Resilient America in the Tea Party Spirit: Contracting American Individualism

by Gayle Plato

Reflecting on the Tax Day Tea Party, there is a sense of what next? This is a slice of the pie regarding the day, the movement, a back story, and one perspective of a little get-together with a few thousand friends:

“As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.

That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.

This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act ‘with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.’ To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.”- The Contract With America, 1994, Republican Congressional Promise to the Voters. 

On Wednesday, I spoke for three small minutes, freezing from an odd Arizona cold front, confronted with protesters yelling in front of me.  My moment not stellar, a bit nervous, and lost in the shuffle of being the inadvertant opening act to Representative John Shadegg.  As I stood there next to him, seeing JD Hayworth a few yards away on the radio, I felt odd.  What a difference 15 years makes.
In late 1994, I was making a presentation at a workshop for educators about ‘Resiliency’. It’s basically the opposite of at-risk programming, with a focus on implementing protective factors, creating an environment of respect and mentorship with people, and a deep desire to achieve personal best.  At-risk is about victimization of the soul, and funneling money at crisis intervention of victims.  Victims are real and need help, but in order to stop building victims we need to foster social success. We need intrinsic, inalienable understanding of self-worth.
At the presentation, I was asked to offer a document or professional article that exhibited resilient language and fostering of personal accountability.  Most went to educational jargonese; I went to current events.  To a group of liberal educators, in a nice hotel ballroom in sight of the Space Needle, with roasty aroma of brewing espresso wafting in, I handed out a copy of the Contract With America.  
You’d have thought I asked the folks to drink my Grandma’s luke warm Sanka decaf. I was literally a lead balloon bottoming out in front of my peers. I heard a colleague I felt a friend, leaning in to another saying, “She’s from Arizona so well, y’know…”
All I could do is move forward.  I was younger than today and a bit better on my game, in front of an audience. Though a bit arrogant, I can honestly say, I was good.  They were speechless by the time I finished, and could not deny that resiliency is apparent when expertly written in a Contract With America
The Contract With America is the quintessential document of resiliency and I knew it.  Fostering respect, limitations, concise defined parameters, and focus on the positive qualities of the citizen being courted, ‘The Contract’ is a brilliant piece of work.
On Wednesday, April 15th, I stood there next to two men who had come in to Washington D.C., under the Contract I valued, now here in Arizona at this ‘Tea Party’ with me, an older mom, very distant from that eye I once had of the Needle.  What happened to the Contract?
It seems to me, that we now have leaders who worry about themselves, their power, ongoing growth of government, and an oppressive angst about families, average Joes or Gayles, just one pay check from being at-risk; all angry about disenfranchisement.  We are smart enough to know when we had something and now see what we are losing. But the day was closing and sun setting on the Party. I got up there and said, “It seems to me that these fifteen years later, our leaders are taking a contract out on America and I am not okay with that.”
But like I say, I am always looking up.  I just did, and on the TV, I see Captain Phillips from the Somali pirate nightmare, climbing off the airplane, hugging his normal kids and wife. He’s an accidental hero and a real man given the gift of relevance.  Life gets crystal clear when all you care about is love and family. THAT is resiliency. 
I am feeling hopeful.  The world is so heavy; our wallets light.  Family still matters but fractures under the crack of lightening speed change.  We all have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the economic home invasion; our houses are in disorder.  Yet, it is in the rubble of the fallen, when walls come down. Average people become role models of Good.  They become mentors and examples, they give us resilience. 
All of us are citizen legislators with roles of new models. We are community organizers preserving individual freedoms and long-tried standards.  Our children damand of us the role as leader and parent.  We cannot give in and just be friends.  We are the the stoppers of the buck, and in our eyes, reflect their dignity.  Stand up and help.
Shift the paradigm, and get back to normal.  Maybe a triumph of the nerds meets Mac ‘n Cheese politics. Top Chefs on the Road to Serfdom are not sure at all what we are bringing to the table. But as we each say Bon Appetit’ to the yuppie cuppers of crisis spin management, there is a crude truth they each see coming. We are choosing to leave their table, doggie bag in hand, asking for the check.


  1. Gayle,

    If you are correct, how come Dick Armey, one of the tea party organizers, said on April 15 that federal taxes were now at ‘a good level’? In fact he went to admit that unless we wanted deep cuts in defense budgets we would probably need to increase taxes.

  2. Ron, Unlike some movements where all messages are coordinated by a central artificial Axelrod turf hub, we out here in the real grass have individual opinions. Armey didn’t check in to see if I agreed. We like it that way; everyone has an opinion and a point of view.

  3. There are interesting parallels between these modern day “tea parties” and the original colonial ones – but not in the ways I think many on the right understand.

    The main cause of the colonial tea protests was not in fact, as the popular imagination would have it, that taxes on tea had been increased but rather that the price of British tea has dropped. At the time there was a active merchant trade in smuggled tea with many of the organizers of the protests involved in that illegal trade having become wealthy merchants. When the East India Company dramatically dropped prices this undercut the entire economy of smuggled tea because the new price was less than what the smuggled sources could achieve.

    Just as then, we now have a group of wealthy interests seeking to rile up the populace largely for their own benefit. This is why you see the Koch foundation funded groups and many others all over these modern day tea parties. They have certainly been successful of convincing some of the general populace like Gayle that in fact this is a “grass roots” movement when it clearly has been driven by a central hub of organizations who have been lucky enough to have Fox news as a outlet for its press releases.

  4. rightwoman,

    I appreciate your view of free speech. Apparently others who write for this blog don’t share our views (see the recent blogs about John Shaddeg and Cindy and Megan McCain).

  5. I am not pleased to see fellow writers use this medium for rude attacks. We have the opportunity to write substance and honest criticism. Or, we can become Perez Hilton giving verbal slaps. That was EXACTLY my complaint of CNN and MSNBC.

    I am not interested in writing for a gossip column or derisive Anderson Cooperstowns of crude.

  6. Veritas Vincit says

    Given the boo’s and hiss’es Shadegg received on April 15th, and given his unwarranted attack on the AzGOP and the Maricopa GOP, it seems fitting to point out to the readers his hypocrisy and self-interests.

    Simply put, the 3 Johns have been in office too long an no longer represent the people of the State of Arizona.

    Once someone is holding power, they don’t yield it easily. Power is gripped tighter than life itself often and, therefore must be wrestled from those who abuse it.

    As for the Meghan McCain piece? Simply put, a good share of the general population has no issues with alternative sexual preferences; BUT they do have an issue with homosexual cohabitation being sanctified as marriage.

    As for the GLBT segment of our neighbors? Nearly a two-thirds majority of them don’t support Gay Marriage.

    In fact most of them just want to live their lives and be left alone and not be politicized.

    It is a minority within a minority who are the activists for this issue. This has been the subject frequently of commentary in various GLBT media over the years; the lack of committed activism.

    Generously, maybe 10% of the general population is GLBT, and within that percentage maybe 35% support Gay Marriage.

    Lets see, 220 million adults; 7m to 18m members of the GLBT cohort = less than 6 million adults out of 220 million are attempting to dictate a fundamental social shift in US culture. How’s that work out? Less than 3% of the overall adult population or, 1.8% of the total US overall population is demanding Gay Marriage.

  7. Veritas Vincit says

    Gayle, how well do you know JD? Did you talk with him in Florida after his election loss? There are reasons JD is where he is and why Shadegg remains in Congress and hopes to rise to the Senate.

    Todd, you are correct. The American Revolution was fomented by the merchant class and, fanned by New England merchant interests. Again, we are in agreement.

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