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.

(MORE: Riff at Tea Party Group Reveals Questions About the Movement’s Direction)

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?”

(MORE: Does the GOP Really Want to Woo Blacks and Latinos?)

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.

(MORE: The GOP’s New Civil War)

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.

MORE: Why the Tea Party Movement Matters

66 comments
DenaKelley
DenaKelley

The TEA Party needs to get even more involved. The GOP has pretty much sold out and now spends pretty much the same as democrats. Spending was going up while George W Bush was President, and while the GOP controlled both houses. Now the democrats have control and spending continues to go up. Both parties are guilty. Spending has got to be reined in. We have contemporary examples (Greece, Spain) of what will happen to us if we don't. 

mstazrn
mstazrn

@TIMEIdeas @jennybethm. It needs to build up stronger. It needs sarah palin

mrprincipal07
mrprincipal07

Ignorance has been with us for thousands of years.  It has only recently been embraced by a particular party.  It is almost a religion among many in this party.  I can see it now:  an entire cottage industry based on Ignorance and the the heartfelt spirituality it seems to provoke in those who shudder at the very mention of words like "problem solving"  " critical thinking"  "reason, logic"   and horror of horrors "facts"

But, we forget, these same folks have a very intimate relationship with their brain stem, and have discovered a way to suspend brain function, while showing deep appreciation for the adrenaline rushes every time they use their best ? problem solving strategy - belief trumps facts followed by the emotional  rewards of the adrenaline caused euphoria, hence they are always right, and never make mistakes.  Why, they have made themselves in their own image and they have found it to be good.





Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Fabulous!  I trust this means you'll keep your big government nose out of my uterus.

Swachtor
Swachtor

@TIME @jennybethm @timeideas but the PuffHost says the tea party was created by big tobacco!!! So she is for big tobacco?!? #liberaloutrage

atomliner
atomliner

@TIME @jennybethm @timeideas Great! Go and pull the Republicans even further to the right! We progressives love easy elections! :D

yppykya
yppykya

@TIME @jennybethm @TIMEIdeas and some say brainwashing doesn't work!

JonathanMartin
JonathanMartin

In a free society, the wealthy interests compete against one another to compete in serving the masses with the least expensive products possible. In a state-dominated economy, the same wealthy interest find themselves working together through government to grant themselves larger and larger monopolies through regulations that their competitors. It's terribly sad that no one seems to realise this. Why doesn't anyone ask themselves why a large media corporation like Time Warner is constantly pushing the statist agenda? Why do the large corporations support the establishment republicans and democrats rather than the Tea Party? Cambridge scholar Antony Sutton published a series of 3 books that exposed the same 1% push for the New deal, the bolshevik revolution, and Nazi Germany - all statist movements.

JeffreyWhite
JeffreyWhite

Well, it is supposed to be a free country. Democracy and freedom are about free will and choice. So, organize and vote for the things you believe. I will not hold it against you...However, you do not represent my interests. So, others like me, who voted for Obama and the Democratc platform, will continue to organize and vote as well.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Aw, cupcake, you're a useful idiot for the 1% and you don't even know it.

RontheCarpenter
RontheCarpenter

@TIME @jennybethm @TIMEIdeas They (the Tea Party) and their cohorts need to take up a new hobby, say knitting.

AngryHatter
AngryHatter

@TIME @jennybethm @TIMEIdeas The fact is she's wrong. The debt is half of what it was 01/2009, 66% of the debt is to ourselves.

MikeStaresinic
MikeStaresinic

@TIME @jennybethm @timeideas some people have nothing better to do than explain why bad new continues

ahhhzima
ahhhzima

So, what, is Time just giving a platform to any old crazy person now?

