Wellington Chapter Meeting Inspires New Member
The following was written by Janeen Capizola. The pictures at the end are from Ed Wolff.
I am Janeen and I am a Tea Party Patriot. I didn’t need to admit it, I needed to understand it. So no one is happier than I that I attended my first meeting of the Wellington Chapter of the Palm Beach County Tea Party Patriots Tuesday evening to hear TP Patriots Cofounder and National Coordinator, Mark Meckler, and State Coordinator, Dawn Wildman, speak about the Tea Party.
My story goes like this: I stood in a very long line on a cold, dark morning to early vote in the 2008 General Election. Hundreds of people were out voting for Obama and I was seething, thinking, “Dear Lord, they know what they do.” That’s when I began yelling on Facebook. I figured I had two years to simply get one apathetic voter to care and pay attention before they ever went out to vote again. On April 15, 2009 in downtown West Palm Beach, in the pouring rain, I stood passing out American flag stickers I purchased on my own for the Anti-Tax (Tea Party) Rally. When I saw the crowd, I never felt more at home in my life. Like-minded thinkers, fighting the same fight as I. Back to my comfy couch and Facebook where I immediately “Liked” the Tea Party Patriots and continued to yell through the 2010 elections up until today. Recently, I got off my couch and joined the Palm Beach County REC, a bunch of Republican Clubs and thought, “well, of course, I “identify” with the Tea Party, so I’ll join them, too.” After all, for the past two years, I’ve been trying to explain that the Tea Party is a “movement,” not a political party; that the Tea Party is NOT a “wing,” “branch,” or “arm” of the Republican Party; that the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with and don’t underestimate the power of the people. But that is pretty much all I knew about the Tea Party Patriots. I know now that I don’t “identify” with the Tea Party, I AM a Tea Party Patriot!
Dawn Wildman spoke first and she was a hoot! She immediately started with, “the Tea Party is not about Democrat vs. Republican,” it’s not about liberal vs. conservatives, it’s about “looking at the values” of our elected leaders and candidates who run for office. The Tea Party is about finding people with “common interests and principles” and not about a particular political philosophy. And so you see, it is because the Tea Party can’t be LABELED that SCARES the heck out of those who resort to calling us terrorists and telling us to go straight to hell. She spent some time talking about how the movement is sweeping Europe. She said every region in Italy now has a Tea Party chapter and that hit home for me as an American of Italian decent. She told us, and we laughed out loud, to stop screaming at our TV’s and get involved. And I plan to do just that! Thanks Dawn, message received.
Mark Meckler spoke next and this man was born to lead. He explained the history of the Tea Party, starting with the famous February 19, 2009 Rick Santelli rant on CNBC where he called for another Tea Party on the 4th of July. That rant set the Twitter world abuzz and Mark, Dawn and 20 others, all strangers to each other, said, “why wait?” and they got to work promoting on Facebook. All over the country, Tea Parties were held one week later, February 27, 2009. Mark says he was stunned to see hundreds of citizens “standing against the government” at these rallies. After such a huge turnout and overwhelmingly positive reaction to the first Tea Party rallies, Mark called Dawn and others around the country to plan some Tax Day rallies figuring, “well, everyone’s angry on tax day!” Again, here were regular people simply posting on Facebook promoting these rallies and it wasn’t long before there were 850 planned tea parties posted on their site. Well, Fox News, and only Fox News, picked up the buzz and began covering what was being planned for April 15, 2009 across the land. Once that happened, Mark said the “lid just blew off!” He started receiving approximately 1000 emails an hour, more rallies were planned, and this was happening as Mark again said, “with no official ‘organization,’ no money, no one with any particular skills, and no marketing.” He says it took awhile to get some estimates and numbers, but they know now that 1.2 million people attended rallies across America on April 15, 2009. Wow! After that enormous success, the big question became “what now?” They named the group the Tea Party Patriots. And when asked by the media, (my words) “oh how clever of you to use the word ‘Patriot’ in your name, after all everyone is a Patriot, right?” Mark’s response was, “well, actually we just thought ‘Tea Party Patriots’ sounded cool.” I found it particularly striking that Mark and the others specifically chose to use the term “fiscal responsibility” over the more commonly used, familiar, “fiscal conservative” because they did not want to be seen embracing any political philosophy.
Fast-forward to September 12, 2009 where 1.7 million people marched on D.C. and even cleaned up after themselves! Another bit of information I had never heard and thought was super cool when Dawn mentioned it: the Smithsonian asked for a tee-shirt and sign from that day because they knew history was being made! Mark went on: As the Tea Party Patriots continued to grow, we all saw what was accomplished in November 2010: “the largest turnover in the House of Representatives since 1938.” I loved how Mark told of the Freshman Member Orientation where he and Jenny Beth pretty much “demanded” the freshman members attend. Mark said two things were said to the new members: 1)”We are here for you. We helped get you here from all over the country. We expect you to vote your conscious. And if you do, you have an army of people to back you up.” 2)”And if you don’t, we will send you all back to where you came from.”
What has been remarkable to me, a Patriot watching from the sidelines, is instead of fizzling out or dying as many movements usually do after an election, the Tea Party Patriots has continued to grow. Mark says there are now over 3,600 chapters, with approximately 22-23 million members, across the country and every single one is organized differently depending on what the need in a particular town, city or county is. An interesting statistic Mark gave, and he said they simply go from their Facebook page demographics, about half the members are under the age of 45 and half the members are over 45, with the under 45 crowd being active on Facebook and the over 45 crowd being active in meetings.
Let me end by saying I have thoroughly enjoyed my two recent Tea Party events, the Labor Day BBQ and the Wellington meeting. Every member has been so unbelievably welcoming to me, a newcomer. All of you have an enthusiasm and a passion for the 3 core values fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets, that make us all Patriots. When I attend a Tea Party meeting, it doesn’t matter what political party I belong to, what my thoughts on social issues are, what my religion is, and not only doesn’t it matter, no one cares since we are all Americans who want the same things for America! I am so happy the Tea Party is there for me and it is going to be my pleasure working with all of you as we prepare for November 2012.