The Tea Party Lives...in Maryland?!
The loud Tea Party summer of 2009 was the visible, audible manifestation of a seismic event: the birth pangs of a huge network of grassroots activists from coast to coast.
It was the sound of unconscionable government growth and spending careening out of control, crashing against the consciences of stalwart citizens. It was the sound of a multitude of Americans suddenly and unexpectedly experiencing in unison an "Aha!" moment, as they finally began to grasp in a very real and experiential way what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said, "No government can continue good, but under the control of the people."
The reason you don't hear much about Tea Partiers on the nightly news nowadays is because they are hard at work, focused like laser beams on a broad spectrum of causes and tasks. The thirteen percent of voters who self-identify as members of the Tea Party movement (Rasmussen), together with a host of other fiscal and social conservatives, have rolled up their sleeves and have gone to work.
The very blue State of Maryland is a great case in point, demonstrating the gamut of Tea Party-inspired activism. For years, Maryland conservatives have been pushed to the margins and had pretty much adopted the white flag as their banner. They are now fighting their way back to relevance with renewed vigor and are making a difference on many fronts. This story of Tea Party success is being repeated in state after state.
- In the run-up to the November 2010 election, Tea Party members jumped at the chance to assume long-vacant Republican precinct chairs and have energetically dispensed their duties ever since. Local Republican Central Committees also experienced an influx of Tea Party members, bringing a stronger voice to true conservatism within the Party.
- Realizing that local elections are crucial for the future direction of their local communities and the state, conservatives have focused on winning campaigns for school boards and county and city elected offices. David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland GOP, said that Republicans "now control the majority of elected offices (including commissioners, state's attorneys, sheriffs, and county clerks), 158 to 157, and we control fifteen of the 24 county councils. We had great success in 2010, and we look forward to building on that success in 2014."
A further indication of the rise of conservatism in the Free State is that two counties, St. Mary's and Calvert, have just crossed the line from a majority of registered Democrat voters to a majority of Republicans.
- After a decade or more of abandonment, Montgomery County's Republican Legislative District 15 is a beehive of organized activism and serves as a model for other legislative districts in the state. In addition to creating an ever-expanding e-mail database and an enviable professional website, precinct heads now remain in frequent contact with Republican voters through the District 15 newsletter, e-mails, phone contacts, social events, and a wide range of activist endeavors.
The district is in a suburb of Washington, D.C. where currently, every single member of the county council, every state delegate and, the state senator are liberal Democrats. To turn the tide in the next state election, the district has already begun vetting candidates and mustered a very large and growing number of grassroots volunteers, and it boasts an impressive, creative schedule of events through election day 2014.
- Maryland Petitions, the brainchild of State Delegate Neil Parrott, has found a way to take advantage of technology to streamline signature-gathering efforts and at the same time has mobilized a huge army of volunteers statewide to combat newly enacted liberal legislation.
Last year, a petition drive was launched to overturn Maryland's version of the DREAM Act, a new law passed by the Democrat-controlled State House that would provide in-state tuition for qualifying illegal immigrants in Maryland. The effort was wildly successful, generating more than twice the number of required certified signatures. Thirty percent of the signatories were registered Democrats.
- A similar drive is underway regarding same-sex marriage, which narrowly passed into law in February. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Maryland Marriage Alliance -- a large grassroots, non-partisan coalition of mostly African-American churches, the Maryland Catholic Conference, and others -- organizers expect a repeat success getting the initiative to repeal the law on the ballot. The presence of two highly charged referendums in the fall is expected to bring record numbers of Republicans, conservative Democrats, and African-American social conservatives to the polls.
- As many have awakened to the difficulties our nation now faces, it has become apparent that a chief contributor to government overreach is the erosion of school curricula with regard to American history, civics, and economics. One very powerful local response is New Renaissance In Education (NRIE), in Gaithersburg, MD.
NRIE is dedicated to bringing educational integrity and balance to primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools so we have better-informed citizens. The overriding goal of NRIE is to develop and promote the teaching of curricula that are balanced and which teach America's heritage. NRIE recognizes that it is critical that U.S. citizens reassert integrity and objectivity in education before institutional memory of our great society becomes too diluted. NRIE aspires to network and equip citizens committed to this aim. Currently focused on K-12 schools, NRIE is quickly forming local chapters of parents, educators, and concerned citizens throughout Maryland and Virginia.
- Recognizing that free and fair elections depend upon citizen involvement, Election Integrity Maryland, empowered by True the Vote in Texas, was formed to ensure that voter registration rolls are accurate and in compliance with federal and state election laws, to encourage citizens to be active participants in the electoral process by volunteering to be election judges and poll watchers, and to offer poll watcher training to registered voters. EIM's data researchers have already begun to file challenges with state and local Boards of Election to clean up voter rolls and have trained poll watchers from the Eastern Shore to Maryland's western panhandle.
- The two-year-old Maryland Conservative Action Network (MD CAN) has successfully brought together and supported the efforts of grassroots activists from all parts of the Old Line State, regardless of party affiliation. A recent day-long conference trained conservative Marylanders to be citizen-journalists and information activists, focusing on topics such as filing open records requests, accessing and analyzing government data, tracking down campaign contributions, monitoring legislation in the State House, and exposing corruption and incompetence. MD CAN keeps the state's grassroots activists in touch and informed.
Most of these Maryland conservatives were totally disengaged from political activism before the Tea Party's birth in 2009. National Capital Tea Party Patriots, begun in 2010 in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., suspended meetings earlier this year. The reason? To free up attendees' schedules so they can devote their time to local conservative causes, especially the November 2012 election.
The early clamor of the Tea Party is gone, replaced by the hum of an increasingly prodigious conservative coalition.