Patrick Henry descendants among Tea Party activists, as movement assesses first year gains, losses 

Therese Cooper is an eighth-generation descendant of Revolutionary War leader and orator Patrick Henry of Virginia, and she's convinced that her ancestor would today be doing the same thing she is, organizing tea parties.

Therese Cooper is an eighth-generation descendant of Revolutionary War leader and orator Patrick Henry of Virginia, and she's convinced that her ancestor would today be doing the same thing she is, organizing tea parties.

“If Patrick Henry were alive,” Cooper told New Mexico Watchdog's Jim Scarantino, “he would be coordinating a Tea Party today.”

Cooper and her daughter Emily are among New Mexico's original Tea Party organizers, according to Scarantino.

“I remember my great-grandmother talking about our family history,” Emily told Scarantino. “I am very proud. Patrick Henry gave everything to fight for his freedom. Why should it be any different now? We all need to be willing to give everything for the country we love.”

The mother-daughter team are expecting a big turnout for tomorrow's one-year anniversary of the April 15 Tax Day 2009 protests around the nation that led to the summer of discontent, with citizen protesters dominating Town Hall meetings with their congressmen and demanding answers about why their representatives in Washington, D.C. weren't listening to their constituents.

Cooper is far from alone in viewing the Tea Party movement as a direct descendant of the Founding generation. Bill Whittle of Pajamas TV makes a persuasive case that many of Henry's colleagues from that time like George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson would also be out protesting Obamacare, Wall Street bailouts, and the massive growth of bureaucratic government in the nation's capital.

Similar gatherings are expected Thursday around the nation as the Tea Party movement looks back on its first year of success and challenges. Among the most significant of those are these:

  • The Tea Party core message of support for limited government, lower taxes, and American Exceptionalism resonates with more Americans than does President Obama's positions. Tea Party opposition to Obamacare and Washington bailouts of Wall Street, banks, and car companies is shared by most Americans.
  • The Tea Party movement has attracted a massive national following that encompasses mainly conservatives, independents, and Republicans, but also includes some moderates and Democrats. It is also mainly white, but includes a small but apparently growing contingent of African-Americans.
  • Opponents of the Tea Party are resorting to some rather extreme methods of trying to frustrate the movement, including infiltrating its meetings and attending its events for the express purpose of misrepresenting participants as racists, homophobes, and whack jobs.
  • Like all young, growing political movements, the Tea Party is now at a crossroads in which there is great risk of its fracturing into competing factions, thereby reducing its overall effectiveness. Even more important, though, is how the Tea Party transitions from being mainly a vehicle for protest to a tool for translating that protest into new leaders and policies at all levels of government.

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Mark Tapscott

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