The impact of the Tea Party movement on establishment Republicans was clear in the unveiling Thursday of the GOP’s “A Pledge to America.”
Although some House Republican leaders distance themselves from the grassroots movement, the group’s driving principles of smaller government, less spending and lower taxes make up 42 of the 45 pages in the Pledge.
The grassroots Tea Party—which is a reference to the Boston Tea Party revolt against Britain and an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already”—sprang up in 2009 to protest excessive government spending and taxation. The movement does not have a central leadership body, but the Tea Party Patriot group is one of the largest in the organization. The group’s website gives its “three core values” as “Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.”
House Republican leaders unveiled the “Pledge to America” on Thursday at a small business—the Tart Lumber Company—in Sterling, Va. “Our pledge to America is that the Republicans stand ready to get it done, and beginning today,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“The American people are speaking out like never before. They’re concerned about the future of our nation and the future for their children,” said Boehner. “And they see a government in Washington that isn’t listening, doesn’t get it, and frankly the American people think that Washington doesn’t really care.”
“We’re here to put forth a new governing agenda built by listening to the American people that offers a new way forward,” he said.
Boehner never said “Tea Party” at the jam-packed media event, but afterwards, he walked across the street to meet with Tea Party supporters who had gathered on their own. In blue shirt sleeves and flanked by Capitol police, Boehner crossed the Tart Lumber parking lot to the Tea Partiers chanting, “We Love Speaker Boehner!”
“Thanks for being involved in our democracy, Boehner told the small crowd. “What I see here is what I’ve seen all over the country. People being engaged. Just like all of you. And if the American people stay engaged, congress will do exactly what you demand. “
A man in the crowd gave Boehner a silver tea kettle.
“Can I keep this as a symbol?” Boehner asked. The crowd cheered and chanted “Thank you Speaker Boehner!” as he walked back to the parking lot, carrying the tea kettle.
The House Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was the pledge’s architect, would not give the Tea Party credit by name for influencing the document.
When asked by HUMAN EVENTS if the Tea Party had an impact on the pledge, McCarthy demurred. “Well it was really the country, with Americans speaking out with town halls,” he said.
“When people came into ‘America Speaking Out,’ we didn’t ask their party affiliation.”
As Tea Party supporters cheered loudly outside the parking lot of Tart Lumber, McCarthy conceded that “their voices have been heard.”
“Look it, they showed up. What’d we get, 24-hour notice of where we are going to be?” McCarthy said. “These people care about their country. They care about where the jobs are going. They are concerned about how much spending. And now they see at least a proposal and a pledge to change the direction of this country.”
Other members of GOP House leadership were more willing to give credit to the Tea Party movement for affecting the contents of the Pledge.
“The Tea Party’s impact began a year ago August where they made it clear that they did not want a government takeover of healthcare,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy (R- La.), who is a practicing physician.
“I think they have been listened to. They’ve been heard,” Cassidy told HUMAN EVENTS. “And now the challenge is to implement that concern regarding growth of government debt. And just the kind of sense that government is out of control.”
“As a conservative Republican,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) told HUMAN EVENTS,”I believe the Tea Party movement is very healthy for America. It may just help save America.”
The ranking Republican on the Committee on Financial Services, Hensarling said “I think the Tea Party had a big role” in formulating the “Pledge To America.”
Republicans in Washington avoid attaching their names to the Tea Party movement, likely because the Tea Partiers are not well-organized for message management and party discipline. As Hensarling said, “Let me not associate myself with everything said by somebody who puts ‘Tea Party’ on their business card since there are some in the national media who want to try to do that.”
Hensarling explained that the Tea Party is “not a monolithic movement. It is organic; it is real. It is diffused, but its people care desperately about constitutional government, limited government, fiscal sanity and preserving the American dream.”
Miss Miller is a senior editor of HUMAN EVENTS.
WASHINGTON, DC – Timothy F. Johnson, Chairman and Founder of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, today led the charge for new representation in leadership and an end to a continual cycle of black candidates who fail to fulfill their promises to constituents and uphold their oath of office.
“Serving in Congress is not a right,” Timothy Johnson said. “It is a privilege granted by the people – not special interest groups. Like other incumbents, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are not exempt from being purged from the ranks this November.”