PLifelong7
PLifelong7

@TIME @jennybethm @TIMEIdeas I see hope to drink from their tea

OnlyWhiteTiger
OnlyWhiteTiger

@TIME @jennybethm @TIMEIdeas Have we ever run out of jerks - no never

RonJoeShow
RonJoeShow

@TIME @jennybethm @TIMEIdeas because they won't get a job and move out.

idknonsense
idknonsense

Mrs. Martin, I love how you speak so passionately about our nation's lack of fiscal responsibility when you, yourself, clearly demonstrate your own inept ability to efficiently manage your own personal finances.  You came underwater and found yourself in foreclosure because you overextended your credit and purchased a "big family home", which you clearly could not afford, in an "upscale neighborhood," in which you clearly should not have been living. 

Yeah, if anyone should be attempting to fix our nation's debt problem, it should definitely be you.  Give me a break.

ODIEkriss
ODIEkriss

Its cause she watches Fox news.

DenaKelley
DenaKelley

@mstazrn - I'm an Alaska resident and can tell you that Sarah Palin was NOT a fiscal conservative. NOT. She is a social conservative, but she governed Alaska with higher taxes and higher spending, including a $1200 "energy rebate" just before the 2008 elections to every Alaska resident that, even if it wasn't considered a bribe, certainly could have been better spent on Capital projects that would have resulted in long term energy savings instead of a one-shot deal. She also was on the hook for multiple ethics violations. I guarantee the TEA Party is much better off without her representing them.

DenaKelley
DenaKelley

@atomliner - You might consider that John McCain and Mitt Romney were both RINO's and lost handily to Obama. Clearly moving towards the middle hasn't helped the GOP one whit.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@JeffreyWhite This is another important point:

You do not control the majority of the country and you never will.  Therefore your choices are to compromise and hopefully keep everyone else from spending too much, or prevent things from getting done and watch the entire country go down the tubes.

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@Hollywooddeed Is this what passes for thoughtful dialogue or debating the merits of an argument? Or do you spout angry rhetoric from the safety of an anonymous post to make yourself feel better? 

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@RontheCarpenter And how does this have anything to do with the merits of Ms. Martin's argument?

Swachtor
Swachtor

@AngryHatter @time @jennybethm @timeideas ? What are you smoking?!?

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@ahhhzima What is your point? Or does it make you feel good about yourself to anonymously make posts without value or substance? 

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@idknonsense I applaud the fact that you seem to have read the article above unlike many others posting comments. However, what do Ms. Martin's financial difficulties have to do with the merits of her argument? I think you've made a not-so-thinly veiled personal attack behind the safety of an anonymous post. Does this make you feel good about yourself?

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@LowellHowardJr. @Hollywooddeed Just telling it like it is, Lowell.  Read up on the origins of the tea party and you'll learn why Ms. Martin thinks she's part of a grassroots effort.  She is doing the bidding of people who couldn't otherwise care less about her.  Read.  Learn something.

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@Swachtor Agreed. What does "66% of the debt is to ourselves" even mean? When the government sells debt, it's still debt no matter who holds the paper.

clell65619
clell65619

@LowellHowardJr. @ahhhzima Good question there Lowell (if that's your real name) Does it make you feel good about yourself to make posts without value or substance under what may or may not be your real name?

idknonsense
idknonsense

@LowellHowardJr. @idknonsense Does her argument even have merit if she, personally, does not abide its very premises?  Pointing out her own financial problems - when she is attempting to address the entire nation's vastly more complex financial problems - is not a personal attack; it is, however, meant to question her credibility and qualifications as a wishful figure of financial advisement.

And I am not sure if you are new to the internet or what, but anonymity is a part of the package.  Who cares if you do not know my name?  I do not care if "Lowell" is your real name or not, or if that is your real face in that picture.  Taking a rhetorical shot at me for my comment and asking if it makes me "feel good" is juvenile.  I expect that sort of behavior from schoolyard bullies.  Get a grip my dude.  If you do not have any substance to argue on then do not resort to what is, in fact, meaningless rhetoric seeing as how we are communicating via the internet.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@LowellHowardJr. @Hollywooddeed I will not participate in an "I know you are, but what am I" logical fallacy.  Stick to the topic, which is Ms. Martin's textual yawlps about an ideology of an America that never was and the tea partiers who are too stupid to know how they were manipulated.

