No Where Else To Go

Difficult as it is for me to admit this, the big story of the election of 2010 is that the Tea Party had nowhere else to go, or so they think, so they went Republican.

By doing so they lost an opportunity to set things right. Despite the large gains in the House and Senate, the 660 state representative seats that switched sides, and the Republican sweep in Okaloosa, the name of the game in representative government is using citizens rights as a negotiating tool, managing the markets for the benefit of a few, and always bigger government. Tea Party supported Republicans are not going to change this game any more than Democrats are.

This forces a question. How can it be that in a liberty loving country like ours we are reduced to choosing one of two ancient political parties that do the same thing? That is the constant thought of those who want real political competition in America, such as me and my fellow Libertarians.

The law is part of the reason. If you want to fight politically, the law has been codified in such a way so as to allow anyone to speak from a street corner, but becomes a serious obstacle if you want to form organized opposition to the Republicans and Democrats (who wrote the laws). The Fort Walton Beach Tea Party, for example, decided to incorporate as a 501c(3) corporation because it allowed them to accumulate resources to advocate issues while having IRS not for profit exemptions. But at the same time it prevents them from presenting or financially supporting candidates for political office.

I find it ironic that the loudest political voice in Okaloosa of the last two years cannot present or support candidates. I am sure that pleases the Republican leadership in the County.

Of course, the Tea Party could have chosen to be a political party, but by doing so they would have to run a gamut of political reporting requirements (local, state and federal), and be subject to dozens of laws with felony level penalties. The Tea Party collects cash donations with a glass jar today, no questions asked. If they were a political party that would put them in jail. A simple restriction like this favors the Republicans and Democrats who have 150 years of organization, deal making and big money behind them.

And that is just one small piece of a very big puzzle.

Another reason is voter complacency. Does anyone doubt a Republican candidate would say they were for responsible, conservative government? But Okaloosa is filled with Republicans who have made the County budget bigger; made millage rates go up for cities, towns, and fire districts; refused to make the Mid Bay Bridge Authority be a cost effective government service, proposed sales taxes, and even had some who scandalously abused their office. None of this was responsible or conservative. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of Okaloosans, Tea Partiers included, still gave their vote to Republican candidates.

This is what the Tea Party settled for. It’s a far cry from the outrage over bailouts and the corruption of the rule of law that formed them in 2008.

In all fairness, the Libertarians could offer but one candidate on the ballot to stem the tide this year, the redoubtable Alex Snitker. It remains the Libertarian Party’s ever present task to find and present more candidates to show people like the Tea Partiers that there is a better place to go than the Republicans.

And the need for an alternative is growing. Financial catastrophe is lurking out there. Decades of Republican and Democrat favors have produced a financial system rife with fraud, debt and unemployment. As a result, the Republicans were thrown out in 08. In turn, the Democrats were thrown out in 10.

Who will Okaloosa throw out in 12 when things are worse? And more importantly, who will Okaloosa put in?

Pete Blome is a retired military officer, member of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party, and Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County.

Stale Tea

Recently, the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party held a candidate forum for the Florida 4th District representative election. This was the seat formerly held by Ray Sansom. The five Republican candidates stood next to each other and answered individually crafted questions created by a Tea Party Committee. The one Democrat contender for state representative was invited, but did not appear.

The whole event was very smartly done. It was a testament to ordinary Tea Partiers doing extraordinary things. From a technical point of view they should be proud of what they accomplished.

But Okaloosa County does not need just another forum. It needs competition. It needs a new approach. At the end of the evening it was clear that the Tea Party forum was political routine. Government control over individuals and business will still be the only means of doing business.

The veteran politician, Jerry Melvin, who served in the Florida House for 18 years, said the way to stop rising homeowners insurance premiums was for the legislature to force competition on insurance companies. He proposed solving traffic problems by creating a super multi-county bureaucracy to replace small local ones. When was the last time you saw a government bureaucracy go away by building another one, or the state foster business competition other than by getting out of the game altogether?

The businessman, Kabe Woods, proposed extending the state’s legal sovereign immunity to doctors and clinics as a means of reducing health care costs. He also proposed the state form some sort of transition health insurance for students. Saying that the state should not pay for retirement, he suggested changing state retirement from defined benefit (pensions) to defined contribution (401k, IRA) both of which are still government controlled markets.

The attorney, Matt Gaetz, emphasized that the most critical need in Okaloosa County was jobs, and the best way to get jobs was to build on the military mission. He apparently saw no contradiction in building jobs on a government department while at the same time saying government doesn’t create jobs. He lamented that his generation inherited the greatest America but may pass on a diminished America. Building on government will lead to such circumstances.

The city councilman and FBI agent Bill Garvey said he considered it a form of personal sacrifice to seek government office in Tallahassee, just as when he was an FBI agent he considered it better to be in the field than assume more bureaucratic FBI positions. His priorities would be anti-terrorism first followed by the economy.

Even the mayor, Craig Barker, who, in my opinion, spoke the most libertarian of the group, (in favor of the 9th and 10th amendment, opposition to any bill not allowed by the US constitution, leaving tort reform to the states, and the only candidate to talk about the rash of criminality that has given our county the nickname “Scandaloosa,”) voiced his strong support of protections to the military mission. Like it or not, military spending is a major part of why the nation’s finances are in such poor shape.

The same men, doing the same thing, using the same method, will produce the same results. It’s a pity the Tea Party did not bring this out in the forum. The Tea Party was born out of anger over taxation, bailouts, mountainous debt, blatant fraud in government, ignoring the constitution, and the destruction of the American concept of the rule of law. People did not and still do not know what to do. The political status quo has led to the situation where people do not recognize their country anymore, and the Tea Party forum was more of the status quo.

The answer is to reduce government intervention in everything, let a free market operate, and protect individual rights. It is a libertarian concept, one that candidates sometimes use to gain votes, but quickly dump after an election in order to govern like Republicans and Democrats.

If the Tea Party is the new wave in American politics, what will we get out of the Florida 4th district representative race?

I am sorry to say more of the same.