It’s time to get “back to the basics,” as far as Meta Hahn of Westerville, OH, is concerned. Standing in front of a bus emblazoned with the Statue of Liberty and countless signatures, the fifth-grade teacher and board member of the Worthington Tea Party said, “If you are not going to get involved, then don’t complain.”
Hahn got involved over the July 4 weekend at the First Annual “We the People” convention. The convention, sponsored by The Heritage Foundation and like-minded organizations such as The Buckeye Institute and American Majority, attracted dozens of Ohio tea party groups and hundreds of citizens like Hahn. States’ rights slogans such as “Don’t Tread on Me” were imprinted on flags and t-shirts, and pocket-sized Constitutions were frequently displayed during casual conversation. At lunch, the crowd of attendees stood at attention while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Despite the media stereotype of angry Tea Partiers donning powdered wigs, most everyone here seemed relatively, well, normal.
The convention offered seminars on history, leadership, and state issues. Few would have imagined this type of convention two years ago, when CNBC’s Rick Santelli appealed to American “rabble-rousers” for a Chicago Tea Party. Few of these groups existed in Ohio or elsewhere. At a conference session geared toward leaders of Tea Party groups, including Portage County Tea Party and the Ohio Tea Party Council, few raised their hands when Heritage’s Matthew Spalding, author of We Still Hold These Truths, asked who had been active before Santelli’s call to action.
Spalding addressed the political landscape from a historical perspective, explaining how the Obama Administration’s progressive ideas are making America similar to Europe. There, secular, democratic socialist concepts are valued and tend to dominate political discussions, despite warnings from historical figures such as Winston Churchill, who once described socialism as: “Philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky addressed conference attendees about voter identification and voter fraud—issues that provoked such a passionate response that audience members could hardly sit quietly for more than a few minutes. When von Spakovsky called for attendees to take steps to prevent fraud, “Amen” rang out among the crowd, and many audience members shared details of their own experiences.
School Choice Ohio came in force with speaker Chad Eli, and a number of teachers at his session complained about a public school curriculum that not only fails to teach basic arithmetic but also deemphasizes the importance of the Founding Fathers and America’s founding ideas. Many parents pointed out that home schooling is an option, and John Fund, a conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal, suggested that the best way to rectify this situation is really for families to do the small things like taking time to bring their children to parades on the 4th of July. One former public school teacher proclaimed that in the face of growing secularization, she had left a Bible in plain view on her desk at a local public school so students would know she was not ashamed of her religious views. Eventually, bureaucratic tensions drove her to a local private school.
The Tea Party Patriots, another of the convention’s sponsors, have 798,812 Facebook fans united in championing founding principles—what Meta Hahn referred to as the “basics.” The Tea Party Patriots describe themselves as “a coalition of ordinary American citizens from all political affiliations.” One conference speaker, Dick Perry, was clearly targeting just such individuals when he encouraged leaders to continue working to spread the word, telling them to talk to the “people they go to church with” and “played football with.”
Decked out in red, white, and blue, Jessica Koebel, leader of the Pickerington Patriots, said she takes inspiration from Edmund Burke. She even chose one of his sayings to place strategically on her business card: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Justine Desmond is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm