Court ruling an opportunity and a test for Tea Party

When the Supreme Court announced the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act this morning, it sounded a trumpet calling the Tea Party to arms.  Can the movement respond effectively?  Will Tea Partiers reinvigorate the movement which has become, basically, an faction of the Republican Party?

In 2009, the Town Hall meetings about health care provided the first large stage for grassroots Tea Partiers to display their commitments.  When Congress adopted the Affordable Care Act–over their opposition–Tea Partiers and Republicans channeled their efforts into the 2010 elections, and enjoyed considerable success, ousting the Democrats from control of the House of Representatives.  Since then, the most visible Tea Party efforts have been directed into the presidential contest, particularly the Republican primaries.

The impending nomination of Mitt Romney is a tremendous disappointment to Tea Partiers, who will, no doubt, recall that the Supreme Court has just upheld the vision of health care reform Governor Romney pioneered in Massachusetts.  Most Tea Partiers, however, will continue to see Romney’s campaign as their best hope for undoing ACA and sending President Obama back to Chicago.

Social movements of the middle class and above respond to bad news and to threats.  The Supreme Court’s majority decision, written by Chief Justice Roberts, is both.  The core national Tea Party organizations were prepared, and responded immediately.

Jenny Beth Martin, the remaining co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, issued a warning to the Republican majority in the House:

This is a slap in the face to the majority of the American people who want Obamacare fully repealed. The Tea Party Patriots stand with the American people and say: fully repeal Obamacare.

Mr. Romney, Mr. Boehner: the American people are putting you on notice. You both promised to fully repeal Obamacare. We will hold you to your promises.

We will vote out any politician who does not commit, in writing, to respect the will of the American people and fully repeal Obamacare.

Americans for Prosperity’s president Tim Phillips issued this statement:

For years, Americans for Prosperity has vigorously opposed President Obama’s deeply flawed health care plan. Since 2009, our Hands Off My Health Care project has rallied thousands of Americans at hundreds of events around the country, including a massive rally this past March with over 4,000 AFP activists.

The American people deserve health care freedom and choice, not more restrictions and irresponsible spending. Over the next several days, AFP will launch a series of events around the country telling Congress ‘Hands Off My Health Care,’ and demanding a full repeal of Obama’s deeply flawed health care law.

And FreedomWorks, which was critical in organizing the Town Hall shout-downs two years ago, promised to “double down” on its efforts to repeal the law.  Its president, Matt Kibbe, announced:

Without a strong grassroots constituency holding government accountable to its decisions, it’s doubtful the individual mandate would have been challenged in the first place. For that, activists across the country should be very proud. We are not going away. It’s time to double down on spreading the message that President Obama’s individual mandate is an unprecedented infringement on constitutional liberty, and to take that message to the ballot box in November.

The Supreme Court has spoken, as has the Tea Party leadership.  We’ll watch to see whether the grassroots follows.

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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4 Responses to Court ruling an opportunity and a test for Tea Party

  1. Individual freedom in the United States of America, as of today – is dead.

    J.R. Werbics is a Canadian writer and philosopher.

  2. As in Canada, Germany, Britain and every other rich country?

  3. The nation states that you mention, and the others that make up the Western world (except for Switzerland), never fully embraced the ideas and principles of the Enlightenment – including the idea of individual freedom.

    So the answer to your question is…Yes.

    J.R. Werbics is a Canadian writer and philosopher.

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