January 13, 2010

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS FOR ALL!

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

"It's easy in Washington and on Wall Street to dismiss the Tea-Party movement as a disorganized fringe force. It's worth remembering, though, that in a Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll late last year, the Tea-Party movement won a higher favorability rating among Americans than did either major party"
-Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal, 1-12-10

Back in September, I wrote a column defending the First Amendment rights of the many Tea Party groups that sprouted up to protest the big government policies of the new Administration. At that time, many on the left and in the media tried to portray this as a temporary distraction that would soon fade. They assumed ridiculing and demonizing participants would marginalize the Tea Party movement in hopes of making it irrelevant. Exactly the opposite has happened. This grassroots movement has only grown in size and commitment since the first rallies early last year.

While I cannot speak for the Tea Party movement, several facts are undisputable. The Administration and current majority in Congress are simply not listening to the American people. This sad truth has spawned deep frustration around the country, among many Members of Congress like me, and, of course, the Tea Party movement. The people of this movement come from every income level and background. They are in the majority in their opinions about the size of government, higher taxes and reduced liberties. And they understand, where their critics don't, that the government cannot keep growing and spending on its current path without causing major damage to our future and the economy. The Tea Party movement has grown because its reason for existence is much deeper and more real than simple caricatures.

Along with allowing political freedom, the First Amendment's freedom of speech also provides a check on government, especially when so many citizens are as united on an issue as they are on opposition to massive spending and tax increases. It is puzzling that the media, which champions its own freedom granted in the First Amendment, is not championing the same right for another group that is granted freedom of speech in the same Constitutional amendment.

One would hope that the media, in its role as a government watchdog, would more carefully listen to and explore the complaints of the Tea Party movement about accountable government rather than parrot Administration rhetoric.

This movement started in response to massive spending of the TARP and stimulus bills and the attendant tax increases. It now opposes the Democrats' health care bill, cap-and-trade, and additional deficit-busting stimulus plans for the same reasons. The health care bill brought another reason for anger. In nearly every poll on the topic, a majority oppose the bill currently in Congress, yet it continues to advance despite those polls and overwhelming number of opposition calls, letters, emails and office visits from constituents to their Senators and Representatives. Americans see an Administration and a Congressional majority in a rush to force this bill into law before public opposition legitimately overwhelms this wrong-headed monstrosity.

The federal government's unprecedented spending and increased control over the economy go far beyond what the Founders intended and are causing great unease among the majority of the American people. Those who have spoken out against these encroachments and against the loss of liberty should not be demonized. I commend them and encourage them to remain engaged in the political process. They should continue to call, write, and visit their Senators and Representatives, and get everyone they know to do the same. Please go to http://crapo.senate.gov for more on federal policies on spending and taxing.

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