BY D. C. MCALISTER
Like so many of my fellow Americans, I felt helpless as I sat in front of the television in the fall of 2008, watching Barack Obama become the 45th president of the United States. I had high hopes for John McCain and Sarah Palin, but my hopes were dashed as America elected Obama, despite not knowing much about him.
I wanted to do something, speak out, have a voice, but I was just a mom in Charlotte, N.C., struggling to get by. I felt alone, my voice heard only within the confines of my own home as I snapped back at television commentators or politicians spouting drivel on the radio. Then came the Tea Party.
After his inauguration in 2009, Obama announced a huge government bailout of the housing market. Those of us who were worried about out‐of‐control spending and a growing centralized government rose up. The Tea Party was born. I was one of the first members, if you could even call us official members at the time. As soon as I heard about other like‐minded people gathering in downtown Charlotte for a rally, I printed out my first homemade “Tea Party” bumper‐sticker and taped it to my faded red mini‐van. A neighbor called me crazy. I just smiled and put another sticker on the side window, so he could see it as I drove by.
In A Reaction Against Big Government, The Tea Party Was Born
As Tea Partiers gathered on the National Mall in 2009, I went to local rallies, my oldest daughter and I painting “Conservative Victory” T‐shirts with stars and stripes. The rallies were a mixture of people—old, young, teenagers, whites, Hispanics, blacks. Every rally felt like the Fourth of July in a small town, complete with iced tea and lemonade.
But things soon changed. Anderson Cooper dubbed us Tea Baggers, and the Republican Establishment fixed its eye on us like Sauron from Mordor.
During one rally across from the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, a couple of black female professionals came up to me and asked me what was going on. They looked concerned. “What do you have against President Obama?” one of them asked me suspiciously. I explained that the issue wasn’t Obama but the size of government and how we’re all taxed too much. I told her that I had three children and three step‐ children to support, but a lot of our money went to taxes. “I just want to be free to take care of my kids and help in my community the way I choose,” I told her. She said she’d just had her third child and agreed that she could use more money. We parted with a greater understanding of one another—no animus, no anger, just a deep concern about our families.
Throughout the first term of Obama’s presidency, the Tea Party grew in strength. I was able to replace my tattered homemade bumper‐sticker with a glossy official one. But things soon changed. Anderson Cooper dubbed us Tea Baggers, and the Republican Establishment fixed its eye on us like Sauron from Mordor. Those of us in the Tea Party faced a two‐headed hydra in Washington—the Democrats and those from our own party who hated us because we embarrassed them and challenged their power.
Still, the Tea Party didn’t relent. Obamacare spurred us to action, and the 2010 midterms were a landslide. We wanted change in Washington. The newly elected congressmen we sent there promised change, but the two years that followed didn’t bring much, despite the efforts of brave men like Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Rand Paul. The real blow came when the Establishment’s candidate of choice, Mitt Romney, won the Republican nomination. During the primary, the GOP had repeatedly beat up on the Tea Partiers, calling them irrational, angry, and most of all stupid. They were characterized as ignorant outsiders with pitchforks. Hobbits. Crazies. When newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz fought to defund Obamacare in 2013, Peter King called his supporters “a dark strain in the American psyche.”
Fighting For Limited Government With Words
After the election of Obama in 2012, I felt helpless and depressed. I’d worked hard in the Tea Party, but we were failing. We were failing, not because of the Democrats, but because of the GOP and its refusal to give up its love of centralized power. They were no different than the leftists. Money. Power. Cocktail parties. Media incest. The Capitol in the Hunger Games really did portray for many of us what Washington had become—narcissistic, money‐grubbing, self‐indulgent, condescending, and egotistical. There was little evidence that anyone inside the beltway cared about everyday Americans.
I continued to work hard, writing, standing for principles of liberty and freedom.
I needed to do something. I had been a journalist before becoming a full‐time mom, so I used the only skills I had—my writing. Maybe it would give me a voice, albeit a small one. Attending rallies wasn’t enough. I was worried about the future. I saw other women being sucked in by the war‐on‐women lies, and I needed to say something, try to make a difference. My children were getting older, and I wanted better for them, financially, culturally, and morally.
So, I got on the Internet, started a blog, and I began writing. I was passionate and not always politically correct. I challenged people on my side as well as Democrats. I made friends, and I made enemies because I didn’t care about playing politics. That’s because I was speaking out, not for a political party, but for my family, for myself. I had to live and write by my own conscience, not to please others or even to advance myself and a possible career in punditry.
I got up at dawn and wrote all day. I was unemployed at the time, so I could do it. I joined a wonderful website, Ricochet, where I continued to work hard, writing, standing for principles of liberty and freedom. I called people to be faithful to the Constitution, to think as individuals, to strengthen the civil society by loving one another and being personally responsible for themselves and their families, and to stand for what they believe no matter what. I studied, read more books than I can remember, and scoured the Internet. My family thought I had gone nuts, but I wouldn’t relent. I was just a little voice, just a Tea Party mom who wanted to make a difference, but I believed in what I was writing.
I was often demeaned and ridiculed. I didn’t have a fancy degree. I didn’t have a fancy fellowship. I didn’t know any politicians. I didn’t have any connections. I was just a journalist with some knowledge of philosophy and theology. I was just a mom and a wife, busy cooking dinner, cleaning house, not attending cocktail parties and rubbing elbows. I was a nobody. But I kept writing. In response to Peter King and his attack on Ted Cruz, I wrote in September of 2013 a post about how the GOP was mischaracterizing the Republican base. I was tired of being called angry and stupid. Even “vile.” The fact is I wasn’t angry. I was afraid.
