What do you believe are the underlying core principles of the tea party movement?
Our three core values are constitutionally limited government, free markets and fiscal responsibility. Social issues are not in the equation, and haven’t been from the start.
I write in my book, “Covenant of Liberty,” about how we arrived at these three core values.
During December 2008 and January 2009, our group at Top Conservatives on Twitter developed a statement of purpose. We took the five pillars from the Heritage Foundation as a starting point. We removed one of those five pillars — a strong national defense — because we thought it was a subset of constitutionally limited government. We removed another of those five pillars — traditional values — because it was highly subjective and it was very clear that among the thousand-plus members of Top Conservatives on Twitter, there was no consensus as to what “traditional values” meant.
When Rick Santelli’s rant ignited the movement on February 19, 2009, we were ready, both organizationally and intellectually, to harness the energy his viral video unleashed and focus it very quickly into what quickly became the tea party movement.
Based on the Top Conservatives on Twitter statement of purpose, we had a clear vision that the message of the first tea parties would be focused on fiscal responsibility, which in turn derived from constitutionally limited government, and supported free markets. We established that theme and pushed it out over social media very quickly, and virtually everyone who attended those first tea parties agreed that those were our three core values. It was a naturally occurring collaborative consensus.
You write that the tea party came to be after the American political class broke four promises embedded in the Constitution. What are those?
The first promise — to abide by the written words of the Constitution (the Promise of Plain Meaning) — was broken before the ink was dry on the nation’s founding documents. The second — to refrain from interfering in private economic matters (the Promise of Free Markets) — was broken first by the Republican Party during the 1860s, and then more dramatically by Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party during World War I. The third — to honor the customs, traditions and principles of “the fiscal constitution” (the Promise of the Fiscal Constitution) — was broken by Herbert Hoover in 1931, and by every subsequent president, some more egregious than others. Had not the fourth and final promise — that members of the legislative branch would exercise thoughtful deliberation while giving respectful consideration to the views of their constituents (the Promise of Deliberative Accountability) — been broken in such a disdainful and audacious manner in early 2009, the grassroots activists who make up the tea party would never have been impelled to take action.