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Tea Party activist invited to session

<n informational session on Monday, activist Walter Hudson provided Carleton students with an opportunity to engage with a member of the much-discussed Tea Party movement and gain a better understanding of what it stands for.

The sometimes contentious session, hosted by the Department of Political Science, was billed as, “an unusual opportunity to talk face to face with a local Tea Party leader about what this new and controversial movement is about.” Hudson, a blogger and contributor to the NewsReal blog of conservative writer David Horowitz, is a co-founder of the Minnesota North Star Tea Party Patriots (NSTPP). Hudson’s group bills itself on its website as an attempt to promote public policy based on “fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.”

Hudson began his prepared remarks by outlining the Tea Party’s structure and goals for the future. He emphasized that the Tea Party is not “monolithic”; people associated with the Tea Party have a variety of different goals.

“As a name for a movement it’s kind of a disservice,” Hudson said, since the word “party” leads people to expect a unified movement with a slate of candidates.

Hudson drew a distinction between “anti-activist” Tea Partiers, who see attempts to work within the system as “analogous to a hamster running around a wheel,” and groups like his own, who “believe the party system can be salvaged.”

“We are trying to move the movement more towards the activist paradigm,” Hudson said.
Hudson explained that the NSTPP, modeled on the national Tea Party Patriots organization, considers itself to be an organization of local Tea Party groups. The NSTPP’s goals are outreach and inter-organizational cooperation, Hudson said, and it does not endorse candidates for office.
“We don’t want to attach ourselves to the productivity or lack thereof of a given candidate,” Hudson said.

Hudson cited issues important to the Tea Party in Minnesota, including judicial reform and accountability and greater election integrity. Hudson said that the NSTPP planned to field a network of poll watchers to attempt to spot voter fraud, which he claimed “won” the extremely close 2008 Minnesota Senate race for Senator Al Franken.

In the question-and-answer question Hudson directly engaged sometimes skeptical students while addressing their questions. One topic that created an audible buzz in the crowd was the place of Islam in American society. Responding to a student’s question, Hudson said that the “problem with Islam” stems from the difference between professing an ideology and “acting the ideology professed in the scripture,” and arguing that Christianity differs from Islam in that “it’s not saying, ‘You will be Catholic, or we will cut off your head.’”

“There’s no question that the Koran advocates imposing itself on the world,” Hudson said.
When pressed, Hudson acknowledged that he has not read the Koran himself, but rather defers to the authority of “experts.” However, he conceded that he is “not done learning” and that he may change his position.

Another highlight of the session came when a student claimed that she felt “personally insulted” by remarks Hudson had made decrying environmental scientists leading the “herd” promoting the theory of human-induced global warming. Hudson replied that he did not intend to denigrate environmental science in general but maintained that “more independent thought” was necessary to determine what action to take.

Much of the rest of the session was focused on the Tea Party’s attitude towards government. Hudson denied that the Tea Party is anti-government, saying, “We value government.” However, Hudson said that the Tea Party favors government within the bounds set by the Constitution, arguing that “rigid national dictation from Washington” was replacing the federalist framework and eroding state power.
“The [federal] government disregards the Constitution and disregards the will of the people” when it dictates policy outside its bounds, Hudson said. “Anything that is not a result of the enumerated powers of the Constitution is outside the Constitution.”

In response to a question about the civil rights movement, Hudson cited the contentious Supreme Court decisions of the 1960s as an example of how the federal government naturally steps in when people fail to effectively solve problems on their own.

“If we value the capacity to govern ourselves, we need to do a better job of doing so,” Hudson said.
A brief incident during his prepared statement occurred when a middle-aged man halted his speech with the blare of a horn and a short verbal tirade against Hudson before leaving the auditorium. Besides that protest, the audience did not interrupt Hudson, despite the sometimes audible skepticism of some of its members. Hudson himself said he welcomed the chance to engage the Carleton community, noting that it is important for people on both sides of the political spectrum to “engage each other directly as human beings.”

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