Five years ago today, I was scrambling to get downtown before lunch, my van full of signs and paper and supplies, hoping the rally we had planned to coincide with others in around 50 other cities (with only six days to prepare) would start people talking about fiscal responsibility. Five years ago today, I was writing a possibly hot check for the use of some space in which to hold a rally. Five years ago today, I stood on the lawn of Discovery Green in downtown Houston with The Bigun and my great friend Josh Parker, hoping that there might be a few people who joined us.
A few did. Over five hundred people gathered on the lawn with signs and flags, coming to join us for the first tea party event in Houston.
I remember Tom Bazan showing up with a pitchfork, only to be told by the police that he had to put it back in his car. Pitchforks apparently aren’t kosher at rallies.
I remember drafting Natalie Arceneaux to speak off the cuff, which she did, standing at the mic with her purse still slung over her shoulder.
I remember taking pictures of the crowd, trying for the best angles that would feature the most signs and people.
I remember the Little Critter joining us having come home sick, and being constantly underfoot for the day.
I remember meeting people for the first time that day who would become friends, allies, and comrades in arms in the battle for smaller, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and adherence to the Constitution.
None of us knew, when we began the nationwide planning conference calls in the days after Rick Santelli’s CNBC rant, where this would lead us. None of us were adequately prepared for the momentum the tea party movement would gather, the town hall confrontations with Congressvarmints, the 2010 midterm election blowout.
No, back in February of 2009, we thought we might get a little attention paid to the problems of bailouts and borrowing and TARPs. We hoped for some media coverage, a story made out of 50 tea parties happening simultaneously around the country.
Six weeks later, on Tax Day 2009, there was massive coverage of tea party rallies in nearly every part of the country. And we were there for that, too, even organizing a march around the offices of the Houston Chronicle to finish off our rally.
Since then, plenty of things have happened to shake my faith in our ability to change things, to make things better, to set our nation back on the right path. There have been organizational splits, alliances made and broken, and various earthquakes within the movement. There have also been DHS monitoring and IRS harassment, among other things.
A lot of times I’ve asked myself why I continue to work in politics. I don’t have political heroes, not one. I find that I respect fewer and fewer elected officials as time goes by. Sometimes the frustrations seem like they’re too much to bear. There’s so much activity, and yet things don’t seem to be getting any better. Good people are chewed up in the process, and end up walking away in an effort at self-preservation. Breaks, splits, and schisms occur with regularity, and every time they do, I get calls from both activists and the media asking me whether the tea party is dead.
But even though the group I started has gone dormant, even though the challenges are huge, even though the mess is so much bigger than it was five years ago, I haven’t given up. I still wake up each day looking for something to do to advance liberty and to help protect our rights and freedoms. And if I do something that doesn’t work, I try to remember Edison’s words, and look for the next way to accomplish my goals. I find new allies, like the crew here at FRN, like our great friends at Conservative Union and The Party of Choice. And I do what I can to teach others what I know, to shortcut my sixteen-year learning curve for them, and give them the benefit of my experience so they can be more effective, and do it more quickly.
So while people may be asking what the tea party has to show for five years of effort, sweat, noise, trouble, tears, and angst, I can tell you.
It has people who haven’t given up on this country. And I want to be able to count myself among them.