CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s up to Iowa.
“The people of Iowa have changed our politics,” Jeff Bell, who advocates for a return to the gold standard, told a Tea Party crowd June 17. “Iowa helps to shape the national debate not only because you are the first state, but because caucus-goers are extremely well-informed.”
And being informed – and knowing how to put information into action – is what the Tea Party Bus Tour is all about, according to former Cedar Rapids resident Ryan Rhodes of the Iowa Tea Party.
The goal of the 18-day trans-Iowa bus tour is not to tell people who to vote for or which issue is most important, he explained.
“We’re trying to train people how to advocate for candidates and issues,” Rhodes said, adding that it’s really about “community organizing.”
His goal has been to train 25 people at each stop on the tour that will culminate with a rally July 2 in Des Moines. Friday night, nearly 50 people attended all or part of the Iowa Tea Party-American Principles in Action event at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. So far, he added, more than 400 people have attended bus tour events.
The event attracted a fair number of Republicans as well as others who said they were independents and even folks with ties to the Democratic Party.
Cloyd “Robbie” Robinson, a former Democratic state senator and now a candidate for the Cedar Rapids City Council, spoke briefly.
“I’ve always been for limited government,” he said, adding that he’s neither anti-tax nor anti-government. “I’m not an extremist.”
Travis Hess of Cedar Rapids came even though he caucused as a Democrat in 2008. After listening to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination for president who is participating in the Tea Party Bus Tour, Hess said he may register as a Republican so he an caucus for Johnson.
“We don’t put our faith in any one party,” according to Rhodes, who said his father managed Cedar Rapids Country Club for 18 years. The Tea Party is looking for candidates “who will honestly work for limited government.”
The Tea Party, he added, isn’t a party, but people advocating on issues and principles.
Karen Gerbers of Atkins described herself as Tea Party “in a way.” She’s not much for attending meetings, but has contributed money and is educating herself on issues.
“I will be more involved,” said Gerbers, who has caucused as a Republican in the past.
William Lukpriest, also of Atkins in Benton County, came to network. He recently moved into the area and hoped to meet like-minded people – people who share a belief in constitutional government and individual liberty.
He’s been politically active and has been invited to be a county chairman for a couple of campaigns. In the past, Lukpriest has organized Tea Party events and worked on issues more than for candidates.
Like Rhodes, Lukpriest believes the success of the Republican Party in 2012 is in convincing Tea Party members they “walk the walk” when it comes to lower taxes and smaller government.
Johnson told the audience he backed up his smaller government talk by vetoing 750 bills and using his line-item veto authority more than 1,000 times in two terms.
“Republicans, for all the good talk about smaller government, haven’t delivered,” he said. “The Tea Party will hold Republican’s feet to the fire. That’s a good thing – to do what you say you’re going to do.”
What Iowans should do, Bell said, is to get informed, learn how to organize and participate.
“It’s up to you,” said Bell, who worked for Ronald Reagan and other presidential candidates. “You are the type of people who have changed politics in this country the past 30 years. It’s urgent. You can change the country and you can change the world.”
The bus tour will roll into Dubuque for a program from 10 a.m. to noon June 18 at the Carnegie Stout Library, 3rd floor auditorium and another program later Saturday in Davenport.