Tea party, legislators mix in forum
<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 12
In 2010, the tea party philosophy of restrained government enjoyed the cachet of being an alternative to a status quo where the country wallowed in widespread economic recession.
Now, the new thing is the Occupy movement. But at a Tea Party South Dakota cracker barrel session for area legislators Saturday, Allen Unruh, a driving force of the tea party in this state, said the party’s influence won’t wane during this presidential election year.
Occupy protesters “know every four-letter word but soap and work. It’s all tyranny and anarchy. There is no coherent agenda,” Unruh said.
The tea party’s core message that the tax burden needs to be sharply reduced and the federal government reined in still resonates, Unruh said.
“We are energized like anything now. There isn’t a day goes by when somebody doesn’t say to me ‘I want to join your organization,’ ” he said.
However, Unruh broadened the message to the audience of about 100 at the forum. He said economic struggles are a symptom. “The cause of it is cultural issues,” and he urged participants to elect culturally conservative candidates.
One of the candidates Unruh hailed, James Stalzer, plans to run for a seat in the Legislature from District 11. Following the forum, he said he still is comfortably aligned with the tea party.
“I believe in limited government, in limited taxes. The basic tenets are my philosophy,” said Stalzer, and he contends being identified with the tea party will be a strength for him in November.
But Ken Blanchard, a political science professor at Northern State University, suggests the tea party will be less of a force this year, especially if it takes stands on social and cultural issues.
“I’m guessing the tea party will not be as influential, in part because some of the novelty has worn off,” Blanchard said. An ongoing economic recovery could diminish it, too.
“If the sense is that things have stopped getting worse, that takes some of the steam out of the tea party,” he said.
Also, “one of the things that made the tea party so successful was precisely the discipline to completely steer clear of social issues,” Blanchard said.