Inside the Tea Party Movement
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I’m in a Tea Party State of Mind

By Jessica Chasmar (8/17/11)

“I bought the groceries and kept the kitchen stocked,” said Laurie Newsom, “but the kids make their own lunch. If they forgot their lunch, they didn’t get lunch.”

It was this parenting structure that Newsom — wife and mother of four, an ophthalmology clinic owner and the president of the Gainesville Tea Party — believes gave her children a sense of personal responsibility at a very young age and made them the successful professionals they are today.

Newsom is not your run-of-the-mill, stay-at-home, June Cleaver mom. She was very hands off, letting her kids make their own decisions. They eventually learned responsibility and accountability through trial-and-error. It’s this type of mentality that Newsom believes most young people in the United States have lost, and it’s the same mentality that she, as president of the local Tea Party, is trying to bring back.

“The Tea Party is really best described like what our chair of the Alachua County Republican Party describes it as: It’s a ‘state of mind,’” she said.

It’s a “state of mind” because the Tea Party invites everyone who shares the same values — free markets, limited government and fiscal responsibility — to have a voice in politics.

“We’ve had a variety of conservative Democrats switch into the Republican Party,” Newsom said. “Libertarians face a problem because of the social issues. The Republicans need to understand that those issues have their roots in individual freedom. We’re trying to bridge that gap by saying that our values have nothing to do with social issues.”

Newsom believes that if you have a limited government, then you have an opportunity to make your own decisions on those social issues.

“We don’t care about abortion,” she said. “It’s none of the government’s business. See, we’re not fringe, yet we’ve been perceived that way. The Republicans are the ones who are fringe Right when it comes to social issues. It hasn’t been Tea Party people up there promoting pro-life. We won’t even go there.”

Newsom doesn’t want the Republican Party denigrating Tea Partiers as fringe. Not only is it inaccurate, she said, but conservatives can’t afford the rift. It’s her responsibility, as president, to advise against voting for a third-party candidate or a libertarian candidate, such as Ron Paul. Newsom supports and admires Ron Paul, but she agrees that a vote for him is a vote for President Obama — a vote she isn’t willing to make.

“We need to vote for people that we can actually envision sitting in that seat,” she said. “I really am a libertarian, but I’m also a pragmatist.”

She also agrees with many Tea Partiers that I’ve interviewed in the past that a vote for Mitt Romney is not a vote for him, but much more a vote against Obama.

“When McCain won the nomination, it was obvious there was a push from the left because they knew he would lose,” she said. “That’s why the media are pushing Romney. He’s the Democratic choice for a Republican candidate. Romney is not a good candidate. He will lose.”

GOP candidate Herman Cain is Newsom’s favorite at this point. Cain attended more than 40 Tea Party rallies last year, including one that Newsom attended. Minn. Rep. Michelle Bachmann is her second-in-line, but she also believes that electability and name recognition are working against both candidates.

Newsom never meddled in her kids’ lives. She never made their decisions for them. She never bothered with telling them what courses to take. She never told them what they could and could not pack in their lunches. She simply expected them to do their job appropriate for whatever age they were, and if they didn’t perform at that level, they faced the consequences. Her laissez-faire parenting produced a doctor, a lawyer and two successful businesswomen. It was that type of individual choice and responsibility that she used in her parenting that translates into how she feels about the public education system.

“Government should not be in the education business, period,” she said. “Compulsory schooling is not conducive to individual freedom. If they can’t afford to educate their children, they shouldn’t be having them. If they have them, they have to face the consequences of raising them.”

She believes that parents don’t feel the responsibility now to take care of their own children, because the government has safety nets in place for them. In her opinion, there’s nothing more optional than childbearing, and education is not a right for any American.

It might be a hard thing for people to understand: Education that’s not free? But the truth is, we have lost a sense of personal responsibility. If we, as Americans, knew that we had no one else to depend on other than ourselves and ourselves only, can’t it be assumed that we would make different choices? After my interview with Newsom, I couldn’t help but wonder: Where does government responsibility end and personal accountability begin? What happened to the individual liberty that our Founding Fathers intended for us, and how do we get it back?

“No matter what Obama or [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi say, we are Americans,” Newsom said. “We are different from any other group of people. We still have gazillions of people, be it from Germany all the way down to your third world countries, who want to be here. It’s not just because we have iPods, it’s because we’re us. You can see the difference. The Tea Party has showcased that ‘exceptionalism.’”

Tea Partiers and 2012

By Jessica Chasmar (7/12/11)

“On behalf of my children and grandchildren, I will vote for whoever is running against the president.”

