Viewpoint: Why the Tea Party Is Here to Stay

On the fourth anniversary of the first Tea Party protests, the movement is refocusing on reining in government spending

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Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin joins other members of the Tea Party outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the third day of oral arguements over the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act March 28, 2012 in Washington, DC

It was February 2009 when my family hit rock-bottom. Little did I know that, one year later, TIME Magazine would name me one of the world’s Most Influential people for my role as a leader in the Tea Party movement.

I did not feel influential on that cool February morning. I felt like a greying mother of young twins who had just lost her Atlanta family home to foreclosure. Our family was not alone in our suffering. Millions of Americans had lost their homes too, in what was called the worst foreclosure crisis in American history. Millions more, like my husband and I, were also newly out of work, with the U.S. unemployment rate climbing to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Things looked bleak for our family. But we did not lose hope. We did not lose our belief in the American Dream. Most importantly; we did not lose our sense of responsibility to our children.

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Politicians from both sides of the aisle were selling the idea that American families deserved to be bailed out. Government was spending trillions of dollars that our children and grandchildren had not yet earned on so-called “bailouts.” Even though my family was offered one of those government-backed bailout loans to save our family home, we refused to take it. Like most Americans, we believe in taking responsibility for ourselves and for our families — not in taking money from our neighbors’ children and grandchildren.

So we did the responsible thing. We went from a big family home to a smaller rental. From an upscale neighborhood to a modest one. And we created our own job: scrubbing the floors and cleaning the bathrooms of our friends and former neighbors.

Our “head office” was our car. Inside our car was a radio. And it was on that radio — as we drove from house to house on February 19, 2009 — that we heard the words that would change our lives forever: “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgages [when they have] an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”

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The contrast hit hard. While my husband and I cleaned our neighbor’s bathrooms to pay our bills, our government was mortgaging our children’s future to pay for the mortgages of those who could not, or would not, pay their bills.

The speaker on the radio was CNBC reporter Rick Santelli, on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, in his now-famous rant that sparked the modern Tea Party movement. “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” he said. “All you capitalists that want to show up at Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.”

The next day, we started organizing, too.

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Within a week, the first “Tea Party” rallies took place across America. Within a year, the Tea Party Patriots became the biggest grassroots organization in the country. And soon, we became the targets of politicians from both sides of the aisle, for daring to say to our government: “Stop over-spending our children and grandchildren into debt.”

For this, they called us “racist,” “delusional” and “violent”, none of which was true. But truth mattered little to Washington, DC, insiders or their enablers in the media, who felt that “Big Government” was the solution to everything. While Tea Partiers held signs like “Give Me Liberty, Not Debt” and “Man Is Not Free Unless Government Is Limited,” our government kept overspending us into generational debt, while USA Today published the headline “The Era of Big Government Arrives” and a Newsweek cover proclaimed: “We Are All Socialists Now.”

Time has proven us right.

The Tea Party has consistently been on the right side of the over-spending debate. Often times, we have been the only national voice for fiscal responsibility. Government has consistently been on the wrong side of the over-spending debate, as evidenced by its record debt of nearly $17 trillion — a crushing $146,416 burden on each American taxpayer, according to the ever-changing U.S. debt clock, and $52,584 saddled around the necks of each American child and grandchild born today.

(PHOTOS: Portraits of the Tea Party Movement)

Now, Washington, DC, insiders, led by Karl Rove, are trying to disenfranchise millions of American citizens by usurping their rights to choose their own local candidates. Rove’s group, The Conservative Victory  Project, plans to influence Republican primary races by recruiting and backing candidates. Why? Because the “consultant class” wants to “pick the most conservative candidate who can win,” as Steven J. Law, president of Super PAC American Crossroads, recently told the New York Times. That’s why the Tea Party Patriots is standing up to create our own Political Action Committee (Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund) to keep local, representative democracy alive in America.

We will ensure that Americans are able to pick their own representatives, and we will not let an elite group in Washington decide what’s best for everyone in the country.  Because, as Washington, DC, insiders have shown — over and over again — they are not the best judges of what is right for American citizens.

Moving forward, we are building a national infrastructure to empower American citizens at the local, state and national levels, to defend their liberty and to rein in our big-spending government. In the next days and months, the Tea Party Patriots will launch new grassroots campaigns to tackle government over-spending. We will fight the government takeover of health care at the local and state levels by going after Obamacare Exchanges and state spending measures. And we will make sure that the American values of constitutionally limited government, free markets and fiscal responsibility are on the ballot in the next election — and voiced by a candidate that “We the People” choose.

Our work has just begun. The Tea Party is here to stay.

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