From the Tea Party and be­yond

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

To Nancy Pelosi, they were “Astro­turf.” White House press sec­re­tary Robert Gibbs ac­cused them of dis­play­ing “man­u­fac­tured anger.” The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee called them “ra­bid right-wing ex­trem­ists.”

But the men and women who peo­pled the Tea Party move­ment were some­thing else en­tirely. And at least one politi­cian in Wash­ing­ton got it: “This was no in­sider move­ment. This was grass­roots at its finest.”

That’s South Carolina Repub­li­can Sen. Jim DeMint, writ­ing about the Tea Party in his new book, “The Great Amer­i­can Awak­en­ing.” Sub­ti­tled “Two Years That Changed Amer­ica, Wash­ing­ton and Me,” it chron­i­cles the rise of a move­ment that pro­vided a cru­cial wake-up call in the af­ter­math of Pres­i­dent Obama’s vic­tory in the 2008 elec­tions.

This is no par­ti­san brief. Mr. DeMint makes it clear that mem­bers from both par­ties were do­ing a poor job rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. “Many Repub­li­cans de­nounced the ex­plo­sion of gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tions into the pri­vate sec­tor, but our lead­ers in Congress sup­ported more spend­ing and the Wall Street bailouts and were not will­ing to ad­mit they made any mis­takes,” he writes.

If con­ser­va­tives weren’t go­ing to lead, that meant lib­er­als were go­ing to get a shot. Un­for­tu­nately, they “nei­ther un­der­stood nor re­spected the prin­ci­ples of free­dom,” Mr. DeMint writes.

The re­sults, from even higher spend­ing than what had oc­curred un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush to new gov­ern­ment pro­grams such as “cash for clunkers,” roused the Amer­i­can peo­ple — and gave birth to the Tea Party.

One of the best parts of Mr. DeMint’s book is the way it puts read­ers “in the scene,” so to speak, at the start of the Tea Party move­ment.

He de­scribes what it was like to be in and around the state­house in Columbia, S.C., on April 15, 2009, and see large crowds of peo­ple turn­ing out in protest — pas­sion­ate, to be sure, but not an­gry — hold­ing hand-let­tered signs about bailouts, debt and taxes.

The peo­ple gath­ered there — and in Tax Day protests all around the coun­try — were no an­gry mob. They were or­di­nary Amer­i­cans who were wor­ried about what was hap­pen­ing to their coun­try and just plain fed up with the in­ac­tion and busi­ness-as-usual attitude of their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Congress.

They had heard all the talk about “hope” and “change” through­out the 2008 elec­tion and re­al­ized that it was lit­tle more than hol­low hype.

It was such an elec­tric mo­ment, ac­cord­ing to Mr. DeMint, that when he was in­tro­duced to speak to the crowd, he put aside his writ­ten re­marks: “This called for noth­ing other than a heartto-heart talk with friends, not an im­per­son­ally scripted speech. . . . ‘I’m not here as a Repub­li­can, or a con­ser­va­tive, or a sen­a­tor to­day,’ I said. ‘I’m here as a fel­low Amer­i­can who is very con­cerned about the direc­tion of our coun­try. I know the last place to change is Wash­ing­ton, D.C. . . . The first thing to change is right here in the hearts and minds of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,’ I con­tin­ued. ‘We can take back our coun­try!’ ”

This wasn’t a po­lit­i­cal rally.

It was, Mr. DeMint points out, a gather­ing of Repub­li­cans, Democrats and in­de­pen­dents, all united by a deep and abid­ing concern that the coun­try they loved was on the wrong track.

They saw tax­payer bailouts of gi­ant cor­po­ra­tions, man­dates to buy gov­ern­ment-run health in­surance and, of course, higher and higher spend­ing, and asked them­selves: What in the world is go­ing on? Who is in charge here, us or “lead­ers” who act as if they have no one to an­swer to but them­selves?

Mr. DeMint’s book doesn’t dwell only on the Tea Party. He also cov­ers the im­por­tant de­bates and key events tak­ing place around this time, from the nom­i­na­tion of Judge So­nia So­tomayor to be an as­so­ciate jus­tice on the U.S. Supreme Court, to the time when Gov. Mark San­ford of Mr. DeMint’s home state re­vealed that he was hav­ing an af­fair with a woman from Ar­gentina whom he called his “soul mate.”

He talks about what it was like to be de­picted as an as­sas­sin and ac­cused of hate­mon­ger­ing for the un­speak­able crime of dis­agree­ing with Pres­i­dent Obama.

Mr. DeMint’s book also, to its credit, goes be­yond pol­i­tics — to God and coun­try. “Big gov­ern­ment is a re­li­gious is­sue,” he writes. “His­tory shows [that] in na­tions where there is a big gov­ern­ment, there is lit­tle God. ... So­cial­ism and sec­u­lar­ism go hand-in-hand, as do faith and free­dom.” Amen.

In “The Great Amer­i­can Awak­en­ing” you’ll see how the elec­toral land­scape changed so dra­mat­i­cally be­tween Elec­tion Day 2008 and Elec­tion Day 2010, and, more im­por­tantly, you’ll learn why.

Ed Feul­ner is pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

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