National Tea Party founder and leader Michael Johns addresses the Washington, D.C. Tea Party at the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2009
In the midst of the 2010 National Tea Party Convention held in Nashville on Feb. 4,5 and 6, National Tea Party founder and leader Michael Johns took time out to answer some questions about the movement's core values of where it is headed in 2010 and beyond.
U.S. Conservatives: Do you anticipate the Tea Party organizing into a legitimate national third party any time in the future, or do you believe the group will just continue to focus on advocacy and support for conservative candidates?
Michael Johns: No, I do not see us developing a third party and I would be a strong opponent of any pro-active effort to do that since I believe it would mostly end up splitting the liberty-oriented vote and permitting the worst of the three candidates to prevail. In fact, I am supporting a federal lawsuit we recently filed in Miami to protect the Tea Party brand against those who registered it as a third party in Florida and do not share the movement's objectives. But if the GOP puts forward candidates like they did in the New York 23rd Congressional race last year, then I think they can count on our unified opposition. New York 23 was the first time in my 25-year political and policy career that I ever opposed a Republican candidate, but I have no regrets about it. The Tea Party movement drove Dede Scozzafava out of that race, and it was the best thing we could do. The Republican tent does not need to be a small one, but nor can it be unlimited or it defeats the very idea of a political party standing for anything. Dede Scozzafava belongs in the Democratic Party, and I would be the first to tell her that she will find that party more hospitable to her ideas and agenda.
There was a time when I viewed the Republican Party as the nation's salvation. I no longer look at things in such a partisan fashion. In fact, if the Republican Party is wise at a national and local level, they will see that the Tea Party movement could be their salvation, not vice-versa. Our movement is about a few uncompromising liberty-oriented policy principles. When the Republican Party and its candidates embrace those ideas, as they often do, they will have our full support. However, in those unusual cases, like the New York 23 race where they go against our agenda, they can count on our opposition.
U.S. Conservatives: What are the Tea Party's First Principles? I've heard, "fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution and national security". Are there any others beyond these?
Michael Johns: Yes, I would agree with that. The most broadly held sentiment in the Tea Party movement is that the United States of America is the last, best hope for liberty, that our nation is unique among nations of the world, and that we are on a path of quickly abandoning all of the founding principles that make us the world's greatest nation. We believe the Constitution has been discarded almost entirely by this Democratic Congress and administration. In the worst cases, I truly believe they see the Constitution as an impediment to their statist agenda. In almost all cases, though, there is very little thought or dialogue given to what should be the first and foremost question asked with every legislative or administrative governmental action: Is this initiative empowered to our federal government by the document's seven articles and 27 amendments? In many, many cases, the answer is no. For this reason, we also strongly support the Enumerated Powers Act, which will require Congress to justify the Constitutional authority upon which all legislation is based.
Reader Stories: The National Tea Party Convention in Nashville