Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 24, 2011. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016. I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.
Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas assesses two years of the Tea Party
April 24, 2011 12:34 AM MST
The group’s latest Tax Day event took place on Friday, April 15, at the Free Speech Monument near Charlottesville’s City Hall. The emcee was WCHV radio talk-show host Joe Thomas, bedecked in colonial-era costume.
After the rally ended and the crowd began to disperse – or to stick around and attend the first Fridays After Five concert of 2011 – Thomas spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the state of the Tea Party movement, the issues that have persisted for the past two years, and the release of Atlas Shrugged-Part One.
Tea Party rhetoric
Thomas worries that the Tea Party movement could be co-opted by professional political consultants.
"There’s been a change in the rhetoric” since the Tea Party first surfaced in early 2009, Thomas said, “but remember, politics, as we have it right now, is driven by a very, very smart group of consultants. They see the 1,500 people we had at the first Tax Day Tea Party rally [and] every Tea Party rally across the country, and they say, ‘We have to work the language of the Tea Party into the rhetoric.’”
The economy is uppermost in Thomas’ mind, as it is with many Tea Party activists.
“Something that was said here is very important: one month’s worth of interest on the debt covers seven or eight very major departments’ entire budgets,” he pointed out.
“We need to realize that the borrowing is what’s going to kill the country,” Thomas explained. “This country is strong because it was one of the great marketplaces. The citizens of this country consume goods from around the world and other countries want to sell here. If our dollar stops being valuable, as it will if they continue to print [more money], that’s when we fail.”
Thomas believes there has been consistency in the Tea Party’s ability to focus on a few central issues and not be distracted.
“How many groups,” he asked, “have libertarians and Moral Majority crowds in the same group?”
That may engender some “friction that the Tea Party feels sometime,” Thomas suggested. “Do they go to the social right or to the libertarian right?”
Despite this source of potential conflict, he said, the Tea Party has “stayed focused on the economic ground,” echoing the advice James Carville gave to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
With regard to the possible social/fiscal split, Thomas counseled: “If we can afford to live and we can afford to pay our bills, the rest can be handled between adults.”
‘Atlas Shrugged,’ the movie
Thomas suggested that the growth and success of the Tea Party may have been partially responsible for the long-awaited release of a movie based on Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.
“I know that they had been working on [the movie] for some time,” he said, noting that he had interviewed Objectivist philosopher David Kelley of the Atlas Society, who had been an advisor to the producers of the film.
Kelley told him, he said, that the project “really started to move forward when they started to see the interest in the libertarian mindset of the Tea Party.”
Seeing that, he said, the producers thought, “‘Now may be the time to get this moving.’”
Joe Thomas can be heard weekdays from 5:00 to 9:00 a.m. on WCHV radio (1260 AM and 107.5 FM). He also cohosts “The Afternoon Constitutional,” on WCHV-FM in Charlottesville and on WFJX-AM in Roanoke.