Editorial: A Call to Action
“I have to tell you – I'm pretty proud of this.”—Rick Santelli, CNBC analyst.
Fed-up with the way the federal government has abused their trust and misused their taxes, angry Americans across the country held protests against the plague of bailout mania that has swept through Washington, DC, in recent months. As they gathered to protest, many no doubt found comfort in the fact that they are not alone, and certainly the grassroots underpinnings of tax day's more than 750 planned events added a certain patriotic aura to the protests. Tens of thousands are estimated to have shown up by mid-afternoon, with more expected as the “Tea Parties” continued into the evening. Final tallies pegged it at more than 250,000 by day's end.
And they should feel patriotic. Rick Santelli, whose rant against Barack Obama's $275 billion mortgage modification plan just two months ago against energized the now-popular revolt, told CNBC that he was proud of the protesters, and praised their patriotism, asking, “but isn't it about as American as it gets – for people to roll their strollers and make their signs and go voice their opinion about the direction of the country?”
Of course, Mr. Santelli is right—the protests represent the spontaneous brand of citizen activism upon which America was built. But if the tea parties stop there, then they will be a failure; rejoiced only by those who celebrate over what didn't happen, lamented by those who ponder what they might have become.
The only way for the tea parties to be effective in their aims to reduce government spending—and not merely serve as a venting mechanism—is for the protesters on the street to turn their anger into action. Forming PACs, running for office, organizing calling campaigns—there are dozens of ways that Americans can organize to rein in the superfluous spending, loose lending, and misguided monetary policies that have run rampant throughout Washington.
And some are doing so. Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds reports in the Wall Street Journal that one organizer is planning to create a PAC to press for “lower taxes and reduced spending.” And another is planning to channel the support he has received towards impacting the next elections.
Aside from the face-to-face contact established through these protests, the social networking that went on behind the scenes to bring these protests to fruition should give conservatives cause for celebration. The event was largely coordinated via “new media” applications such as Twitter and Facebook, revealing a vibrant base that can quickly coordinate and organize itself to get its limited-government message across to politicians. ALG's own NetRightNation.com hosted an aggregation page for tea parties, documenting a continuing stream of postings about individual tea party experiences.
The Facebook group for TaxDayTeaParty has over 40,000 members, at last count. Clearly, conservatives are able to use the “new media”, and good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth to coordinate just as effectively as their liberal counterparts. What conservatives lacked in the past was a sense of urgency to spur them to action.
While the government's extravagant economic policies have provided motivation to millions of discouraged Americans, the participants of the tea parties cannot simply stop and pat themselves on the back. The most important impact of these tea parties will be the continued activism that springs up as fellow tax protesters join forces to make a difference in their local, state, and federal government.
This must be a lifelong commitment to limited government—and unlimited liberty. When that happens, we can all join Rick Santelli in being “pretty proud.”