By way of weather alone, not to mention a host of other factors, this year’s Tax Day Tea Party in Philadelphia was infinitely better than last year’s event. While I left last year’s event soaked to the bone by a cold, cold rain, today was about as perfect as could be. The sun shone brightly on Love Park in Center City, and when the breeze hit just right, a little cool mist from the fountain spread over the crowd of about 300 people.
And that was likely it. While this weekend’s event at Independence Hall has been advertised a little more and will enjoy the benefit of a beautiful spring Saturday, about 300 people on a work day in downtown Philadelphia is nothing to sneeze at, even if it is allergy season. The best part, though, was that the crowd was made up of a broad spectrum of folks. Young and old, rich and poor, and enough racial diversity to surely frustrate many who so eagerly dismiss the Tea Party movement as a collection of pissed off old white folks.
Whether good or bad, the collection of speakers were relative unknowns. America’s Right‘s own Jesse Civello was the first and, in my biased opinion, best of the bunch. Philadelphia-area political analyst and blogger Jamal Greene did a fantastic job of defining what it is to be a conservative, black or white or anywhere in between. And Dr. Drew Foy, a U.S. Army veteran and resident at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, brought his and Brent Stransky’s fantastic new book The Young Conservative’s Field Guide to life, putting our current national situation in perspective and providing tangible, empirical evidence of just how far we’ve slid away from the ideas and ideals set forth by our founders.
Mostly, though, as I prepare to leave the Philadelphia area for warmer temperatures, a laid-back lifestyle and a bevy of like minds, it was nice to look out across the crowd gathered in what will always be my first hometown and see the manifestation of this fundamental change sweeping the nation.
It occurred to me as I looked out at the signs, the flags and the faces that those in Washington, D.C. who believe that power and control are best left in the hands of government, and those who support them from outside the Beltway — well, they’re frightened of us. They’re very, very frightened of us.
And looking out across the crowd, I could see why.
No, they’re not frightened of us because we’re violent. In fact, there is something to be said about a movement which can bring together millions of people in hundreds of cities and towns from coast to coast without a single citation for littering, nonetheless an act of vandalism or even a single, solitary arrest.
I spoke for a moment with a plainclothes, black Philadelphia Police Detective and asked him about the crowd; his response: “Nah, we don’t worry about these people.”
“That’s fantastic to hear,” I said. “Could you spread the word? It seems as though these folks are accused of being racist, hateful and violent wherever they go.”
“Well, as they work their way across the country, people will see that they’re not,” he told me, noting that he had not heard a single racist or hateful remark from the crowd, this year or last year. “We saw worse in this town that year we hosted the Republican National Convention.”
See, the left is not frightened of us because we’re violent. The left is frightened of us because we’re not sitting on the sidelines anymore. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that he knew “of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves,” arguing that “if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education.” This, he wrote, “is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
The crowd I saw today could tell me what was in the legislation passed and signed into law by this administration. I saw signs decrying the proposed use of “deem and pass,” by all accounts a fairly complex parliamentary procedure, discussion of which long has been the territory of those accustomed to so-called “inside baseball.” I personally spoke with people about pending Supreme Court decisions, about legislation currently working its way through committee, about the effect of the proposed financial reform law on the derivatives market.
This was a group of people whose discretion had already been informed by education. And this was in the center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — the land of growth-stifling wage taxes, useless trans fat mandates and endless labor union influence. Hardly an epicenter for conservative thought. Hardly a meeting place for people who understand the fundamental merits of a limited federal government.
Oh, but it used to be. In 1776 and 1787, Love Park and everything to the west of 8th Street was described by John Adams as “open country.” But on the other side of 8th Street, in those days Philadelphia was the center of this fledgling nation. Philadelphia embodied promise and potential. Limitless growth. Boundless freedom.
And those great men who penned our founding documents, they didn’t know what they wanted America to be — they knew what they wanted to prevent America from becoming. They had fought against tyranny. They had rebelled against a government which sought to rule instead of govern. And for that reason, every single word, every single phrase, every single provision of our Constitution was carefully crafted to protect this great experiment in liberty against the dangers of human nature, against the temptations inherent in the prospect of power in perpetuity.
