June 04, 2020
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Tea Party principles not far from the mainstream

I want to congratulate the Bangor Daily News for providing some serious coverage of the Tea Party Movement in Maine, and also its staff writer, Christopher Cousins. It contained none of the standard Democratic talking points one finds so often in other media. The Democratic campaign director, Arden Manning, has his say. Lois Bloomer and Peter Harring have theirs. No tangential analysis is interpolated.

I know Pete the Carpenter and Lois, who was very helpful on my congressional campaign. Although I’ve played no role in organizing any events, I have participated in the Bangor rally and spoke at the one in Augusta. I’ve also followed national events closely.

People interested in further information might check pjtv.com. It provides hundreds of photos and videos from around the nation along with a complete video record of the National Tea Party Convention, along with commentary.

“There’s something definitely in the wind,” Ms. Bloomer told the BDN’s reporter. People are stirred up and some are showing up who have never attended political functions before. Like Pete, I’ve seen some “hippie holdovers” and Democrats mingling in the crowd.

Mr. Manning is sure that few Democrats support this movement. I have no data on this and neither does he, but we agree that tea party activists represent a fraction of the population. Sure, “activists” represent a small fraction of any population anywhere and always have.

By way of illustration, I believe the rule of thumb in congressional offices is that each letter received on a given issue reflects the views of 16 other people; i.e., the “inactivists” who never write letters. My theory is that if the GOP had just 300 or 400 activists as energetic and savvy as the three or four outstanding performers in the Franklin County Republican Committee, the GOP would seize control of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

Of course, this can’t be proved, because it’s never going to happen.

Mr. Manning asserts that the “general principles” of the tea partiers are from the “far right wing” of the Republican Party, offensive to Maine’s middle of the road mainstreamers. If this is so then the ideals of “free markets, smaller government and lower taxes” are far right principles.

Is that really true? Read “A Citizen’s Guide to the 124th Maine Legislature,” which contains statements from all our sitting legislators about their goals, and see if you can find any of

them advocating government-controlled markets, larger government and higher taxes.

Or save yourself the time. There are none to be found. Some may wish for these wonderful things, but none dare say so openly. Because they know they are not mainstream.

There is another ideal which the article, like many others, neglects, and that is fidelity to the Constitution. All the videos of the rallies you see will show signs demanding respect for the Constitution and they are referring to respect for the Constitution’s limits on the power of the central government. Alexander Hamilton was cer-tainly the most enthusiastic of the Founders for a strong national government, yet he said plainly that the goal of the document was first to equip the government with power and then place limits on it.

It’s true, as Mr. Cousins observes, the effect of the movement on local and national politics remains uncertain. It’s also true that its influence is building. There’s no way to predict at this point whether its influence will endure. That uncertainty follows from its spontaneity.

No one controls it from some high perch of authority. This concerns Republican professionals whose central concern is electing party members to office. The tea partiers focus on principles, not always or necessarily the same thing.

The national Republicans supported Didi Scozzofava in New York and Charlie Crist in Florida. The tea partiers rejected the first and now reject the second. They prevailed in the first instance, and seem likely to prevail in the second.

They rallied to Scott Brown in Massachusetts, despite the resemblance of his record to Scozzofava’s, before the national Republicans woke up to a possible victory. In this they showed a judicious discrimination, for they understood that the implications of a Brown victory was far different from losing a seat in upstate New York. This I take to be a promising sign.

John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, board member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia. He may be reached at: jfrary8070@aol.com

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