Such may be the headline those in the mainstream media would be inclined to concoct in reference to the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit which kicked-off Friday and continues throughout the weekend. As truly vile racist hate-mongers continue their tax-payer funded violent tantrum in Madison, demanding recognition as a protected class set apart and above their fellow man, those gathered in Phoenix under the banner of Tea Party Patriots struck a decisively different tone.
Friday’s program began with focused breakout sessions. Themes in “How to Start a Tea Party” included such hateful points as “leaders must demonstrate a positive attitude” along with “humility.” What was particularly striking about this presentation by the Northern California Tea Party Patriots was its candid treatment of the downside to leadership. There is a cost to spearheading any endeavor. Local leaders must press on through criticism, not just from ideological opponents outside the Tea Party, but from negative and counter-protective personalities within the movement. Other themes included the importance of team-building and goal-setting, points with universal application to any significant endeavor.
The next session I choose to attend was on “Citizen Journalism,” led by Texas Watchdog’s Mark Lisheron. Coming away from it, you realize the modifier “citizen” really isn’t necessary, as Lisheron’s presentation simply compelled hard reporting. The “citizen” part comes in only because the so-called professionals have so utterly abandoned the tenants of journalism. Lisheron used to be among them, a member of “the lame-stream media.” He found his compulsion toward fact-finding and intellectual inquiry increasingly unwelcome among his peers, eventually turning toward the advent of the internet to pursue his craft.
Lisheron’s message was delightfully simple. Your opinion is worth precisely nothing, because everyone has one. It becomes empowered when informed by fact. Digging for the story within the data, the truth concealed beneath the surface of rhetoric, is what leads to original content that will attract and retain a following. More importantly, monitoring the conduct of the powerful in this way is the entire point of journalism.
Of course, hate was most manifest in a session addressing “Big Labor and the Growth of Government.” After all, we all know Tea Partiers hate unions and middle class workers, right? Not so much. In fact, the presentation by Timothy Lee of the Center for Individual Freedom, Chuck Warren of the petitioning firm Silver Bullet, and Vincent Vernuccio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute could be summarized as downright compassionate.
Lee summarized the fundamental philosophical point. Fights like Governor Scott Walker’s in Wisconsin are not vindictive crusades against unions in general, but an affirmation of each individual’s inalienable right to choose with whom to freely associate. When a paycheck protection law was passed in Utah, preventing compulsory payroll deductions for union dues, the coffers of organized labor were reduced by an astounding 80%, according to Lee. Consider that. That figure is a reflection of the individual workers free will to associate with whom they please. Left to their own devices, workers apparently valued their relationship with the union 80% less than the union valued their relationship with workers. Mutual consent is the cornerstone upon which any rightful relationship is built. The fight against Big Labor is therefore the fight to protect the free association rights of the individual worker.
These were just a handful of the experiences available to attendees of the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit on Friday. A general session in the evening was punctuated by the rousing oratory of Herman Cain. The talk radio personality relayed the story of a caller to his show who tried to shame him for disagreeing with a black president. Appropriately indignant, Cain told the caller that “some black people can think for themselves.” Indeed, individual self-determination lies at the core of everything the Tea Party seeks to advance. It is an inherently compassionate stance, the only compassionate stance, and the antithesis of the vile hatred which some outside the movement project upon it.