And when it was all over, when the Constitutional Convention came to a close, as an aging Benjamin Franklin was carried in his sedan chair across what is now Independence Mall toward Christ Church, someone asked him: “Well, Ben … what have you given us?”
His response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
More than 222 years have passed since then. The collection of people in Love Park today, joined by similar gatherings held across the country — that’s the American people doing everything they can to keep it.
Now, however, we are led by sheltered, out-of-touch elites who gladly cast aside liberty and freedom in favor of popular authoritarianism, people who actively reject the notion of American exceptionalism, people who apologize for a nation which has saved the lives of millions and brought freedom to the doorstep of millions more, people who would happily squander the potential of our children and our children’s children in exchange for what they believe is a ticket to limitless power and control.
For years, these people have depended upon Americans like those I saw in Love Park to sit on the sidelines. Non-violent protests? Never! If you asked them, they’d probably insist that they own a patent on non-violent protest. But now that we have awakened, now that we have arisen and are preparing ourselves to fulfill our duty as that ultimate safe depository of freedom and liberty and bring this country back from a tipping point, they are frightened.
They are frightened because we are right. They are frightened because we are many. And because they cannot and will not debate us, they choose to malign us. We saw what happened to a simple plumber from Ohio who, through a simple question, maneuvered the president into exposing the tendencies at the core of his convictions. We saw what happened to a wife and mother and former governor of Alaska when she dared to join a presidential ticket in 2008. And we see what is happening to everyday American men and women like those in Philadelphia today who dare speak out in defense of their freedom.
See, that’s the thing about the left — they always tell us exactly who and what they fear most.
Looking out at the crowd today, I tried to once again view the world from a liberal’s eyes. I looked and looked for racists, but found none. I looked and looked for bigots, but found none. I searched for xenophobes and homophobes and other -phobes, but my search was done in vain.
I came up empty because the Tea Party movement is not about race, because it is not about religion, or gender, or nationality, or sexual orientation. Certainly, the 300 people who made up today’s crowd in Love Park surely would not agree with each other on an issue-by-issue basis, but that’s the beauty of the movement. The Tea Party movement is about the core principles at the heart of the core principles. It’s not about the superficial issues which divide us, it’s about the proper size, scope, role and function of the American federal government as envisioned by those great but imperfect men who came together and created a nation 222 years ago and a mere ten blocks away.
The Tea Party movement is about whether it’s right for the federal government to situate itself between a patient and his doctor. It’s about whether it’s right for the government to retain the authority to take over a private corporation because that organization is somehow deemed a “systemic risk” and “too big to fail.” It’s about more than Nancy Pelosi, more than Harry Reid, and more than Barack Obama.
As good as the last few months of this year may be, as much as I firmly believe that we are going to see an electoral bloodbath in November, getting there will not be easy. As far as the crowd in Love Park is concerned, those who stand against them will do everything in their power to portray our movement as somehow abnormal. They will infiltrate our crowds. They will attempt to distract from our message. They will actively work to make us look like racists, bigots, xenophobes and homophobes. My question to those people is: if we’re such a bunch of racists, bigots, xenophobes and homophobes, why do they need to infiltrate our crowds to portray us as such?
Regardless, those people who were gathered today in Love Park and across the country cannot let them. We need to remember why we’re here. We need to police ourselves. We need to show the rest of America, those people still home and watching a movement unfold on television, that you and I are no different than they are. We’re black, we’re white, we’re gay, we’re straight, we’re rich, we’re poor. Like them, we want to be free to live our lives, to run our businesses, to raise our families. Like them, we know that we cannot spend beyond our means. Like them, we want more than anything else for our children to inherit more freedom, more potential, more opportunity and a better way of life than we enjoyed ourselves.
Together, we can do it. From what I saw today in Philadelphia, we are doing it. And from what we’ll see in November, we will do it.