Several black Democrats face ethics violations and criminal charges and remain under investigation.
Representatives Sanford Bishop and Eddie Bernice Johnson both awarded coveted Congressional Black Caucus scholarships to family members. A House panel is preparing to accuse California Congresswoman Maxine Waters of at least one ethics violation in her efforts to help a bank with ties to her husband.
After serving in Congress for forty years, Charlie Rangel faces 13 ethics violations for various violations, including failure to report rental income and mismanagement of Congressional staff and resources. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. faces personal and political allegations, including an affair with a DC nightclub mistress and new evidence linking him to Rod Blagojevich’s plan to sell President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.
“These members of Congress are truly corrupt, and their time in Washington is up. We’ve had enough of these criminals who are embarrassing our communities and we can no longer allow them to serve.
“Each of these members of Congress face strong opposition this November. Not only are we supporting their Republican opponents, we are beginning 40 days of prayer leading up to election day, beginning today, September 23. I call on all Christians across the country to join us in removing these criminals from office and ushering in a new wave of representation for blacks in Washington.”
For each day’s prayer, please visit http://www.tfdf.org.
The Frederick Douglass Foundation is a public policy and educational organization
which brings the sanctity of free market and limited government ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing our nation. We are a collection of pro-active individuals committed to developing innovative and new approaches to today’s problems with the assistance of elected officials, scholars from universities and colleges and community activists. For more information, visit http://www.TFDF.org.
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The Constitution requires that “No person . . . shall be eligible to [the office of President] who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States” (Art. II, Sec. 1). Does this mean that a candidate shouldn’t be questioned about his abilities and limited experience if he is constitutionally qualified at just thirty-six years old? Ronald Reagan was thought by some to be too old. He was 69 when he took office in 1981. Reagan turned concern about his age on its head during his 1984 re-election campaign when he promised not to “exploit, for political purposes,” the “youth and inexperience” of his 56-year-old Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale. The age question haunted John McCain as well. Questions about age are important, and so are questions about religion.
While Article VI does prohibit a “religious test,” the same article states, “the Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.” Bound to and by what? Nineteenth-century church historian Philip Schaff wrote, “‘in recognizing and requiring an official oath’ for both state and federal officeholders, ‘the Constitution recognizes the Supreme Being, to whom the oath is a solemn appeal.’” George Washington seems to have understood this principle since he followed his affirmation to “execute the office of President of the United States and . . . preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” with “So help me God.”
Oaths and affirmations were deemed important to many of the founders since they bound a person’s word to a higher authority beyond the sanctions of mere mortals who have no jurisdiction over the soul. For example, in his Essay on Toleration (1685), John Locke exempted atheists from the civil protection of toleration when it came to holding political office by arguing that an atheist who denies that God exists could not be expected to tolerate what he believes to be a myth:
Lastly, those are not all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of toleration.
In recent years, the words “so help me God” have been challenged. They were stricken from the written oath of office that Notaries take in order to serve in the state of Florida. “Those words never should have been there to begin with,” Ken Rouse, general counsel for the Florida Department of State, said. Religious leaders from Miami to Jacksonville were shocked. “This is frightening, that one person could sway the state to change things like that,” said Glen Owens, assistant executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention in Jacksonville. “How can they completely abolish a system of doing things for one person?” The Reverend Gerard LaCerra, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Miami understands the implications of the ruling. “What are we supposed to base our commitments on if something like this is removed? The state?”
In 1788, Henry Abbot, a delegate to the North Carolina convention that was considering the Federal Constitution, understood the implications of an oath without specific religious content: “[I]f there be no religious test required, pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain office among us, and the senators and representatives might all be pagans. . . . Some are desirous to know how and by whom they are to swear, since no religious tests are required—whether they are to swear by Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Proserpine, or Pluto?” Abbot feared what would happen to America if it ever claimed that the God of the Bible was somehow irrelevant to good government. Given the long-term goals of Islam, a day could come when America became officially Islamic.
