WASHINGTON COUNTY – The Washington County Tea Party Coalition, a nonpartisan group of conservative-minded citizens, are calling on the support and awareness of the community to advance their cause.
What is the Tea Party?
The coalition is one of many chapters of the Tea Party, a nationwide political movement advocating strict adherence to the Constitution and reduced government spending and taxation. A relatively new but highly influential organization, Tea Party members have organized more than 500 demonstrations across the country in the past four years and raised millions of dollars to endorse candidates. Classified as a blend of conservative, libertarian and populist principles, the movement takes its name from the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773, when American colonists protested a British tax on tea by dumping chests of it into the ocean; it is also an acronym meaning “Taxed Enough Already.”
The Tea Party first appeared on the American political radar on Feb. 16, 2009, when blogger and conservative activist Keli Carender gathered 120 citizens in Seattle, Wash., to protest the passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. With the support of noted political figures such as Michelle Malkin and Steve Beren, the demonstration gained national attention in a matter of days. Carender, who is now credited with founding the movement, organized a second protest on Feb. 27 of that year that saw a turnout of over 250 people.
The movement rapidly gained support in the following months and by the 2010 elections was backing numerous successful Republican candidates in several states, including some with a long-standing history of favoring the Democratic Party. A large number of conservative politicians are affiliated with the Tea Party, including former Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann (who founded the Tea Party Caucus), and 2008 presidential and vice presidential candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin; in 2010, the latter described the Tea Party to the New York Times as the future of American politics. The Tea Party has also received promotion from political commentators Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
The Washington County Tea Party Coalition formed in January 2011 and is the product of an allegiance between We the Cotton Pickin’ People of Dixie, the National States Rights Coalition, the Dixie Republican Forum, the Liberty Rim Republic and the Dixie State College Republicans, four local groups focusing on conservative politics. Though the vast majority of candidates endorsed are Republican, the coalition itself is nonpartisan. Its official mission statement suggests three key values: Educating the public on Constitutional conservative principles, helping elect candidates who follow those principles and lobbying for fair and Constitutional legislation.
“Our group is not intended to be a competing political party and we support any candidates who support (our) principles,” member Larry Meyers said. “We are a movement of regular people who love our country and want to have a better government.”
Meyers, a criminal defense and family law attorney with a practice serving Southern Utah, has been actively involved with the Tea Party movement since its early days. He helped organize and spoke at the first St. George rally in April 2009 and is now on the coalition’s leadership committee. A lifelong Republican, Meyers said he has supported the idea of limited federal government since the 1980s and fit naturally into the Tea Party.
In addition to promoting their favored local candidates, which Meyers said he is confident will be successful in the impending elections, coalition members are active year-round in their efforts to educate and involve the public. Their 2011 Tax Day Rally saw a turnout of thousands and they have since hosted a variety of gatherings and fundraisers in Dixie, including training potential delegates to participate in the Utah Republican caucuses and a meet-and-greet with politician Dan Liljenquist.
On September 17 upcoming, the coalition will be holding a family-friendly Constitution Day picnic at a location yet to be determined; more information about upcoming events can be found on its official Facebook and Twitter pages.
How you can get involved
Coalition members new and old are encouraged to participate in both local and national events. A countrywide ongoing campaign called the Tea Party Fax Project allows supporters to send a series of prepared faxes to all 100 senators, 435 representatives and the White House; the titles of the fax messages range from “Keep Government Hands Off the Internet” and “End Red-Ink Spending” to “No Obamacare” and “Protect our Military.” The Cell Phone Activist program urges citizens to call their local representatives and let their voice be heard.
And the Tea Party is always in need of donations, not only funds but also time and willingness to stand for the cause its members believe in.
“We invite everyone to participate in our movement (by) standing up and teaching others about the principles of our Founding Fathers and the Constitution,” Meyers said.
Mary Wilson-Burkett, secretary of the Washington County Tea Party Coalition, said, “As citizens of this great country, we have been given a sacred charge to speak up (and) do the right thing (by supporting) individual freedom. The founders would expect nothing less of us.”
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