To Jenny Beth Martin, the Del Norte conundrum isn’t puzzling at all. One of the co-founders of the Tea Party Patriots had only been here a few hours Wednesday when she was asked why an area densely populated with adults who either work for the state or depend heavily on public assistance still leans conservative at the ballot box.
Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin visited with Del Norte branch members as she kicked off a state tour Wednesday.
“It’s interesting that that happens when there are people who are dependent on the government in that way, but what I find most intriguing is even though it’s a smaller area people still want to be able to be successful and they want to branch out on their own and to do things and to take care of themselves and not be dependent on the government,” Martin said.
She thinks the rural conservative streak runs especially strong in places like Del Norte, where most of the land is publicly owned.
“I think that’s probably why you see so many people voting Republican; rather than being for big government they’re voting for smaller government. They see the impact when you have so much government control and government ownership that can impact the community.”
If the last election is any indication, however, it’s not a viewpoint shared by most Californians or most Americans. The Golden State just went heavily Democratic, even voting for a major tax increase. And President Obama was re-elected by a wider margin than expected, prompting pundits to say the Republican Party must shift to the left on certain issues if it wants to remain a national power.
It’s enough to send leaders of the Tea Party Patriots into the hinterlands to shore up their bases, or maybe even broaden them. They’ve done so in 30 states already, Martin joining 20 of those tours of duty. On Wednesday the Georgia woman began a two-week California visit in Crescent City, meeting with a small group of local Tea Partiers before sitting down for a brief interview with the hometown newspaper.
“The people here in the Tea Party group have become very active in the Republican Party and are working to take it back,” Martin said of the Del Norters. “That’s something that’s happening in other places around the country where they feel like the Republican Party has too many RINOS, Republicans in name only.”
She said the locals told her they’d like to bring in more speakers from other parts of the country to reinforce the need to shrink the government.
Martin couldn’t make it here in time for a Tuesday night forum hosted by the Tea Party in which people decried the efforts of a Bay Area corporation to “regionalize” Sutter Coast Hospital, dramatically reducing local control and possibly downsizing the facility in a move that would lead to more patients being flown elsewhere for treatment at their own expense.
Then she acknowledged another factor could be corporate greed, not traditionally a favorite target of the Tea Party, which calls free markets one of its core values.
“You don’t want businesses to go out of business,” Martin said. “There’s a line between free market and cronyism. I’m not sure where that line is falling here, but it’s a line that we’re looking at all around the country.”
The competition engendered by free markets is what provides the American consumer with so many choices,” Martin said. And if open trade leads to U.S. companies outsourcing jobs, she said our government is to blame.
“It’s concerning,” she said. “We have so many regulations and restrictions on businesses that it’s more beneficial for them to go to a foreign country and get workers to do the work rather than using the workers here in our own country.”
“While the intent of the regulations were to protect people, they wind up doing more harm than good in some situations and the Americans can’t even get jobs anymore. It was intended to make sure that Americans are protected in their work environment, and you want that, and there’s a fine balance between protecting and going so far with the regulations that they come back and make it impossible for businesses to hire. Or maybe not impossible, but more profitable for them to hire from other places.”
It’s a common conservative theme: Government’s good intentions run amok. Martin said that applies to some public assistance programs as well. Before she got in on the ground floor of the Tea Party movement in 2009, she said she and her husband basically went broke in a business setback. Although he received unemployment benefits, she said they turned down other forms of assistance and instead started cleaning neighbors’ homes to make ends meet.”
“So when you’re looking for opportunity, keep going,” Martin said. “That is the thing that is so wonderful about America: You can risk it all, and sometimes it’s very successful or sometimes you lose everything or you pay the consequences and you maybe aren’t as successful as you hoped, but you can start over and you can keep going, and you have the opportunity for success in America.”
It’s a land of opportunity that comes courtesy of private, not public, enterprise, Martin said, sounding another Tea Party theme of constitutionally limited government. She said she wishes more adults would read the U.S. Constitution — something they may not have done since they were students or may not have done at all.
Martin said she doesn’t mind spending her next couple of weeks in a blue state, and she struck some conciliatory tones Wednesday. For one, said she considers a “patriot” to be “someone who loves their country,” regardless of political persuasion.
But she is looking to persuade.
“Even in states like California where you may feel like you’re in a political minority, talking about our core value of fiscal responsibility -- that resonates across the board with all Americans,” she said. “Anyone who’s working wants the government to be responsible with their tax money that’s coming out of their checks, and even people who are using government assistance, they want to make sure that it’s for the people who truly need it and that the system isn’t being abused.”