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@Hollywooddeed @LowellHowardJr. Okay, let's suppose that your supposition is true: the author isn't part of a grassroots effort; she's being manipulated by a group of people who don't share her interests. 

How would this paradigm be any different than what currently exists within the GOP or Democratic Party?

AngryHatter
AngryHatter

@Swachtor vets,ssi recipients and bondholders, read before making noise

Swachtor
Swachtor

@AngryHatter how do your grand kids feel about >100k in debt obligations? Is that fair? And it all goes to vets right?

Swachtor
Swachtor

@AngryHatter way to twist the argument. No it's that 75% of the budget is driven by non-budget transfer pmts.

AngryHatter
AngryHatter

@Swachtor So you do not want to pay vets for their service? That is your debt.

Swachtor
Swachtor

@AngryHatter always been upset that we have too much debt. 'Owing it to ourselves' is smoke and mirrors. It's still debt.

AngryHatter
AngryHatter

@Swachtor Nothing satisfies. 66% of the debt is to us, now what are you upset about?

Swachtor
Swachtor

@AngryHatter Oh yeah..the debt that we owe ourselves after we raided the SS trust fund! Ha! One arm borrowing to the other! We owe it to us!

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@clell65619I'm reasonably certain that my son could spell the words "anonymous" or "particular" correctly. Also, I think you meant to say "principal reason," but I digress.


If you mean punish in the sense that members of Congress who aren't fiscally responsible are voted out of office, then I suppose that could be a suitable descriptor. My preference would be to call these situations democracy in action. A better use of the word punish or punishment might apply to Speaker Boehner's ousting of certain members of Congress from finance-related committees for voting on principle. 

Voting members out of office and removing them from committee assignments represent legitimate actions within the context of civil society. Making personal attacks out of spite, pity, or ignorance doesn't advance the cause of democracy or liberty. It only makes us poorer as a nation.

clell65619
clell65619

I kind of doubt your 7 year-old would have introduced himself to the discussion with a lot of whining about anonmous accounts... but then you know him better than I, perhaps that particualar apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Pity.

The principle reason that Congress can't agree with a budget is because people like Ms Martin have made sure to punish any congresscritter who even thinks the word compromise.  You know this, I know this, it is the Tea Party's corporate policy.  Pretending otherwise doesn't speak well of you Lowell, if that is your real name.

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@clell65619 @LowellHowardJr. @ahhhzima Wow, that's almost as keen as something my 7 year-old son might say. "That's what you are, but what am I?" 

But really - where is the debate here? I fail to see any constructive criticism. It's no small wonder that Congress can't agree on a budget when the people they supposedly represent are engaged in petty personal attacks.

idknonsense
idknonsense

@LowellHowardJr. @idknonsense I fully comprehended the point you were trying to make.  You, however, clearly missed my point about anonymity on the internet.  It is pointless to even "point it out" because everyone on here is an unknown entity and everyone, besides yourself, understand that.  We all enjoy the very same anonymous protection about which you have made such a big deal, yourself included.  No one cares who anyone else is. Anonymity on the internet is the status quo, thus rendering your point about its protection moot.  Who really cares?

In no way was I "attacking" Mrs. Martin, so I was not using my "anonymity as a weapon in this public forum."  I voiced my opinion, of which you clearly did not approve, and you diverted the argument to a senseless conversation.  You are too concerned with who people are and whether or not they would voice their opinions/comments in a face-to-face personal encounter, to address the actual substance of commenters' posts.

LowellHowardJr.
LowellHowardJr.

@idknonsense @LowellHowardJr. You've clearly missed the point about anonymity. The Internet and forums like this one provide places where people can share ideas without fear of retribution. However, using one's anonymity as a weapon in this public forum is rude, counterproductive, and "juvenile." 

Who is the real bully? The person who engages in this sort of behavior or the one who merely points it out?