By STEVEN NALLEY
At first, Amy Kremer only got on Facebook to keep up with her daughter, Kylie, who had just become a freshman at Georgia Southern University in fall 2008.
Kremer said she had always been a voter with an interest in current events and foreign affairs, but she had never been politically active. That changed, she said, when she began blogging and using Facebook to connect not only with Kylie, but also her fellow conservatives.
“Back in February of 2009, I was just a mom who was sick and tired of hearing what was going on in Washington, D.C. and state houses across the country,” Kremer said. “I was sick and tired of yelling at my TV and my radio, and I decided to get off my couch and do something about it.”
Kremer became one of the founding members of the Tea Party and chairman of the Tea Party Express, and she shared the origins of the Tea Party and her ideas for its future with audiences at Mississippi State University’s McCool Hall Tuesday night.
The MSU College Republicans hosted Kremer, who has made appearances on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. She is also co-founder of the American Grassroots Coalition and co-chair of the Doctor Patient Medical Association’s Patient Power Project.
Kremer said the Tea Party owed its existence to two entities: A trader at the Chicago stock market named Rick Santelli and Twitter, in that order. On Feb. 19, 2009, Santelli appeared on CNBC and began to argue that his taxes should not be used to pay for others’ mortgage issues, she said, and the footage went viral.
“The anchors in the studio couldn’t control him,” Kremer said. “He was just going off. Before you knew it, he was like, ‘It’s time for another tea party. I say, in July, let’s all come down to Lake Michigan and have a Chicago tea party.’ The whole floor, everybody behind him, all these traders are cheering him on. They’re agreeing with him.”
The next day, Kremer said, an organization called Top Conservatives on Twitter began to coalesce, and 22 of its members held a conference call planning for 10 simultaneous TEA Parties across the country, with 50-100 people at each.
“One week later, you guys, with no help from the media, nothing, we had 53 Tea Parties with approximately 30,000 people in attendance,” Kremer said, drawing applause from the audience. “We knew that something was going on, that there was a movement brewing here.”
The growth continued once the Tea Party Express began touring the country, Kremer said. By Sept. 12, 2009, she said, the Tea Party brought more than 1.2 million people to Washington, D.C. for the largest conservative gathering in American history.
Kremer said one of the major issues which galvanized the Tea Party movement was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”
“I certainly feel like I don’t need some government official involved in some decision between my doctor and myself,” Kremer said. “We have the best health care system in the world. We don’t need to change our health care system. We need to change our insurance system. We don’t need to burn down our house to remodel the living room.”
However, Kremer said she was initially hesitant to lead the Tea Party to resist Obamacare. She said she only engaged on the issue when a doctor she knew in Sioux Falls, S.D., explained to her the relationship between Obamacare and fiscal issues, because she believes the latter should be the Tea Party’s primary focus.
“We absolutely don’t focus on the social issues,” Kremer said, “because we will never agree on the social issues.”
Kremer said she also hated party politics, but she acknowledged the need to work within the two-party system, because forming a third party would guarantee Barack Obama’s re-election as president. She said Tea Parties need to educate voters to let them make informed choices in the primaries, so that they are not simply voting according to candidates’ names or parties.
“Party politics is what got us into this mess,” Kremer said. “Just because you’re a Republican does not mean you’re a conservative. We are the biggest threat to the Republican Party more than anyone else. The Republican Party has gotten away from its core principles and values. We need to get people like us (into the Republican Party) who truly care about what is happening in America.”
She said it was also important to maintain pressure on Republicans to keep their promises to the Tea Party once elected.
“Washington, D.C. is very seductive,” Kremer said. “These people are elected, and I believe they truly have the best intentions, and people are pulling on you. It lures them in — that is what happens to so many of these people. They are more concerned with remaining on the cocktail circuit (than serving the public.) When I say it’s a swamp, it is probably the deepest swamp you could ever imagine. We have to stay on these people and keep them accountable. They need to know your face, and they need to know your name, and you need to have their cell phone number.”