The Tea Party movement inspired political discourse and activism heading into the November 2010 mid-term elections and continues to be an influence heading into the 2012 elections. Benjamin Grivno, director and founder of Tea Party Heart explains why.
In the emotional and polarized atmosphere heading into the November 2010 mid-term elections, a mobilized new movement swept across the United States and demanded that it be heard. A loose confederacy of concerned citizens, finding common ground across a number of Libertarian-based beliefs and the more simple and singular notion that they were Taxed Enough Already (TEA), ushered in more vocal candidates and gave shape to the political spectrum that exists currently.
Benjamin Grivno is the founder and director of Tea Party Heart, an organization that he is in the process of launching. Mr. Grivno explained the objectives of his organization and the motivations behind the Tea Party movement in general, in an interview with Digital Journal.
KREBS: You have announced plans to launch a new Tea Party organization. What do you foresee as the most pressing questions for your group to address and how do you propose to answer those questions?
GRIVNO: On March 22 last year, Keith Olbermann said, "If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart." During that pre-election period liberals and their sympathizers in the mainstream media were attacking the Tea Party from every angle imaginable, harming its credibility with mainstream America, especially independents. Thankfully, the damage was insufficient to blunt the wave and the Tea Party was largely victorious in November 2010.
Olbermann's statement offended me, though I was merely a Tea Party sympathizer at the time. Racism is perhaps the most idiotic form of elitism. It declares that arbitrary, immutable genetic factors confer automatic superiority then viciously dehumanizes those who do not fit the proper description. At its heart the Tea Party (among other things) opposes elitism that is not based on merit, so those who regularly issue the "racist" insult display a deep ignorance of what the Tea Party movement is all about.
Olbermann's statement also got me thinking. I asked myself the pressing question, "What is at the heart of the Tea Party?" After much consideration I arrived at the the conclusion that, at its heart, the Tea Party is about balance. Many complain that the Tea Party is anti-government, but anarchists also complain that it is pro-government. The truth is that it is both; it desires just the right amount (aka "limited") of government. Its ridiculously obvious to anyone watching that our government is far out of balance; it is on a financially unsustainable, corrupting path that will ultimately lead to full-scale destabilization. The Tea Party seeks balance on all issues, even traditionally liberal ones like the environment, social justice, poverty, education, energy, health care, etc.
The largest fiscal problem, by FAR, is government entitlements. Government entitlements exist partly because we as a society generally believe in taking care of each other. Unfortunately, government is possibly the worst organization to carry out this mandate out because it requires the creation of a state of malrepresentation - the majority benefit as the minority is forced to bear an ever-increasing burden. Eventually the minority will be unable to bear the burden; a government that does not equally benefit and protect all of its citizens will eventually collapse, usually violently.
The solution to our entitlement problem already exists, just not in sufficiently large scale: private charity. Gradually transferring the societal mandate of take care of each other from government-based charity to privately-based charity has the potential to stabilize our financial situation while still fulfilling the mandate and protecting our precious liberties. The solution is not to "privatize Social Security," it is to expand private charities so they can provide the same benefits that Social Security provides so it can ultimately be discontinued without threatening the livelihoods of those who currently depend on it. There are more details to this solution which will be revealed in time. In fact, part of the organizations task will be to fill in those details.
The Tea Party has three core values to which we ascribe: fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. The new Tea Party organization will seek to add a fourth core value of private charity.
The second pressing question is being asked by the millions of Tea Party supporters and sympathizers. Like myself two years ago, they feel passionate but powerless to stop their beloved America from galloping with gleeful insanity over the the edge of the precipice. They're busy trying to live and they wonder, "How can I have an effect without compromising my already full-time life?"
The organization will seek to give part-time Tea Party activists a greater voice through user-friendly, highly flexible citizen journalism. Participants will be given a crash course in journalism and journalistic ethics, then authorized to choose a narrowly defined beat from which to report on the organizations website. Participants will be encouraged to share their reporting on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
The organization is about turning passion into an effective voice and about advocating sustainable compassion. The organizations name is Tea Party Heart.
