It’s Tax Day, and the words on every pundit’s lips are “Tea Party.” The news coverage hasn’t yet played out, but I’m betting it will follow the typical battle lines: those on the left will revile the Tea Partiers while those on the right will hail them.
If you listen to most of the talking heads, it’s easy to think this is just another case of left vs. right, but it’s not. Because when I think about the Tea Party movement, I don’t just think of Sarah Palin, I think of Howard Dean.
On September 23, 2003, Dean gathered supporters in Boston, dumping tea into the harbor and declaring independence from the special interest politics that had turned so many people away from involvement in their government:
“230 years ago, right here in Boston, 50 dedicated patriots known as the Sons of Liberty boarded three ships in Boston Harbor to protest a government more concerned with monied interests than its own people. Those 50 patriots believed that they had the power and the duty to change their government…
Today, once again, we stand here in Boston as patriots--and we stand with more than 410,000 other patriots across this nation who have joined our campaign, and countless millions more who share our values.
We stand here as Americans, once again willing to take action to restore a government of the people...
We stand at a critical moment in American history. Either we come together and take action now to restore a politics of participation and a politics of the people, or we allow the Washington insiders and the special interests to continue to make the back room deals that are destroying people's faith in our government.”
If you strip away the social issues that separate the Dean movement from today’s Tea Partiers, they share a fundamental principle -- the government is broken, and it is the duty of everyday citizens to fix it.
Rather than deriding the Tea Party as a fringe movement -- just as many initially derided the “Deaniacs” -- Washington should heed that call. It’s time for politicians on the left and the right to listen to the concerns of all Americans -- and the Tea Party movement, whether you agree with their politics or not, is issuing a wake up call that Washington ignores at its peril.
We can’t forget that it was the energy, vitality and activism of the Dean movement in 2004 that helped lay the foundation for Democratic mid-term election victories in 2006 and Barack Obama's victorious presidential election in 2008.
And just as Republicans ridiculed and underestimated the grassroots power of the Dean movement to strengthen the Democratic Party, it would be a mistake for my party to ridicule or underestimate the power of the Tea Party movement.
The one difference, so far, is that the Democratic Party embraced the grassroots Dean movement and made Howard Dean the chairman of the national Democratic Party.
But while GOP Chairman Michael Steele may have some partiers over at the Republican National Committee, he's no Tea Partier.
Joe Trippi is a Fox News contributor and political strategist who worked for Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart and turned Howard Dean into an unlikely front runner in 2004. For more visit JoeTrippi.com.
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