Kathryn Lopez

In a 1949 article in The Thomist, philosopher Aurel Kolnai wrote: "It is indubitably true that a system of government in which the 'plain man' as such 'has a say' is intrinsically better than government by an esoteric caste of public officials no matter how well bred, 'cultured' and 'public spirited.' This is what forever validates Democracy in the sane sense of the term, as contrasted to its erection into a false religion of secular messianism. Democracy, in that same sense, means the participation, at various levels, of the broad strata of the people in the shaping of public policy."

The tea party strives for that sort of participation. So much of the engagement and rallying we're seeing is rooted in something deeper than the next election cycle. It's a belief at odds with the prevalent strain of American thought that holds that truth is what we make of it. And that's all the more reason to not only be looking back at what men before us discerned of the unchanging verities, but to keep our ear to the eternal as we make our way today.

Instead of spending the next two months, as many of us have spent the last week (and two years), debating Beck and Palin's style, analyzing how sharp their media prep is or trading gossip while watching "Dancing with the Stars," we need to participate. This is what the tea party seeks to do. We need to be involved in elections with a spirit of seriousness and even love. We need to not be merely angry about what is going on in Washington, but know why we're angry and know what the change we're voting for is, exactly. We needn't simply get caught up in a mood that throws good guys out with the bad just because there's a general feeling that the whole town ought to be fumigated. We need to make sure that our children know why we bother to love this country and want it to be good.

We have a call to answer. Not because we're anything special, not because we're perfect -- but because We the People know there's something better than us. And inasmuch as we can reflect it -- with justice and tranquility, securing the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity -- we're going to be okay in the long run.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.