The real effectiveness of the tea parties is not likely to be known for some time. Two days later various factions are still trying to sort out what actually happened and what it all means. I am encouraged by the prospects that it will turn out to be more than a short-lived release of frustration for political newcomers.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend a town hall meeting with my congressional representative, Rob Bishop. I had heard about these meetings from various sources, but this is the first one to take place since I moved into the district. It was an interesting mix of support for Rep. Bishop and confrontation (speaking about the questions and comments from the audience).
One gentleman, who may well have been a tea party attendee, got up and expressed his frustrations at not having a political home after the supposedly conservative Republican party had forsaken the opportunity to promote conservative government. He asked how he could ever trust the party again. Rep. Bishop gave a very unsatisfactory answer (in my mind) that he would just have to sit back and wait. I later talked to that gentleman and invited him to visit my site – I hope he does so. My answer to the question is that those of us who really believe in conservative principles need to get active in the party and make it answerable to those principles rather than blindly following whoever is incumbent. (P.S. Rob Bishop is far from being the worst Republican Incumbent around these parts.) Sitting back and waiting is a great way to allow the status quo to become ever more entrenched in the party and in society.
I found various statements by Bishop which I agreed with and others that I did not agree with. The subject of earmarks came up multiple times and I found some of his answers insightful. For example, Rep. Bishop recognizes that earmarks are easily used as a distraction that diverts attention while the pile of money being spent continues to grow while the size of the pile is a larger problem than the earmarking process. He explained that earmarks are Congress setting priorities for appropriated money rather than the administration setting those priorities. That left me with two questions that I will demand answers on from my congressman.
- If we get rid of earmarks won’t that allow us to focus on the size of the pile of money?
- While I might prefer that Congress set the priorities for government appropriations rather than the administration, why should the priorities be set at the federal level at all? (except on truly federal priorities like defense spending) Wouldn’t it be better to just appropriate money to "transportation" and direct that 2% of the money goes to Utah, 5% to California, etc. then let the states and municipalities decide which projects (I-15 expansion, Mountain View Corridor, repaving existing streets, expansion of light rail, to name a few local options) deserve the transportation funding?