Long before the Tea Party movement sprang up in the early days of President Obama, the liberty movement was catching fire. Dedicated to a pro-constitution, fiscally conservative, and anti-war GOP presidential candidate, the liberty movement barnstormed the nation with an explosion of grassroots enthusiasm. When Texas Congressman, Dr. Ron Paul, challenged the GOP establishment in 2007-2008, tens of thousands of supporters organized record breaking, one-day “money bombs”, catchy YouTube videos, massive sign waving events, and even a blimp, without any assistance from special interests, party elites, or network celebrities.
Then, in early 2009, a few weeks after Obama’s inauguration, the Tea Party movement began to show its head, enflamed by the bailouts and record government spending. Little did many people realize, however, that the “Tea Party” concept originated in December 2007, when over 58,000 grassroots supporters donated a one-day record of $6 million to Dr. Paul’s presidential campaign on the anniversary of the original 1773 Boston Tea Party.
As the Tea Party began to slowly emerge, the “Liberty movement” was already in full swing. Dr. Paul had inspired a whole slate of grassroots candidates to launch campaigns for the 2010 elections. Candidates such Dr. Rand Paul (his son), Peter Schiff, Adam Kokesh, RJ Harris, John Dennis, Jake Towne, and Debra Medina began gearing up to run for various offices. And as the Tea Party rallies began to spread throughout the nation in 2009, many of these candidates were invited to give speeches and make appearances at Tea Party events.
But, as the Tea Party movement began to unfold, a troubling phenomenon started to emerge. Fox News, GOP elites, network personalities, and powerful special interests began to slowly, but insidiously take the reins. Seeing their opportunity, GOP strategists began to exploit the budding grassroots movement for their own political gain. Suddenly, the movement became obsessed with excorciating the Democrats and President Obama, when, in fact, the “shredding of the Consitution” by President Bush and a largely Republican Congress is what inspired the earliest tea party supporters in 2007 & 2008. As a result, disaffected Democrats and open-minded Independents strongly rejected the Tea Party’s partisan invective.
Now, the Tea Party movement is battling for its soul. With $100,000 payments to Sarah Palin, $500 tickets to attend a “grassroots” convention, and Republican strategists such as Sal Russo pulling the strings behind the scenes, the Tea Party movement is fighting the onslaught of a full-fledged, GOP establishment hijacking.
But, strangely enough, so is the Liberty movement.
Recently, Dr. Rand Paul, who is dominating the polls in the US Senate race in Kentucky, received an official endorsement from Sarah Palin. Months earlier, he had stated that his campaign was “making overtures” to gain her support. Since the endorsement, Rand has showered Palin with glowing praise, even though some feel their economic and foreign policy views significantly differ in certain areas.
Without a doubt, Palin is a prominent figure in the political world, and her endorsement may have just sealed the deal for a Paul victory in the GOP primary. However, in the general election, when one has to face independent and democratic voters, it may be more difficult to pitch his message considering her low poll numbers with these segments of the electorate. Also, Palin is stumping for the Tea Party Express, which is headed by Sal Russo. Russo is a long-time Republican consultant who played a role in efforts such as the Gray Davis recall campaign in California, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth against Kerry, and the pro-war lobbying group that built political support for the Iraq war. One wonders if Rand has truly weighed the potential consequences of an expedient political union with Palin.
Some supporters, however, claim that Palin’s endorsement is really an endorsement of the liberty movement’s promising potential and rock solid platform. They claim that such a high-profile endorsement is clear-cut evidence of the GOP finally kowtowing to the “Ron Paul Revolution”. Some claim that Rand’s unqualified acceptance of Palin’s endorsement is a political necessity and a pragmatic reality.
While these claims are quite reasonable, even politically astute, they appear to fly in the face of the liberty movement’s support of Dr. Ron Paul in its nascent stages. Unlike Rand Paul’s seemingly “anti-liberty” stance on Guantanamo Bay, Dr. Ron Paul never compromised with the GOP establishment on foreign policy, civil liberties, fiscal & monetary policy. Dr. Ron Paul refused to endorse John McCain, instead choosing to promote third party candidates as a more change-oriented alternative. And yet, despite Ron’s open defiance and overt criticism of the GOP, he has somehow managed to get re-elected and spark a powerful, well-funded political movement in 2010.
Lately, though, even Ron Paul has not been the GOP renegade. Dr. Paul has agreed to support Texas GOP incumbents in the 2010 elections, even though some of them hold positions and have cast votes that Dr. Paul has staunchly opposed. Though it is unclear as to why Dr. Paul is supporting this effort, a whole variety of speculative justifications have been offered.
Are these warning signs of compromise with the GOP establishment? What first emerged as a scathing refutation of the party machine, now appears to be an operation of ever increasing compromise.
To be fair, though, was this merely an inevitability? Are the two-party machines, at this time, still too strong, too dominant to reject completely? Has the Liberty Movement, like the Tea Party movement, sacrificed legitimate, long-term reform for short-term gain? Or, like the Tea Party movement, is the Liberty movement just experiencing the typical internal debate?
Time will tell, but in the meantime, readers are encouraged to keep a close eye on this budding movement, and whether or not it can withstand the pressure and enticements of the GOP establishment.