It is comforting at times to think of Stanford as isolated in an apolitical bubble. Stanford students are generally too busy to remain involved and active politically. The competing demands of schoolwork and extracurriculars coupled with our insulation from the outside world create a cozy atmosphere where students can choose not to pay attention to national issues.
This makes it remarkable that, recently, a new student group formed focused exclusively on one national political issue: accountable government spending and financial reform. The group, called the Stanford Tea Party, seeks to overcome the stereotypes attributed to the national movement and get students to focus on government tax and spending policy.
The national Tea Party movement has picked up steam in the past half years, just in time for the 2010 midterm elections, where it is likely to play a major role as an issue determining how Americans vote. The Tea Party Patriots group, which labels itself as the official grassroots American movement, lists numerous local tea party chapters including the Silicon Valley Tea Party Patriots in San Jose and the Bay Area Patriots in San Francisco. Though the Stanford Tea Party is not yet on the list, it is likely to present a local outlet for frustrations over tax policy. The movement has three central aims: fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free market ideals.
Unlike many other political student groups on campus, the Stanford Tea Party does not concentrate on a broad variety of issues. Alex Clayton, one of its founding members and star of the Stanford Tennis Team, notes that there is no other group like this at Stanford. The Stanford Conservative Society deals with a broader range of political ideals, while the Tea Party is more focused on fiscal responsibility and less government intervention in our lives.
What does this group seek to accomplish at Stanford, a university with a mostly liberal and Democratic student body? The Tea Party has a few central goals. The group’s primary mission is to raise awareness on campus about the out of control spending of the federal government, about the deficit, and about nation-wide resentment of spiraling government costs. Such fiscal issues include the stimulus package and the recent health care bill signed into legislation. The Stanford Tea Party’s future-oriented goal is to help support candidates who stand for the group’s ideals of responsible spending, regardless of party affiliation.
To kick off its campaign to raise student interests regarding how their future incomes will be spent by the government, the group recently held a rally in White Plaza on April 15, known nationally as tax day. According to another founding member, Brett Buchalter, the rally went great, as they were able to sign up students and faculty. From talking to professors and classmates, Brett noted that it seems as though the Stanford community is growing fed-up with the high spending and taxes as much as the Tea Party members are.
Taxation and government spending are issues that will affect all students alike. This group is trying to cultivate that awareness among the undergraduate population so that people take time to consider and develop reasonable personal philosophies regarding taxation.
For right now, the group is making an effort to get university approval and then plan more events to raise awareness, initiate discourse, and grow the group’s membership numbers. The Tea Partiers are also working with Adam Weinberg of the Leadership Institute to develop their strategies and determine their next steps. It’s not likely that Sarah Palin will be coming to speak to students in the next year, but members of the Stanford community can most likely plan on seeing more of the Tea Party. Concerning their own personal government spending, the group has applied to the ASSU for student funding and is waiting to hear back.
Student group funding is a salient issue that reflects accountable government spending in the Stanford microcosm. The controversy this year over the Undergraduate Senate’s handling of Special Fees for student groups is similar to the federal government’s spending allocation for special interest groups and needs. The Stanford Tea Party is working to make students realize that their frustrations with student group funding are tied into larger national frustrations with government spending policy. And with elections just around the corner for America, students may just start to listen.
For anyone seeking more information on the Stanford Tea Party, e-mail Alex Clayton at [email protected].
Nikola Milanoviç is a junior majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. He is currently Business Manager of the Stanford Progressive, Assistant Editor of the Stanford Dualist, and a weekly columnist for the Stanford Daily. He is also a lifelong liberal.