It's not your
father's protest movement. Everyone from small children to military veterans
wave the Stars and Stripes and the coiled snake of the Gadsden flag, symbols of
the Tea Party message: I'm American — so don't tread on me.
But it takes work to turn these broad
principles into focused action. As Paul Kersey, Mackinac Center labor policy
director, said in speeches to two Tea Party rallies: "Government is so big, so
intrusive, and so complicated that you need trained professionals to really
grasp how messed up the whole thing is. That's where we come in." Thus, on
April 15, as Tea Party groups across the nation gathered to protest
ever-expanding government and budget deficits, Mackinac Center policy analysts
spoke at nine of the "Tax Day" rallies in Michigan to encourage and inform the
crowds, giving them the tools to make a real difference.
Center staff were also
on hand at these and many more rallies across the state to distribute thousands
of copies of such Mackinac Center publications as Michigan Capitol
Confidential, "Tea Party Toolbox" and "101 Recommendations to Revitalize
Michigan" — which Tea Partiers then carried proudly in Mackinac Center "Freedom makes all
the difference" bags.
Emphasizing the importance of keeping politicians
accountable, Center speakers focused on the central question of how to limit
government. Each alerted the crowds to many examples of "misbehavior" on the
part of Lansing politicians and told them the best way to keep tabs on what
their representatives are up to: reading the Mackinac Center's daily news site,
Mackinac Center communications specialist, starred at the rally held on the
steps of the Capitol building in Lansing. Speaking to a crowd 1,500 strong,
Hoekstra pointed out the "bad habits of democracy" — that is, the people
forgetting to hold their representatives accountable. She encouraged her
audience by letting them know how easy it is to hold their legislators
"Remember, information is power. Power to break all of
these bad habits. That's where the Mackinac Center can help. When people are
trying to quit smoking, some try things like special gum or patches. For these
bad habits of democracy, the Mackinac Center has your limited government,
back-to-basics, free-market equivalent of gum and patches!"
Kersey spoke in
Hillsdale and Brighton. He highlighted the dangers of union special-interest
lobbying, explaining how public-sector collective bargaining can even override
local law and gave the facts on the state's forced unionization of home-based
day care providers.
Jack McHugh, the Center's legislative analyst, spoke in
Lapeer and Sterling Heights and at a seminar in Lansing. He also emphasized
government accountability and told of the many tools the Mackinac Center offers
to help individuals stay informed: Daily political news (MichCapCon.com),
plain-English descriptions and complete roll call votes of every single bill in
the Legislature (MichiganVotes.org), and checkbook registers from
municipalities and school districts (Show Michigan the Money).
Mackinac Center Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive
spoke at a rally in Midland and at the seminar in Lansing. In his speeches, he
focused on Michigan's unemployment and outmigration statistics. These, he said,
show the failure of Michigan's big-government, high-tax policies and the need
for a new strategy: limited government and tax cuts.
Ken Braun gave a
rousing address in Hudsonville. Elliot Gaiser, a Hillsdale College student who
attended and spoke at the Hudsonville rally, commented: "The crowd was very
enthusiastic and heartily applauded each of the speakers, including Ken Braun.
His comments were taken very well. It was remarkable how large the crowd was on a Thursday at noon for a smaller
community like Hudsonville."
That's the Tea Party
movement: thousands of ordinary people refusing to let the routine demand of
daily life prevent them from rallying against a profligate government. Mackinac
Center analysts are offering them practical ways to achieve the greatest impact
possible. With ideas, energy and know-how, we can help restore America's
founding principles of personal responsibility and limited government.