being rewritten and revised.
* It was a time when the word “democracy” had finally shed its negative feeling and President
Woodrow Wilson declared the United States needed to “make the world safe for democracy” by
doing what Americans had elected him not to do – get us into war.
* It was a time when very powerful forces took control of the public opinion-molding media.
* It was a time when anti-Founding Father forces began to take control of teacher colleges.
* It was a time when the federal government tentacles began reaching directly down into the
pocketbooks of Americans.
* It was a time when the sovereign states lost their power in the machinery of the federal
government and lost their ability to protect the people from an ever-growing federal government.
* It was a time when control of our money system was turned over to private interests.
* It was a time when churches began to embrace the soul-destroying doctrine of the social gospel.
* It was a time when parental responsibilities became confused and children were raised in other
than traditional family settings as their father went off to war and the mothers went to work.
* All this, and much more is what some historians ironically call the Progressive Era!
It was during this so-called Progressive Era that powerful people wanted to use the power of
uninformed people to their own advantage. They saw that such people could be persuaded by
emotional appeal to make decisions that would begin to change the way the Founders set up our system
to work. Techniques such as recall, initiative, and referendum began to be adopted state by state. These
tactics leave the door wide open for factions and intriguing power brokers arguing that it would be
more “democratic” if the people began to make more and more decisions. Few people realized these
methods were already discussed and systematically rejected by the Founders.
Many good people are duped into participating in recall elections
If Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and others would advise not to participate in such anti-
republican, masses-manipulating events such as a recall election, why are even good people persuaded
to do so today? It is difficult to know the motivation of some people but when a whole raft of historical
evidence points to trouble, one must wonder about the depth of their understanding of basic principles
of freedom and liberty. They perhaps have never realized that–
* Recalls are elements of democracy, not republican government
* Recalls interfere with the regular, methodical pattern of elections.
* Recall disturbs the tranquility of the people
* Through the use of recalls the organizers are short-circuiting the normal established channels of
checks and balances in an unnatural attempt to control political activity.
* The use of recalls has been a cover for unscrupulous people who wish to confuse and liberalize
Recently, there have even been calls for postponing elections altogether so that government officials
can supposedly have more time to solve problems without having to worry about taking time out to
campaign for re-election.
Whether the proposal is to cut short a public officials term through recalls or lengthen it through
postponing elections, these tactics should be viewed for what they are–an attempt to ignore and violate
the beautiful Constitutional system and to instigate a parliamentary system of government based more
on the rule by the whims of men rather than the rule of law. Our Founders wisely rejected such
schemes 200 years ago.
Earl Taylor, Jr.