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as many other Tea Party supporters, hold this view that future generations are in danger of facing a socialist America. They see an exorbitant rise in the federal debt, expanding entitlement programs, under-regulated illegal immigration and government encroachment on individual liberty as a less-than-ideal environment for their families to endure.

We can speculate that Tea Partiers will vote for virtually any Republican presidential candidate, assuming that the motive of the movement is to deny President Barack Obama a second term. Tea Party supporters who are informed on the election process and two-party politics can understand that to vote for a third-party candidate or even a libertarian running as a Republican, like Ron Paul, would be a waste of a vote in the primaries. A libertarian winning the Republican nomination is very unlikely, but if it happened, it would be a guaranteed second-term for Obama. My interaction with Tea Partiers has led me to believe that the majority will not vote for a Ron Paul candidate because of this reality. This is why there was so much worry from the right over Donald Trump’s speculation about running as an Independent. Splitting the vote would be incredibly damaging for both the Tea Party and the GOP.

Tea Party Express Chair Amy Kremer told Uma Pemmaraju on Fox News’ America’s News HQ this June, “We want to defeat Barack Obama. We will not support a third-party candidate.”

A Rasmussen poll conducted this June on a national random sample of 1,000 likely voters found that in a three-way congressional contest with a Tea Party candidate on the ballot, the Democrat picks up 40 percent of the vote. The Republican earns 21 percent, the Tea Party candidate earns 18 percent and 21 percent remain undecided.

But Tea Partier Michael Bobbitt, of Gainesville, Fla., said a Tea Party member won’t run as a Tea Party candidate.

“If they run a candidate as a third-party,” he said, “it could have a crushing effect on the likelihood of electing a more conservative president.” The Tea Party will rather have a positive impact on the conservative vote in the 2012 election.

The existence of the Tea Party requires Republican candidates to be more conservative in order to get their votes, especially when in November, more conservative individuals mobilized for the primaries, cutting out the moderate candidates like Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski. If this dynamic remains the case for the 2012 election, it is likely that a very conservative candidate will be on the Republican ticket. A 2010 Gallup poll conducted on more than 8,000 U.S. adults found that conservatives outnumber moderates and liberals in the American electorate. Whether a very conservative, particularly polarizing candidate can beat Obama, however, remains to be seen.

“In our local elections,” Merckel said, “I see most [GOP] candidates for office seek the support of the First Coast Tea Party. The GOP will work to entice the Tea Party into their fold. Likewise, the Tea Party will work to change the direction of the GOP to a more conservative path.”

So who is the frontrunner for the Tea Party vote?

“Looking at the current set of candidates, I would nominate Mitt Romney for president,” said Merckel. “He has the executive experience and has demonstrated his capability on difficult financial situations. However, he has the Health Plan issue and has flipped on a number of social issues.”

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has faced tough scrutiny from the right regarding his healthcare plan dubbed “Romneycare,” that was more or less used as a blueprint for the widely opposed “Obamacare.” He is also accused of flip-flopping on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Bobbitt doesn’t believe a winning candidate has yet emerged from the right.

“Mitt Romney is the presumptive front-runner, but the more the public is exposed to his record, the more they will see little differentiation between his positions and those of Obama,” he said. “I would vote for [GOP presidential candidate] Herman Cain. I don’t see any other candidates that seem committed to reducing the size and scope of government in any serious way. With Mr. Cain, at least the Fair Tax has a chance for more exposure.”

FoxNews contributor and comedian Steven Crowder said that if he had to vote for president today, he would vote for virtually any GOP candidate on the ticket.

“I’m not thrilled to say it, but Romney is likely,” he said. “Politically speaking, he has an earlier head-start. Romney just seems like too much of a politician to me. I can vote for him with a clear conscience, but not a happy one.”

We understand Tea Partiers want less government intrusion and to cut spending, but what should the federal government cut? What should it keep?

Bobbitt said the government should keep the programs that help the legitimately least fortunate among American citizens — “those who cannot fend for themselves, not those who simply choose not to.”

He also believes the government should keep programs that are “reinvestment vehicles for economic growth, such as Pell grants to colleges, Small Business Administration loans and FHA and VA loans for qualified homebuyers.”

Crowder believes the primary responsibility of the federal government should be defense and very little else.

“People act as though it’s a hard question, but when you understand the legitimate, original goal of government, it’s really not,” he said. “My analogy is that of a hockey referee. The role of the government is to keep the players (in this case its citizens) safe and make sure that people are playing by the rules.”