KREBS: The Tea Party has made consistent progress in elevating issues that matter to them and to the nation as a whole, but how do you see this continuing over the longer term?
GRIVNO: I think those issues were themselves instrumental in elevating the Tea Party because they matter to most Americans, but the movement is also a rebellion against a dangerous cultural shift toward dependency on government and all the nasty things that come with it. The Tea Party will continue to be a force as long as the traditional American culture that birthed it continues to exist.
The Tea Party will also take on other issues. For example, I suspect the next big Tea Party issue will be education, considering the fight against public/teachers unions in Wisconsin. Taxpayers keep throwing more and more money at education and getting worse and worse results. There are reports of Tea Parties becoming involved in their local education board elections. Tea Party involvement will help balance out the liberalism which is utterly dominant in every education field and hopefully increase the effectiveness of public schools.
KREBS: Congress' composition was changed decidedly after the 2010 mid-term elections and now features a mobilized Tea Party contingent that has been putting considerable pressure on moderate Republicans. What can the average American expect from this?
GRIVNO: The Tea Party doesn't necessarily have a problem with moderate Republicans who actually adhere to common sense principles of fiscal responsibility. This helps explain why Mike Castle was vehemently opposed while Scott Brown was widely supported.
The average American can expect Republicans in general to be less corrupt, more responsive to the fiscal concerns of average Americans, and more open to free-market solutions to our current economic malaise.
KREBS: Of the Republican presidential candidates who have announced their intentions, who are you supporting and why?
GRIVNO: I do not speak for Tea Party Heart here. My dream team would be a Rubio/Rand Paul ticket, but that isn't likely to happen. Of the first tier candidates Id throw my conditional support to Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty demonstrated in Minnesota that he will actually fight to cut spending and for fiscal sanity. However, he has also demonstrated establishment thinking as evidenced by his previous support of cap & trade schemes (he has since backtracked from it), so I am wary. Its still early in the game so I may revise my support, but I will never support Mitt Romney because of RomneyCare and his unapologetic establishment mentality.
KREBS: What do you see as the cornerstone issues of the 2012 presidential election?
GRIVNO: The cornerstone issues of the 2012 election will economic – inflation, unemployment, and debt. Its impossible to spend your way out of a recession, but Obama & company tried it anyway. Now we are in an even more precarious situation, saddled with unimaginable debt. We are all tapped out because we've maxed our national credit cards giving crack to monkeys and building bridges to nowhere.
KREBS: Congressman Ron Paul has come out very recently on a pro-life platform. Is this an important issue to your organization as well?
GRIVNO: Tea Party Heart does not advocate for or against abortion or any issue outside the scope of the four core values. We welcome those with pro-choice or pro-life positions to join us in creating a sustainable future. Tea Party Heart advocates for the defunding of Planned Parenthood because it falls within the scope. In that same spirit we also advocate for the defunding of NPR and against government funding of private organizations. Defunding Planned Parenthood is not the same as limiting abortion rights, but that distinction seems lost on some liberals.
KREBS: Paul Ryan's "Path To Prosperity" has been criticized for not tackling defense spending. Do you support cuts to military programs, such as base closures in non-combat areas like those of Europe and Japan?
GRIVNO: It is likely that defense spending can be reduced without compromising mission integrity. Defense of our country is a vital and justifiable role so the Defense Department tends to get carte blanche approval for most spending. However, our national interests must be defended and our soldiers safety is paramount so we must be careful about cutting defense spending. Tea Party Heart would support a truly independent, nonpartisan audit of DoD spending & activities and open to considering the recommendations. We advocate closing unnecessary foreign bases, as long as they are actually unnecessary. The unnecessary bases act as indirect subsidies for foreign economies, so there are entrenched domestic and foreign interests pushing for a perpetual US military presence, regardless of need.