What few people seem to realize is that there are all types of non-religious belief systems that hold to an absolutist ideology and use the power of the State to impose that ideology on the rest of us. Civil governments can confiscate property, tax earnings, put us in prison, send us off to fight in wars, mandate how many MPG our cars must get, order what type of toilets we can use, require that foods contain no trans fats, and so much more. The law of the land is enforced by the full authority of the civil government that makes the law. As long as a law is on the books, that law is absolute. A law doesn’t have to be tied to any particular traditional understanding of religion to be made a law and enforced by the power of the State. In fact, the above short list of government freedom-inhibiting laws is not tied to any particular religious creed, but the result is still the same—absolutism!
A secular ideology can be just as sacrosanct and absolute as any religious doctrine or creedal formulation but with a significant difference:
Pure ideology differs greatly from the Judeo-Christian tradition that locates sin in the human will; ideologists disdain such ideas and cite evil “structures,” “institutions,” and “systems” as the problem. Sin is political, not personal. Get the structure rights, so the argument goes, and all will be well with individuals.
These “structures” can only be restructured and made right by increased government control, bureaucratic management, the curtailment of freedoms, and, as always, more money. We are told that these new freedom-limiting laws are for our own good and the good of society. Liberals have always believed that civil government should be in the personal management business since their ideas for other people are always for their good. They don’t see their laws as ideologically (religiously) motivated. Take the case of taxing soft drinks in San Francisco. The mayor says that high fructose corn syrup leads to obesity which puts a strain on the city’s health care system. This proposed law is overtly religious in that it is designed to “save the children” from the potential harm of sugar-saturated soft drinks. What will be next? Pizza? Potato chips? Fries and a Big Mac? Video games and computers that contribute to a sedentary lifestyle among young and old? In the same city, a different kind of ideology protects sex acts that result in numerous sexually transmitted diseases that cost billions of dollars in healthcare costs and thousands of lives each year in America. The homosexual religious ideology has its own set of anti-blasphemy laws. Anyone who gets caught uttering a negative word about homosexuality is immediately censored. Hate-crime legislation is designed to silence all criticism. These are marks of a secular religious ideology gone mad.
Christians who understand the proper mix of religion and politics would argue that it’s not the role of civil government to micro-manage people’s lives. There is no prescription in the Bible to use the power of civil government to control a person’s diet through taxation. Long before there were high fructose corn syrup drinks, there were fat people. The king of Eglon was fat (Judges 3:17, 22), and Eli is described as “old and heavy” (1 Sam. 4:18). The Bible warns against drunkenness and gluttony (Prov. 23:20–21), but there is no call to tax alcoholic beverages and food in an attempt to modify these behaviors. A change in these behaviors comes by way of persuasion and the marketplace.
The biblical view of change is that what people believe and understand must be restructured before there will be any appreciable change in a person’s lifestyle. Self-government (self-control) is the operating principle. Christians who want to use the power of the State to manage people for what they perceive are good causes are as misguided and dangerous as secularists who believe that their ideology will save us.
In the end, all ideologies are absolute, but it’s only with Christianity that civil government is limited. Christians need to understand this when considering voting for people who promise to use the power of civil government for the supposed common good.
- Daniel Dreisbach, “The Constitution’s Forgotten Religion Clause: Reflections on the Article VI Religious Test Ban,” Journal of Church and State 38:2 (Spring 1996), 289. [↩]
- See Forrest Church, So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2007), 445–449. [↩]
- John Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. Ian Shapiro (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 246. [↩]
- “‘God’ Removed from Notaries’ Oath,” The Kansas City Star (February 18, 1992), 2A. [↩]
- Henry Abbot, North Carolina ratifying convention: Elliot’s Debates, 4:192. [↩]
- Lloyd Billingsley, The Absence of Tyranny: Recovering Freedom in Our Time (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1986), 71. [↩]
- Jesse McKinley, “San Francisco’s Mayor Proposes Fee on Sales of Sugary Soft Drinks,” The New York Times (December 18, 2007). [↩]
- The “Wii” is being used in retirement homes to get the elderly up and moving. The bowling, golfing, and tennis games are great exercise. “The Wii has become so popular at Sedgebrook [retirement community] that on Sunday afternoon there will be a video game bowling tournament in the lounge. More than 20 residents have signed up to compete.” (Dave Wischnowsky, “Wii bowling knocks over retirement home,” Chicago Tribune [February 16, 2007]). [↩]
- John R. Diggs, “The Health Risks of Gay Sex,” Corporate Research Council (2002). [↩]
The Rev. Terry Jones may just have exposed the ultimate futility of America’s war in Afghanistan. Consider the portrait of frustrated impotence America presented to the world last week.
