WASHINGTON — Battling the notion that the tea party is dying or already dead, 100 tea party activists from across the country met in Washington over the weekend to discuss how the once-vibrant grassroots movement could remain relevant.
The status of the tea party is up for debate. Critics of the tea party cite President Obama’s re-election and the fact that his signature health-care law is still intact as evidence that it has failed as an organized movement has failed, and its influence has been severely diminished.
But others — including conservative activist Grover Norquist — argue the country may see a tea party resurgence if the country goes over the so-called fiscal cliff and automatic tax hikes go into effect at the end of the year. (RELATED: Norquist: ‘Tea party II will dwarf tea party I if Obama pushes us off the cliff)
The activists who met over the weekend at the Capitol Hill offices of FreedomWorks — a DC-based tea party-affiliated organization — made it clear on Monday that a top priority for staying alive as a movement is finding a way to attract minorities and young people.
“We talked a lot about how to connect with people that we haven’t connected with yet, whether it be black Americans or young people or Hispanics,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, said Monday.
Deneen Borelli, a black conservative who serves as director of outreach for FreedomWorks, argued Monday that this can be accomplished by emphasizing the message that lower taxes and less government “means more freedom.”
“Those are the talking points we need to deliver to the minority community, especially to the black community where unemployment is through the roof and average incomes are down,” she said.
But Kibbe made it clear they won’t be backing candidates in future elections solely because they represent a certain demographic.
“We talked about focusing on ideas that matter and getting away from personality contests,” Kibbe said.
“We don’t really care who you are, where you come from, what the color of your skin is,” he said of candidates. “We care about your values. We care about what you believe in. We care about what you would do if you were elected to Congress or county council or school board.”
“That’s how tea partiers roll, right?” he added.
As for whether the movement is still alive, activists applauded Kibbe on Monday for saying, “I think there’s more energy in this movement today than there was Nov. 6.”
The anger among activists, however, is still there. Andrew Pappas, a businessman from Ohio who attended the FreedomWorks weekend meeting, sounded exasperated when talking about how the poor economy has hurt his business and how expensive it is to keep it open.
“I’m working 10 days right now and getting paid for five,” he said. “Well with some of the tax ramifications that are headed my way, I’m going to work 10 days and get paid for four.”
“The phrase — if you can quote me — is I’m tired of this shit,” he told The Daily Caller. “I’m tired of it.”