Tea Party rallies like the one Sunday afternoon at Amsoil Arena in Duluth "give you hope; but we as a nation, we're at a tipping point," the rally's star speaker, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said in an exclusive interview with the Duluth News Tribune Opinion page.
That's because government has gotten too big and spends too much, because the federal debt threatens to bankrupt the nation, and because onerous rules and regulations hold down businesses and freedoms, according to refrains repeated throughout the surprisingly low-key rally, the fourth annual for Duluth and the Northland.
"I don't know, fortunately, any people who would incur so much debt and just fully expect to pass it along to their children and grandchildren," said Johnson, of Oshkosh. "People aren't willing to do that on a personal basis. Why are we so willing on a collective basis?"
Though it's oft-marginalized by the media and by Democrats, "The Tea Party movement is important in this country," Johnson, who can thank the Tea Party wave of 2010 for sweeping him into office, said backstage before taking the mic, the keynote of 10 featured speakers.
"People who come to these rallies love their country and are very concerned with their country. They realize we are losing this country."
That can be felt and seen as much in the northwestern corner of the state he represents as anywhere, Johnson said. A less-than-welcoming, hardly business-friendly reception drove away a prominent mining company just last month that had been promising $1.5 billion of private investment and as many as 700 good-paying jobs.
During his speech, Johnson said that, "Far too many Americans have forgotten ... what our founders knew.
"They understood government wasn't the solution (but was) something to be feared," he said.
If that sounds a bit extreme, it was typical of the rally, which cost members of the Duluth-based, grass-roots Northern Liberty Alliance more than $5,000 and which featured a 30-foot, inflatable pig as a representation of bloated government.
As much as organizers talked beforehand about their movement's lack of partisanship, how both Democrats and Republicans can be pinned with blame for our nation's fiscal mess, make no mistake, even without rah-rah enthusiasm, this was a pro-conservative, right-wing rally.
Republican candidates and the need to vote Republican were touted while incumbent Democratic President Obama and his health-care reform were soundly panned.
No real surprise there. But perhaps what is surprising is that four years after the Tea Party came into prominence its reasons for existence -- namely government spending and the federal debt -- have only grown worse.
And for that, "(Americans) have to pay attention," as Johnson said. "They have got to wake up."
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.