“No Taxation without Representation” was the rallying cry that inspired the founding of America. Over two hundred years later, the same cry has inspired a new kind of revolution: the refounding of America. The modern tea party movement, mirroring its predecessor, unites those Americans who yearn for a government accountable to the governed. Just as in 1773, Americans are rising up against despotic and unyielding authority.
The recurring theme at this year’s tea parties and town hall meetings is that citizens feel frustrated they are not being heard by their elected leaders. Clever and pointed protest signs rise above the large crowds with messages expressing the resentment and disgust that ordinary taxpayers feel towards obdurate elected officials. The fact that the tea parties have been so successful is itself proof that citizens believe that individually they are not heard by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. United in large groups, they hope their voices and opinions will be more loudly and clearly conveyed to seemingly deaf (and dumb) politicians.
At the recent launch of the second Tea Party Express tour, grassroots advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity circulated a petition warning Congress, “Hands Off Our Health Care.” Long lines formed to sign the petition, and as each signature was affixed, almost invariably, there was the accompanying cynical question, “Do you really think they’ll listen to us?” The question evidences a palpable sense of futility. If there is an underlying theme to the tea party movement, it is the profound frustration Americans feel about having no say in their country’s future. They see the taxation but not the representation.
Recognizing the need to address their increasingly disaffected constituents, some daring politicians faced their electors in town hall meetings this past summer. It was the summer of discontent as tempers boiled over and congressmen began to realize the true depth of the ire growing back home.
In the years that led to the War of Independence, Americans grew frustrated that their voices failed to cross the Atlantic to an obstinate government. Like their ancestors, Americans are frustrated that their concerns do not penetrate the Beltway.
It was frustration with an unyielding, heedless and tyrannical government that gave birth to the greatest political document every composed. The Declaration of Independence clearly, succinctly, eloquently expresses the basic purpose of government:
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