Nevada County resident Mark Meckler is the co-founder of the national Tea Party Patriots movement. The 48-year-old father of two is an attorney who moved to Nevada County 17 years ago to raise his family. He eventually opened Cafe Mekka on Commercial Street in Nevada City.
Up to a year ago, when he started the Tea Party movement, he generally voted Republican. "I'm now an Independent," he said. "I felt that neither of the two parties represented my values. There is no fiscal responsibility in government today. Not the kind of responsibility I'm forced to practice with my own family."
The following is an excerpt from a Question and Answer session Meckler had with the Sunday Express:
1. What prompted you to get involved?
Initially, it was Rick Santelli on CNBC. But ultimately it was a belief that all citizens have an obligation to more than just vote. I want to make sure my kids have at least the same opportunities I have had, and I don't see that the country is headed in that direction. I'm fighting for my kids.
2. Are you a Republican or Democrat?
Neither. I'm an independent and have been for the last eight years.
3. What have the past 12 months been like?
Difficult, but exciting. It's been incredible to find millions of other people who feel and think like I do about the country and the proper role of government. It gives me great faith in the future of the nation. But it's been very difficult from a career perspective.
I spend more than 100 hours per week working with Tea Party Patriots local coordinators across the nation, talking to politicians, and working with other organizations. It's made it virtually impossible to spend any time earning a living and that's a real struggle. I'm not alone in that.
Contrary to what people might read in the mainstream media, the folks who are heavily involved have sacrificed a lot, and none of us are funded by "major corporations." I'm not unique at all.
The folks who have dedicated themselves to this movement for the last year have given of their time, money and lives in a way that is truly inspiring.
4. How has your family handled this?
My family has coped as best they can. My wife Patty, and kids Jacob and Lucy are all tremendous Patriots themselves. They understand why we are sacrificing and that it's important for the nation. But it's still difficult.
I spend a lot of time traveling, when I used to be very much of a homebody. And the times we used to spend with the horses, playing soccer or just hanging out on the couch and talking are now largely consumed trying to put the country back on a sustainable track.
Another difficult thing is being in the spotlight. We're private people. We never wanted fame or to be on the national stage. We just wanted to be home working in the garden or riding horses. We're just like any other family here in Nevada County. All we really want to do is be a family and spend that precious time together.
But my son Jacob put it best when he said recently, "My kids will read about what you are doing in their history books." The whole family understands the importance of the sacrifices we are making.
And we try to keep it all in context. Compared to the founding fathers, we all understand that our sacrifices are actually very small.
5. Have you always been politically active?
No. In fact, beyond voting, I've never been politically active before this movement started. In that regard, I'm certainly not unique but representative of the majority of the millions of Tea Party Patriots across the country.
6. Why do you think the Tea Party has gotten so much momentum?
I think the momentum has come because we reflect the values of the mainstream of American thought. We are neither left nor right. We are people of common sense who coalesce around the principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.
I meet very few people of any political party who don't believe in those things. And people are tired of the partisanship around these fundamental issues. Being a truly non-partisan movement, we've been able to attract millions of people who've always felt that they are unrepresented by any political party.
7. What do you make of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts?
It shows that all politicians, of all parties, had better stop taking the electorate for granted. Scott Brown, whether or not you agree with his politics, is a man of the people. And we're going to see more and more like him get elected instead of the "elite" who believe they are "entitled" to high office in this country.
I also think it shows that because of technology and new media, any race can be nationalized if it's an important race to the nation. I think the(Chuck) DeVore campaign for Senate in California (he is running against incumbent Barbara Boxer) is the next Scott Brown type race to watch.
8. What does that bode for November and how do you expect the Democrats to respond?
I think the Scott Brown race bodes well for November. We're seeing similar phenomenon crop up all over the country, not just for November, but in the primaries as well. (Charlie) Crist versus (Marco) Rubio in Florida, and the DeVore/Fiorina/Campbell race here in California are two of note.
Those are races where the people, and the tea partiers in particular appear to be making vastly different choices than the political establishment. And the establishment better watch out, because they are going to get out of the way of the train, or get run over by it.
For both Democrats and Republicans, it's a new day. The political paradigm has changed, the people really do have the power, and the parties are going to have to respond to the new reality. I'm not sure how Democrats are going to react.
They seem unsure of how to respond to a genuine grass roots movement. They started by dismissing or ignoring it. They then slandered the citizens who were involved, calling them horrible names and accusing them of being violent, racists, and Nazis. I think they are truly confused, but I sincerely hope that instead of flailing around and attacking the movement, they actually start listening.
9. What is the future for the Tea Party?
Who can really say? As a movement that is not led by any one person, or even a small group of people, the possibilities are endless. People talk about a third party, and I think that's inadvisable right now, but if the politicians continue to resist fundamental reform, it may become a necessity.
I see the Tea Party Patriots as a watchdog group, ensuring that politicians of any party who seek office at any level stick to the three core principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets. We have risen up as a grassroots army of ordinary citizens who are reclaiming America's founding principles. As the army continues to grow and organize, I expect that it's influence on the American political process will become stronger.
People are more engaged, and importantly, more educated about politics, legislation and the founding principles of this nation than they have been in a long time. Whatever the future for the Tea Party Patriots, that is surely a good thing.
10. What do you say to those who suggest that the Tea Party is simply a group of disgruntled Republicans?
I say they have no idea what they are talking about and have probably never been to a Tea Party. I am the co-founder and a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots. We have over 1,225 chapters across the nation, and I am NOT a Republican. Disgruntled ... yes.
I'm sick and tired of politicians who use race, economic status, social issues and political parties to divide us. They work to make sure that liberals hate conservatives, Republicans hate Democrats, pro-lifers hate those who are pro-choice and so on.
By dividing us, they make sure that we take our eye off what they are doing in D.C. and the state capitols all across the country. What they are really doing is picking our pockets and taking away our liberty. The Founding Fathers would be horrified to see what the politicians have done and what the citizens have let them do. It's time to bring the country back to fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.
These are principles in which the great majority of Americans believe. Every day I work with disgruntled Democrats, Republicans and Independents all across the nation, and all of us are tired of the red state vs. blue state fight. Last time I checked, the entire country flew under one flag, and it's red, white and blue. Anyone else who feels that way can come join us at www.teapartypatriots.org.