Over the past few years a grassroots movement has grown from the seeds of a radical campaign for U.S. President into a patchwork of passionate gatherings known as tea parties. By March of 2009 people were hungry to find others who shared their growing desire to learn more about the Constitution and the federalist republic we were meant to be.
A TV personality started talking about principles and virtues. He developed the theme into a gathering known as 9.12. People came by the thousands. Many who came had not been to tea parties but heard about them and realized many of those painted as revolutionaries or extremists looked like them. Just grandparents and parents awakening to a feeling something was terribly wrong in our government.
Growing out of control under the working families' radar it was becoming obvious the message of smaller federal government was starting to gain traction. Meeting others who looked and felt like everyday neighbors sparked desires to study a heritage not taught in-depth during elementary or secondary school days. Waiting for those “tea party radicals” was a story of federalism, virtue, and personal responsibility. With the help of growing organizations it was once again alright to embrace founding principles and goals.
There was another part of our heritage gaining in popularity. States once again understanding their duty, taking responsibility for life, liberty, and property gave rise to a 10th Amendment movement. If the federal government was growing so large there must be a root cause and many started to understand the root was states, counties, cities, and people across the country were relying too heavily upon Washington DC and not enough on local association. The words came to life:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
People from 9.12 groups, tea party organizations, and the Campaign for Liberty (as well as others) began to work together on resolutions and legislation designed around this fundamental principle. State legislators were found who understood the importance of restoring people's responsibility from the lowest level. Not only were these concepts introduced in states, they were passed and signed by many governors. This grassroots effort was gaining steam.
Even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to sweep it aside as nothing more than AstroTurf it was obvious this movement was not some political trick to wrestle power from one major faction to another. Principles and goals found within our heritage were focused on wrestling power from special interest factions back to the people. Always to be the foundation for maintaining freedom for themselves as well as their posterity, principles grew grassroots strength from it's unifying goals. The sixth goal our framers wrote into the U.S. Constitution's Preamble was getting new life.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Emphasis added)
By mid-2009 there was another federal campaign starting to take shape. Despite an attempt by some to shine a light of importance on local and state campaigns the romance of federal campaigns took control. Candidates for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives gathered within their workers many who had been involved with the grassroots efforts. Political parties and candidates longed for the passion they witnessed. Some who had not embraced our Constitution in the past suddenly realized by altering their rhetoric they could pull in people with such passion.
People stopped attending study groups focused on the Constitution and instead fell under the spell of the false belief everything could be fixed if they replaced their federal representation with those who professed to be knowledgeable and committed to the restoration of constitutional order. Groups began teaching campaign strategies for replacing their current representation with those who spoke of solving issues with a return to federalism. It made sense, it was what we were raised to accept, to change DC we must change the people.
Many good leaders within the movement were asked to step in as federal candidates. The rise toward federal campaign interest led eventually to splintered groups standing behind “their” candidates they hoped would break through and bring sanity to DC. Issues began to be focused on while personalities captured or repelled patriot movement members.
In Utah these campaigns were all focused on unseating Senator Bob Bennett. This was not a bad goal based on his record of upholding his oath. It felt right; change Bennett and we change representation to a person that may actually uphold their oath. The Republican Party in Utah was feeling the impact. Bennett failed to make it out of their state convention and the grassroots were blamed by the established guard of business as usual. Success fueled patriots as their growing belief a single senatorial change could make a major difference.
While Bennett failed at convention many of those wooed from the ranks of principle focused groups also fell by the way as two personalities over shadowed lesser known names. At this point the true impact of federal political campaign passion took over. History was starting to take hold as the tearing between similar grassroots camps began in earnest.
Issues became the main focus early on. The two republican candidates started developing stump speeches based on issues while honing their public personality to attract as many of the grassroots people as possible. As is always the case, issues and personalities divide and the division started to turn ugly.
A visit to the popular social network, Facebook, will enable any outside observer to get a glimpse of the division it can cause. There you can see people who less than a year earlier were standing strong, side-by-side at protests and rallies; people who were studying the Constitution and 5000 Year Leap together; suddenly divided with a personal attack tone rising.
Groups came out endorsing one candidate or the other. Members of some groups disagreed with their own group's endorsement as they splintered. The negative tones started taking control as is so often the case when principles and goals give way to issues and personalities. Mailers, commercials, accusations, and a growing message the one was a bad guy so vote for the other. Typically, politics boiled down to its root. Factional division rose even within groups that started in step with each other.
So much time, passion, and belief are being poured into the single federal senate race several local candidates are unable to get the help they need. While that is happening groups focused on restoration through education of our heritage found their number of attendees dropping rapidly. People were saying they had to work hard to get their federal senate candidate elected and after the primaries they would be back. Instead of building constitutional literacy, preparing for a demand principles and values take center stage while personal responsibility is restored their time was consumed between two people promising they would solve DC's evils. One person cannot do all they promise, the system engrained in DC will not allow it. Yet, energy is drained from grassroots members as the grassroots are torn apart.
History often repeats itself. Today is the same as the late 70s
movement derailed by the 1980 campaign that gave us Ronald Reagan who could not change the systemic problems based on decades of failing to follow our core constitutional principles. Back then what started as a few gathering in living rooms and garages to study our heritage had grown to thousands filling large venues then back to a few.
It is the same as the early 90s movement that brought us the large class of new representation in DC touting their Contract for America who could not change the systemic problems of failing to follow our core constitutional principles. Classes once again either disappeared or shrunk to handfuls. Utah's senatorial race is a microscopic look at what is derailing today's movement in states everywhere.
Today we can only wait to see if the negative, wounding attacks will be put aside after primaries determine a single candidate. It is yet to be seen if, after this campaign, those who have invested so much of their passion will not repeat what occurred in 1981 and 1995 when people did not return to their study of our heritage and the principles and goals but instead went home believing DC would be better with those they trusted based on issues and personalities.
Can the wounds of federal campaigns be healed? Can early 2009 unity return to the grassroots? Will history repeat in full with a false belief our DC troubles can be solved with a focus on issues instead of principles? Time will tell. Issues and personalities have long drained unity. Let the primaries end soon. Let the desire to study and work for principles be restored within the grassroots. Healing the tear caused by factional federal politics has never occurred as past movements have died from the wounds. Let 2010 be the year history does not repeat in whole. For posterity's sake may those who have given so much energy for the election of a single personality return to embrace principles and goals.
“A pure democracy . . . can admit no cure for the mischief’s of faction . . . . There is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party . . . . Hence it is that such democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been a short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” –James Madison
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under it's leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble opinion, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” –John Adams
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