The Tea Party phenomenon has captured America’s attention, not only for its muscle at the ballot box, but for its make-up, consisting primarily of people who have never before been involved in politics or public policy. Ordinary people, they found each other and banded together over a common passion for the American ideals voiced in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Tea Party spokesmen focus on government overspending and reach. But dig into the crowd and you find many of the “Indians” are worried about America’s security, voted to protect marriage, are incensed at judicial arrogance, and believe abortion is immoral.
Polls show that many Americans identify with the Tea Party, even if they have not participated. They sense that the ultimate goal of the “ruling elite” is not only to tell us what we can do, but to weaken the structures that promote stability. By breaking down our national identity, disparaging patriotism, mocking religion and morality, and burdening job-producers and taxpayers, these ruling elites assault the principles that make America exceptional.
This is not much different from the foot soldiers of the Reagan revolution. They were not driven by political party as much as by concern that our own government was causing our country to deteriorate by weakening our military, economy, families and standing in the world.
The Reagan coalition generally fell into three camps: 1) People concerned about national security, 2) Others worried about economic issues, and 3) Those alarmed by a breakdown in morality, family, and religion (with abortion embodying an assault on all three).
They became known as the three legs of the conservative movement, joined together like the three legs of a stool. But it would be a mistake to think that these three legs linked together out of political expediency. That would imply that the legs are separate and any one could be replaced or removed and the movement could still succeed.
Each leg is vital and irreplaceable — and dependent on the other. Perhaps a better description is a three-strand cord. The three strands of the conservative movement are intertwined; one cannot accomplish its goals without the others.
As wise Solomon described in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Solid, stable economies are not likely in a country that cannot defend itself from violent attacks. Nor can they be achieved without a preponderance of individuals who believe that stealing private property is wrong and lying or breaking contracts is immoral.
National security requires both a well-equipped military focused on its primary goal of defending and protecting America from enemies and a foreign affairs doctrine grounded in the belief that America is exceptional. A commander-in-chief or general would be useless without adequate resources and millions of patriots to fill the armed services and diplomatic corps — people with the character and moral stamina to be willing to live, sacrifice, and die for their country.
The morals and character, along with patriotism, essential for a strong economy and national defense are primarily formed by families. Marriage, as the Supreme Court noted in Maynard v. Hill (1888), has “more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution.”
Broken families, however, tax the economy. A study by Georgia College & State University on “The Taxpayer Cost of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing,” analyzed the link between single-parent households and poverty. It found that “family fragmentation costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion each and every year, or more than $1 trillion each decade.”
No well-run military can entertain a do-as-you-please attitude. A lack of morality among civilians also threatens our national security. Samuel Adams, dubbed “The Father of the American Revolution,” said “A general dissolution of the principles and manners [morals] will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”
After this election, the Tea Party movement will find different challenges in the new political environment. One challenge will be how to stay unified as they strive for the proper role and scope of government.
May I suggest that they pursue the essentials necessary for a limited government? Liberty comes from a virtuous people, free to keep and voluntarily share the fruits of their labor because they are protected by a restrained government that defends, from enemies foreign and domestic, their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Wendy Wright is president of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.