Our president and the secretaries of state and defense deplored Pastor Jones’ plan to burn 100 Qurans but could do nothing to stop him, other than to plead with him. Jones decided to call it off himself.
What was the message received by a billion Muslims?
“Muslims must understand that our Constitution protects the desecration of your holiest book. America is a place where people have a right to denounce Islam as a religion ‘of the Devil’ and burn the Quran in public.”
Having gotten the message, Afghan mobs chanting, “Death to America,” burned the American flag and set off to kill our soldiers.
Can rural Afghans understand the refusal of a U.S. president to stop what they see as a televised sacrilege against their faith? In their country, Jones would have been stoned to death.
That is who they are.
What would a U.S. soldier say to an Afghan soldier who asked, “If you Americans believe it is the exercise of a precious right to burn our holy book, the Quran, why should we fight beside you, against fellow Muslims, who would fight to protect the Quran?”
Had Jones’ Quran-burning gone forward, the televised pictures would have gone out to the world. The impact would likely have been of the same magnitude as that of the Dutch cartoons of the Prophet that ignited riots across Europe and the Islamic world, and the anti-Islamic scribbles of Salmon Rushdie that earned the novelist a fatwa — a death sentence — from Ayatollah Khomeini.
Now consider the message sent to U.S. troops.
Their commander, Gen. Petraeus, warned that, should the Quran burning proceed, it could endanger their lives and imperil the mission President Obama sent them to fight and die for.
To those troops, President Obama was saying that his read on the First Amendment forbids him from interfering with book-burnings in America that could get them killed in Afghanistan.
How do you fight and win a war like that, with a war president like that? Saturday, the president declared: “Americans are not — and never will be — at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us … it was al-Qaida.” President Bush declared Islam “a religion of peace.”
Both statements are understandable, for if we are perceived as at war with Islam, we will lose that war, and Osama bin Laden will have won by having broadened and defined what the war was about.
But, while understandable, are the two presidents’ statements wholly credible? For tens of millions of Muslims and growing numbers of Americans are indeed coming to see this as a religious war.
If we are not at war with Islam, why are we fighting the Taliban? They did not attack us. If Islam is a religion of peace, why are Muslims massacring Christians in Nigeria and Sudan? Why did those Afghan mobs also yell, “Death to Christians”? Why are Christian Copts being attacked in Egypt, and Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in Iraq? Did these Christian communities start a holy war against their vastly more numerous Muslim brethren?
What do the terrorists and “state sponsors of terrorism” — Mohamed Atta, bin Laden, al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — have in common, except for Islam?
Is not the one thing that differentiates them from our friends in the Middle East, such as President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan, that our enemies exhibit a more rigorous Islamic faith?
What motivates the jihadists who conduct suicide attacks on American soldiers and drive car bombs onto U.S. military posts, if not the Quran’s promise of paradise if they die a martyr’s death?
If some Muslims hate us because we are the new Romans, is that hatred not grounded in the Islamic mandate to drive infidels out of the Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam?
If other Muslims hate us for our corrupt culture, what is the source of that hatred, other than Islam’s puritanical teachings? If others hate us, as neoconservatives argue, for our freedoms, what is the taproot of that hatred?
When Obama and Bush hail Islam as a religion of peace, do they know more about Islam than those who are dying for it?
Describing Islam as a religion of peace is like saying Prussians were a people of peace. It is at best a partial truth.
According to a Washington Post poll, two-thirds of Americans do not want the Cordoba House mosque built near ground zero, and half of all Americans harbor negative views about Islam. They don’t want the mosque by ground zero because they think Islam had something to do with those 3,000 massacred Americans. Are they entirely wrong?
How do we win a long war when we cannot name the enemy?