HARPSWELL – Normally when the Maine Republican Convention picks a platform, few people outside the party know or care about it.

This year has been just a bit different. Not only have Republicans all over the country been discussing the document, the national media has been fascinated by it.

It has gotten to such a point that the Democrats meeting in Lewiston were more concerned with the Republican platform than discussing either their own platform or the upcoming elections. MPBN reported on the various reactions from Democrats.

“I recognize the adoption of the Republican platform has given us a unity here in which we are opposed,” said delegate Janet Cowpertwraith. “But I oppose giving the Republican Party the power to influence our decisions here today.”

Tea parties across the land have taken notice as well. Not because they are all Republicans, but because the movement’s name has been used in conjunction with the mentions of the document. Comments in the press range from “tea-party inspired” to calling it a “tea-party manifesto.”

Neither of these is the case. Granted the “tea parties” are mentioned in the document, but only in passing. No tea party organization was responsible for its creation, nor were we consulted on its contents. It was in fact written by the Knox Country Republicans.

It is possible to conjecture that those who created the document met at one of the many tea party events across the state. That is probably as close as the tea party got to this document. It is my understanding that one of the authors spoke at the convention distancing it from the tea party movement.

It’s useful for the tea party movement to do its own distancing from the platform for two reasons. The first and most obvious is that the tea party movement is not a Republican movement. It safe to say that is one of its strengths and will ensure it continues for years to come. The movement, even in Maine, attracts those who consider themselves independents, libertarians, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats and even some Greens.

We are not, despite how some in the media might portray us, merely an arm of the Republican Party. Despite efforts nationwide by Republicans to make this the case, the amorphous nature of the movement has resisted any attempts at a take-over.

What brings the tea party movement together is concern over fiscal issues. Or as the Tea Party Patriots concisely puts it, “Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.” Nowhere do these core values include subjects the GOP platform mentioned, like a new world order, gay marriage, closed borders, ending the fed or abortion.

In fact, the tea party movement has gone to great lengths to avoid contentious issues, especially the social ones, in order to avoid losing potential participants. We are a broad movement of concerned citizens who are not pleased with the fiscal situation at either the state or national level.

What the platform does resemble is a laundry list of issues that obsess Ron Paul supporters. I have yet to attend a tea party event anywhere in the United States where the attendees have spent any time discussing the vagaries of Austrian economics (which calls for open borders, something the Republican Party platform is against).

The tea party concerns itself with ending pork, taxation reduction and reform, reducing spending, paying off the debt and turning back the tide of government bloat. While calls for a return to the constitutions of both Maine and the nation are welcome, calls for unconstitutional ideas like term limits are not.

The Maine Republican platform speaks very little about core values of the tea party movement, preferring to obsess about issues which are beyond the remit of Maine politicians.

It’s appropriate to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of the Maine Republican platform. However it is neither a tea party-crafted document nor one which the tea party movement would sign itself up lock, stock and barrel.

We must not confuse the internal squabbles of the Republican Party with the serious issues concerning the tea party movement.

 

– Special to the Press Herald