The Tea Party’s Fears Still Matter
This is what I wrote two years ago, and given what my colleague Tom Nichols’ (whom I respect a great deal) has written about the Tea Party and Trump supporters, it bears repeating:
If you really want to understand what motivates the Republican base, you need to stop listening to the bully name‐calling that the establishment has adopted from the left or to people like Peter King who talk about a ‘dark strain in the American psyche’ and all the ‘vile’ phone calls he has received in support of Cruz. Instead, you need to listen and understand that conservatives are not—and never have been—motivated by anger. They are motivated by fear.
Some might not want to admit this fact. It sounds weak, maybe even naive. But fear in the proper context is anything but naive. It’s wisdom based on experience and knowledge. It’s realizing that something you love is threatened, something worth fighting for—even worth dying for.
They fear a government that is no longer acting within the boundaries of the Constitution. They fear tyranny.
‘Anger,’ as it has been leveled at the Republican base, is a mischaracterization, designed to dismiss them as irrational and even dangerous. The truth is they’re simply good people who love their country and are honestly afraid of losing their freedom, having their private property taken away through high taxes, being robbed of their rights through increasing regulations, having their privacy invaded by the IRS and the NSA, and having an expanding government rob them of quality healthcare, the right to defend themselves, and free choice in the education of their children.
Conservatives today look at the government and they see creeping tyranny (and in some instances, not so creeping). They see very few checks and balances among the branches, they see the Constitution violated and undermined by legislators—including those in the GOP, they see judges legislating, and they see an unaccountable executive ruling by fiat. Is it any wonder they’re afraid? The question is ‘Why isn’t the GOP establishment afraid?’
It’s been said, ‘When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.’ The Republican base doesn’t hate the government as Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal said in her rant against Cruz supporters. They fear a government that is no longer acting within the boundaries of the Constitution. They fear tyranny.
I wrote that two years ago. Today, we’re hearing the same thing from insiders (even if they are registered “Independents”). Nichols writes that Trump supporters “embrace being the underdog because it gives them a sense of importance and specialness that comes from believing they are in an ongoing struggle with The Man or The System or The Cartel. Thus they love it when The Donald says things like ‘everybody is stupid,’ because that’s how they feel all the time.”
Nichols uses the term “stupid” seven times to describe those who oppose political insiders and Washington elites. Of the Tea Party, he says they put people on the political stage “whose stock in trade was either pristine ignorance or pure rage.”
As a Tea Party member, I can say I’m neither ignorant nor filled with pure rage. Neither am I stupid. I have been thoughtful in my opposition to tyranny in Washington, and it’s one reason I’ve pushed to keep writing, despite having little support, struggling with personal issues, and often doing it while working three jobs to help pay the bills. As a Senior Contributor at The Federalist, I continue to write, standing for local governance, low taxes, a strong defense, the civil society, the Constitution, and life in the womb.
Trump Speaks For Small Government Advocates When The GOP Doesn’t
I don’t support Trump as a candidate, but I understand and respect the anger of my fellow Americans—and, yes, it is now true anger (mixed with some other legitimate points Nichols makes about our celebrity‐driven culture). But, as someone who has been a part of this conflict since the beginning—and an outsider—I can tell you, it is the GOP’s fault—it’s the fault of all politicians who are either protecting the status quo or pushing us into even more tyranny, a point Walter Russell Mead makes in his explanation of the populism of Trump.
People are more angry now than they have been because they have been pushed and pushed and pushed.
This isn’t just about Donald Trump and stupid Americans. If it were, Nichols might have a point, but there’s history here. It goes back to the Tea Party. The same things were being said years ago (and continue to be said) about Lee, Cruz, and others who dared to “make fools of themselves” in their fight against the status quo, in their fight against tyranny.
People are more angry now than they have been because they have been pushed and pushed and pushed. Let me explain a little something about human nature. When someone feels oppressed and controlled and you continue to belittle them and push them against the wall, they get angry. They’re not going to be particularly rational at that point. They’re in a corner and they lash out—that’s human nature. They fight. They get angry. They grab hold of whatever weapon they can find to defend themselves. That’s what you mostly see with Donald Trump. It’s anger, fueled by fear and stoked by insiders who continue to demean the base, who refuse to listen, and who want to maintain the status quo.
As I watch what’s happening with the Trump phenomenon, I see it not just from a political point of view, but from a human one. Nichols says supporters of Trump and Tea Partiers are just a bunch of petty “pedestrian” narcissists who like to play the victim—they’re just stupid, enraged idiots. He’s wrong.
As I watch what’s happening with the Trump phenomenon, I see it not just from a political point of view, but from a human one.
This reminds me of a toxic relationship between a man and a woman in which the man continues to control the woman, keeping her from speaking her mind, calling her stupid whenever she does. She tries to find ways to win her independence, to be heard, to be free, but he keeps pushing her back against the wall, telling her that she’s the problem. Over time, the anger swells within her. She’s afraid. She isn’t free, and she hates it. She’s powerless. Anytime she tries to stand up for herself, she is mocked and slapped down. Her fear resides. Her anger grows. Her hope recedes. One day, she just loses it. She lights a match and burns the whole house to the ground. Give me liberty or give me death takes on a whole new meaning in the context of oppression and abuse.
Hopelessness and helplessness lead to destruction. Always. Who’s at fault in this situation? Is it the irrational, angry woman who burns the house to the ground? Or is it the man who has pushed her, controlled her, ridiculed her, stolen her liberty, and caused her to live in fear for years? If you think it’s the woman’s fault, then you know nothing of human nature. The inside‐the‐beltway types might know a lot about policy, but they know little of human nature. It will be their downfall. Sadly, though, it will be the downfall of us all.