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.’”